“The day wouldn’t come when I wouldn’t want to know everything about our town, Emily,” Ruy Zambrano says as George Gibbs in Avon High School’s production of Our Town, which opens Friday.
You certainly won’t miss a detail about Grover’s Corners in the Thornton Wilder play. Stage manager – yes, a character in the play – Emily Giarratana guides you through three acts of a play about everyday life, love and marriage, and death in the history of the fictional New Hampshire town. You might even notice a little bit of Avon incorporated into the show.
Director Jill Paterson – Avon High School’s new drama and broadcast teacher – said that the simplicity of the play was a draw not only because it’s her debut piece with the program, but also because the script is full of meaning and artfulness. She included everyone who auditioned in the cast.
The set is traditionally bare and little to no props are used. Wilder wrote the play in 1938 as a statement during a time he felt sets were becoming too elaborate, Paterson said.
“He wanted it to be a thing where you come to think, feel and imagine,” she said.
With a set of a few tables and chairs, the audience can’t help but visualize the town in their minds. Pantomiming is written into the script from housewives Myrtle Webb (Olivia Murphy) and Julia Hersey Gibbs (played by Caitlin Culligan on Friday and Kylie Whalen on Saturday) cooking to milkman Howie Newsome (Tahari Gordon) walking with his horse. The cast also makes good use of the aisles to add depth to the town.
Everyone will take something different away from the play, Paterson said. For her, it gives a broader perspective on humanity.
“Sometimes we’re weighed down by concerns we don’t realize are petty,” Paterson said. “The problems we have in this life don’t endure and the greater and better things do.
As the innocent Emily Webb (Rachel Oremland) – George Gibbs’ (Zambrano) love interest – puts it, “Do human beings ever realize life while they live it?”
Giarratana said her Wilder uses the stage manager – a character “really symbolic of the whole show” – as a tool to drive the story and give audience members something to relate to in the play.
“Whether I’m talking on stage or not, I’m always observing,” she said.
While many productions choose to put the stage manager in clothing from the 1901 to 1913 time period of the play – as in the Theatre Guild of Simsbury’s production last spring – Paterson, chose to outfit Giarratana in modern garb.
“I believe Thornton Wilder had a more universal idea in that character,” she said.
The stage manager also makes cameos as the ice cream parlor owner and a minister.
“Emily as the stage manager is so calm and all-knowing,” Paterson said, adding that she told Giarratana to act amused with the Grover’s Corners people as though they are her children.
Initially, it seems that we as theatergoers are watching history in Our Town. But there are also moments when the characters acknowledge they’re in a play, whether it’s Myrtle Webb (Murphy) yelling up to her husband, Charles (Jake Lewtan) not to keep the audience waiting or the stage manager telling us the script is buried in town next to Shakespearean works for future generations to find.
The stage crew is also visible on stage moving the few set pieces there are. Avon High School students do the stage, lighting and sound work under the lead of Technical Director Ralph Torone.
“The crew is so amazing,” Paterson said. “They’re so dedicated.”
Paterson said that the fourth wall – the division between the audience and the world of the play – is eliminated in the play to emphasize “this is art.”
The Avon High School theater program has dug the play out of its metaphorical time capsule, performing the show 74 years after Wilder wrote it. It’s just one example of how art permeates time and becomes history – whether portraying fiction or reality.
The show runs Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Avon High School auditorium. Tickets will be available at the door and seating is first come, first serve. Doors open at 7 p.m. and audience members are encouraged to come at 6:45 p.m. if you don’t have tickets already. Admission costs $5 for students and senior citizens and $10 for adults.
CastCharacter Actor Stage Manager Emily Giarratana Dr. Frank Gibbs Thomas teGroen Joe Crowell Lauren Yost (Friday) and Jack Sutter (Saturday) Howie Newsome Tahari Gordon Myrtle Webb Olivia Murphy George Gibbs Ruy Zambrano Rebecca Gibbs Giselle Reyes Wally Webb Rachel Beauregard Emily Webb Rachel Oremland Professor Willard Rob Chamberlain Charles Webb Jake Lewtan Simon Stimson Paul Ross Louella Soames Nicole Rynne Constable Bill Warren Rob Chamberlain Si Crowell Alex Lin Sam Craig Kate Casner Baseball Players Kate Casner, Alex Lin, Jack Sutter Farmer McCarty Jack Sutter (Friday), Lindsay Sprenker (Saturday) Mrs. Forest Isabella D'Alessandro Joe Stoddard Tahari Gordon People of the town/audience members Kate Casner, Laura Crivelli, Caitlin Culligan, Isabella D'Alessandro, Alex Lin, Lindsay Sprenker, Kylie Whalen, Lauren Yost, Allison Zeitler
Production Staff and Technical CrewRole Name Director Jill Paterson Technical Director Ralph Torone Stage Manager Andrew Celli
Assistant Stage Manager Isabella Pellino Assistant Artistic Director Sarah keller Props Emily Wert, Himakshi Bhatt Lighting Olivia Messina Sound Board Operators Jared Ratner, Jamie McNeill Sound Technicians Jessica Co, jamie McNeill, Abi Inglis, Mike Thramann, Isabella Pellino Make Up Sierra Mazur, Ryan Pereslugoff, Emily Nagle Running Crew Chief Lizzy Wozniak Running Crew Erin McLaughlin, Ruby Holt, Isabella Pellino Costume Assistants Stephanie Evans, Jessica Co Built and Paint Entire crew
Correction: The original version of this story stated that Isabella Pellino is the stage manager, but she's actually the assistant stage manager. The stage manager is actually Andrew Celli. This article has been updated to reflect that correction.