Wilder’s play lives on, like a simple fact

Community Columnist

Next week, and the weekend after, Cazenovia College will present its annual spring theatre production, “Our Town,” by Thornton Wilder at the Catherine Cummings Theatre, produced by Colleen Prossner and directed by David Lowenstein.

A distinguished author, Wilder was born in Wisconsin in 1897 and lived in China for a while, where his father was stationed as United States Consul General to Hong Kong and Shanghai. He finished high school in California, attended Oberlin College in Ohio and received his undergraduate degree at Yale and his graduate degree at Princeton.

He died in 1975 at his home in Connecticut. An American icon and an internationally famous playwright and novelist, in 1938, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for “Our Town.”

The play is introduced and narrated by the stage manager, who welcomes the audience to the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, NH, on a May morning in 1901. In three acts, we witness the daily activities of two families and some of the townspeople as they portray the arch of human life, from the home to the wedding to the funeral. Without the aid of any props, the quotidian homespun dialogue directs us through a wellspring of emotions and insights, from the overtly mundane to the curiously infinite.

In Wilder’s words regarding Grover’s Corners, “Nobody very remarkable ever come out of it, s’far as we know.” And yet, everyone who ever lived resided there in some way, from the home to the wedding to the funeral. People live, people die, and in between they fall in love.

Poised between divine intention and the random falls of happenstance, the play is about humankind’s search for meaning in a world that seems to value the achievement of destination above the richness of the journey. Everywhere the characters confront their lack of understanding with dumbfounded observations and half-hearted explanations, only to discover life’s significance right in front of them, the actual experience of existence and the love that is encountered along the way.

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