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Our Town

Written by Thornton Wilder
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Cheshire Isaacs
Trailer by Peter Ruocco

Presented by Shotgun Players
December 4, 2014 – January 25, 2015

SF WEEKLY “It’s possible that three-time Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Thorton Wilder and Bay Area theater director Susannah Martin share DNA….It’s hard to imagine Wilder, who began writing plays while a student at Berkeley High in 1915, doing anything but giving this cast a standing ovation.” – Lou Fancher

MY CULTURAL LANDSCAPE “Takes one’s breath away with its beauty, theatrical craft, earnestness, and simplicity.” – George Heymont

THEATER DOGS “If I could start every new year with a production of Our Town as engaging and as powerful as director Susannah Martin’s, I would gladly do so.” – Chad Jones

Tweet from Tappan Wilder: “Congrats to everyone @ShotgunPlayers on a beautiful production of OUR TOWN last night! Masterful work.”

Director’s Note
Our Town is an American Masterpiece.

Our Town is a quaint piece of sentimental claptrap.

Our Town is a reflection of how we live now.

Our Town is dated.

Our Town is a tone poem.

Our Town is a continuum.

Our Town is performed somewhere in the world every single day.

What does it mean to do Our Town in Berkeley, in 2014?  When people think of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play, they think quaint, they think Americana, they think old-fashioned, sentimental, romanticism.  It’s a show locked in time and place: turn-of-the-century New England, where everyone talks like the guy from the Pepperidge Farm commercials. But what if I were to tell you that Our Town is an Expressionist masterpiece and a deeply moving meditation on life, death, and the breadth and scope of the universe? Literally, somewhere in the world that is not here, a group of people are performing this play, right now – why?  What is this play telling us about the way we live and the way we die?  This is a question we have continued to ask as we went through the rehearsal process and the text continues to answer back.

A few things about our production: We approached the play as simply as possible –“no curtain, no scenery”– just as Wilder stated in his opening stage directions.  We’re asking the audience to do exactly what Wilder commanded with that simple stage direction. We’re asking you to imagine the town and connect to it in whatever way you can.

We cast this play with an extraordinary group of performers that reflect the world we live in right now. Sound and music played a large role in our process: there’s a lot of music literally written into the script.  And this music informed us greatly as we worked to discover our little town and how we come together as a community.

We hope, with these choices, that you’ll push your imagination beyond what is provided for you in scenery, and imagine what is provided in words, images, sounds, song, and sighs.  As Wilder’s nephew, Tappan Wilder, said, “This play is about memory and imagination. It is not a play about a small New England town… Our Town is not a New Hampshire chocolate milkshake. It is about how we remember the past.”

Ultimately, the thought I go back to, the one that informs me whenever I get lost, is that Our Town is, as Wilder said, about “the life of a village against the life of the stars…”

So tonight, enjoy watching and listening as this wonderful cast dives into this deceptively simple continuum; this tone poem of a timeless play.  Enjoy the journey.

—  Susannah Martin

Emily Webb / El Beh
Stage Manager / Madeline H.D. Brown*
Mrs. Soames + Ensemble / Sam Jackson
Doc Gibbs / Tim Kniffin*
Professor Willard + Ensemble / Christine Macomber
Howie Newsome + Ensemble / Wiley Naman Strasser
Mrs. Gibbs / Molly Noble*
Rebecca Gibbs + Ensemble / Karen Offereins
Constable Warren + Ensemble / Valerie Fachman
George Gibbs / Josh Schell
Mrs. Webb / Michelle Talgarow
Simon Stimson + Ensemble / Christopher Ward White
Joe Crowell, Sam Craig, + Ensemble / Eli Wirtschafter
Mr. Webb / Don Wood

*Member of AEA

Founding Artistic Director / Patrick Dooley
Assistant Directors / Katja Rivera + Beth Wilmurt
Costume Design / Christine Crook
Lighting Design / Heather Basarab
Master Electrician / Bill Brinkert
Music Directors + Arrangers / Abigail Nessen Bengson + Shaun Bengson
Production Assistant / Katherine Bickford
Properties Design / Devon LaBelle
Set Design / Nina Ball
Sound Design / Theodore J. H. Hulsker
Stage Manager + Acting Production Manager / Hanah Zahner-Isenberg*
Technical Director / Anne Kendall
Wardrobe / Ashley Rogers