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By Thornton Wilder
Directed by Robb Smith
October 26 to November 11, 2012
Photos By Carroll Studios Of Photography
Some Of The Cast Talk About The Show
Sponsored In Part By
WCT projects are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.
By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic
November 1, 2012
One of my all-time favorite plays ever written, "Our Town," is deceptively simple and profoundly relevant and timeless. As I experienced it once again at the Waukesha Civic Theatre, I was struck with how much has changed in the last century and how much has remained the same.
People continue to fall in love, parents continue to be concerned about their children, and people have their daily routines, as well as their dreams. We all know that we’ll die someday, yet too often don’t appreciate the limited time we have. We are apt to take our loved ones for granted and more often than not focus on the trivial. In many ways, as Simon Stimson says, we live our lives in ignorance and blindness.
Thornton Wilder broke some ground and some rules when he wrote this play in 1937. He decided to skip the scenery and the props and to break the fourth wall by letting a stage manager talk to us, take on some minor roles and move around a few simple objects - tables and chairs and two ladders to represent the second stories of houses.
Since its inception on stage in 1938, the play has been translated into 70 languages, made into a film and a TV production, attracted major stars such as Paul Newman, Hal Holbrook and Frank Sinatra to star in it, and been a staple in theaters on all levels.
This is Civic Theatre’s first shot at it, which is surprising for a theater that has been around for 56 years.
Robb Smith directed a beautifully sensitive staging of this classic piece. Stage manager Dave Boxhorn is easy and perspicacious in his role. Brooke Bellehumeur captures the innocence and genuineness of Emily, and Brandon Haut, the awkwardness and sincerity of George. We love them all.
There is a gentle humor in the script and some great one-liners. Doc Gibbs admits that his greatest fear in getting married was that they’d run out of conversation in a couple of weeks. Mrs. Gibbs tells her daughter when she asks if she’s pretty enough to attract somebody, that "you’re pretty enough for all normal purposes."
The conversation between Emily and George is priceless as he discovers that maybe he doesn’t have to go to school because he’s found the person who’s interested in his character and in everything he does, that that’s more important than going to college.
The fears expressed before the wedding will ring true to everyone who has ever taken that giant step. Mrs. Soames’ reaction to the wedding is also typical. Colleen Glatzel captures the ambivalence nicely; Doc and Mrs. Gibbs expressing the difficulty of the father-son and mother-daughter relationship, the women gossiping about Simon Stimpson’s drinking problem, and George’s fixation on baseball - all portray reality.
I enjoyed the businesslike demeanor of Mrs. Webb as played by Mina Miller, which made Emily’s plea to her to "look at me like you really saw me" so poignant. How often are we all so busy that we forget to really enjoy each other, especially family members?
Even if you’ve grown up in an urban environment, there will still be many places where you can connect with Grovers Corners, everyman’s small town. We’ve all encountered the wonders of nature, the simple joys and disappointments of daily life, family life of some sort and the sudden death of someone we loved.
If you don’t enjoy "Our Town," you won’t get Emily’s last speech, and if you don’t get that, you’ve missed what it is to be human.
By Tom Jozwik
Oct. 30, 2012
Looking for an autumn mini-vacation destination? Try Grover's Corners, N.H.
Granted, the 2,642-citizen community "just across the Massachusetts line" would be several hundred miles from Waukesha. But the time machine they call theater (in this case, the Waukesha Civic Theatre) enabled last Friday's "Our Town" opening night crowd to spend a couple hours in the faux Grover's Corners of 1901-13.
"Our Town," Madison-born Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prizewinner of 1938, stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of "The Glass Menagerie" and "Death of a Salesman" in the all-time great American dramatic plays category. Many of us first encountered "Our Town" in a high school English class. Some will remember that the play references changes in early-20th century America, such as the advent of the automobile and the practice of locking house doors, while depicting (a) the daily routine in a tiny town, (b) a couple's courtship and marriage and (c) the phenomenon of death.
It is surprising that the run slated to last through Nov. 11 represents the first "Our Town" production in WCT's 55-year history. But the Wilder masterpiece is, and always will be, well worth mounting.
A literary scholar once wrote, "'Our Town' violates most of the traditions of the theater. There are no complex characters who lend themselves to psychological analysis. The setting is the barest minimum. There is virtually no plot; consequently no suspense, expectation or anticipation. Why, then, is the play so popular?"
Because, we will wager, "Our Town" is tremendously relatable. Like the residents of Grover's Corners, playgoers have delivered newspapers, gotten involved in Scouting, struggled with math in school, sung in church choirs, fallen in love, married, become parents … have, in short, lived typical lives. As the play's answer to a Greek chorus, the Stage Manager, declares at the end of the second of "Our Town's" three acts, "Once in a thousand times it's interesting." And yet, that central character might've added, "always, always engaging."
Dave Boxhorn is as good a Stage Manager as we've encountered in "Our Town" productions dating back to 1980, appropriately avuncular as he dispenses pearls of wisdom ("There's something way down deep that's eternal about every human being"; "on the whole, things don't change much"; "you're 21 or 22 and you make some decisions; then whisssh! you're 70"). Boxhorn is a delight to watch and listen to: he simply looks and sounds the part.
As George Gibbs and Emily Webb, the boy and girl next door, Brandon Haut and Brooke Bellehumeur work well together. The pair demonstrate a welcome awareness that good acting, like communicating in general, is a largely nonverbal commodity.
With regard to some of the smaller roles, Mina Miller is an excellent fit for the no-nonsense Mrs. Webb, Emily's mother. We also enjoyed the typical kid sister character of Rebecca Gibbs and Holly Penzkover's characterization of same. We're tempted to label Jamie Ryan "WCT's resident father figure," as Ryan was Helen Keller's father in last season's fine drama "The Miracle Worker" and is George and Rebecca's dad, Dr. Gibbs, in "Our Town."
University of Wisconsin-Waukesha drama professor Steve Decker, in his scenes as Simon Stimson, commands the stage, succinctly capturing the surliness and agony of an alcoholic choir director.
In a performance space virtually devoid of props and scenery (as the playwright intended), sound effects contribute considerably to creating what feels like a tangible town. Robb Smith, identified in the program as director/scenic designer/master carpenter/sound designer, situates a considerable amount of the action in the aisles of the auditorium, including a riveting procession of funeral attendees.
"My, wasn't life awful - and wonderful," a graveyard denizen muses as "Our Town's" final curtain looms. If we were to choose between that quotation's adjectives to evaluate the current WCT production, we'd definitely come down on the side of "wonderful."
Barb stepped up to coordinate the rehearsals for the church choir scene in Act I on her own. She tracked down the music and led the ensemble in choir rehearsals to ensure that the choir sounded like a small-town church choir should. Without her guidance, the choir number would not have gone as well as it did. Her willingness to help was present in everything she did.