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Our Town Cast and Crew Hard at Work

Elizabeth Kuhn | Monday, March 30, 2009

Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre presents its final main stage production of the year this week, “Our Town,” directed by Jay Paul Skelton. Opening Tuesday, it will run in the Decio Theatre of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a final performance Sunday afternoon at 2:30. This week marks only the second time this classic play, written by Thorton Wilder in 1938, will have been performed here at Notre Dame. Mark Pilkington, who continues to teach in the FTT department today, directed the previous production, performed in 1992. The show begins as Dr. Gibbs, the father of George Gibbs, delivers a pair of twins, revealing the progression of the play as a reflection of life and all of its intricacies. Its careful examination of the life revolving around Emily Webb and George Gibbs reveals not just an immediate connection between two characters, but the impact that each human being has on each other.With this in mind, Skelton chose to focus closely on the interaction of the characters, utilizing a sparse set. Though Wilder specified this bare approach in his writing, Skelton has abandoned the typical ladders for approximately 250 hanging light bulbs, which he hopes will lend the viewers increased insight into the message of the play. “Live love life while you have it” summarizes Skelton as he reflects on the message of the play. Student stage manager Lisa Tuholski echoes this theme as well. “We don’t give ourselves time to think. But every moment of our lives is significant, and I think Thornton Wilder’s trying to remind us of that,” he said. Junior Joe Edmonds said death’s role in the play adds significance.”It is only by realizing death is a constant presence that we can see how significant every moment of our lives is, how even the most seemingly ordinary events are as extraordinary as any other,” said Edmonds, who plays the character of the Stage Manager.  After a week of Suzuki and Viewpoints training, the actors have worked together to create a show that they feel the audience will relate to. “This is a play about people,” said freshmen Nick Brandt, who plays George Gibbs. “We don’t need scenery to show that, we don’t want a spectacle. We want you to see yourselves in these character’s shoes like we do.”Many of those involved in the cast and crew have found a personal relationship between themselves and the show. Junior Will Haley, who plays Dr. Gibbs, modeled much of his character upon his grandfather saying, “He always said to see what needs to be done and then just do it.”Director Skelton has drawn upon his past as well in the creation of this production and the mindset of the characters. “It is personal in terms of my connection to the material since I was born and raised in New England,” he said.Brandt, who sees himself in George’s unbridled enthusiasm for life, also believes that this “Our Town” functions on an even higher level as well. “George is sometimes related to the greater American Dream and it’s presence in our culture, as well as the potential of everyday life.” Brandt said.The FTT department is also using “Our Town” as an opportunity for outreach in the community. Aside from using 10 community members of various ages and different parts of the South Bend/Mishawaka area, the department has created a study guide and workshop experience with local high school students. Kassie Misiewicz, a theatre youth director from Arkansas, will lead this event, titled “Theatre Explosion,” that allows area students to see the creation process, engage in the production and increase the reality of the characters and themes.Tickets are available through the DPAC Ticket office at 631-2800.