Sunday, May 5, 2013

Our Town, Then

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

It's been at least twenty years ago when friends talked me into taking part in a community college production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town.  It's usually hard to find male actors in small towns, and while I think I was originally singled out to either be the cop or the milkman, by the time rehearsals started I had been bumped up the the infinitely more important Doctor Gibbs.  And it was a family affair.  My son Tim, then a fifth or sixth grader, played Wally Webb, Emily's little brother.

Tim and I talked about Our Town earlier this week, and he described that experience as "a lot of fun."  That's the way I remember it, too, though I'm sure at the time, while working full-time as a middle school principal where the faculty was always bordering on being in full revolt, I probably didn't see it that way.  But the play was a nice diversion and gave me some great memories of doing a special project with my youngest son.

Our star of that play, the narrator, (I won't mention his name out of privacy concerns) was a former school student of mine who had been painfully shy in a school setting - but he came alive on stage and owned it.  The last time I saw him he was living-the-dream as a starving actor in New York City.  I, on the other hand, had no problem speaking before a student assembly of five hundred, but put me on a stage in a dramatic production and I was stiff, wooden, and tongue-tied.  My Doc Gibbs was awful, but the narrator thought I was funny and came up with a never-ending stream of ways to rush in and save me.

Tim, on the other hand, was more like the narrator - a natural on stage.  He probably wouldn't want that known, but he is as comfortable speaking the dialogue as he is writing it - and every bit as authentic.

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