By Jayleen Rolon
Shakespeare 70, a non-professional community theatre organization, executed their production of “Our Town” by Thorton Wilder from Oct. 20-24 in the Don Evans Black Box Theater, the first in-person live theatre production since before the pandemic.
Wilder’s “Our Town” was first performed in 1938 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, and won The Pulitzer Prize for Drama that same year. Many adaptations of the play were created, ranging from radio broadcasts to an operatic performance.
Shakespeare 70 did a few Zoom performances of the play throughout the pandemic after their original production was halted in early 2020.
“It’s no comparison to finally getting to be back in a theater on a stage,” said director and longtime Shakespeare 70 member, Jake Burbage.
Burbage has wanted to direct this particular play for 14 years, so even the mask mandate did not ruin the experience for him.
“It is what it is; it’s for all the right reasons, and it’s what we have to do,” said Burbage. “And at the end of the day we’re all just really happy we get to do theatre again.”
“It definitely was hard,” said lead actress and College alum Kate Augusten, in reference to performing with the mask mandate. “But we’ve been rehearsing with the masks so we already knew what to expect.”
While Augusten found it difficult to portray the wide range of emotions required for her character Emily Webb with the bottom of her face obstructed by a mask, she was glad that the masks could be used to signify a character’s status. The masks were color-coded throughout the play; living characters wore blue masks while the dead characters wore black ones.
“Our Town” exemplifies the genre of metatheatre through its use of a bare stage with minimal props and a main character who speaks directly to the audience, making it fitting that the play
was performed in the Don Evans Black Box Theater. The stage created an intimate environment between the audience and the cast. Plenty of students sat with notebooks on their laps taking notes for their classes, but everyone in the audience was attentive with their gaze fixed on the performers.
The deliberate pauses taken during the more philosophical portions of the play left the audience to wonder in silence. In contrast, something as small as a character repeatedly going off on unnecessary tangents left the audience giggling.
“There’s something about it that speaks through time, through generations,” said Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jane Wong after the Thursday night performance, feeling especially connected to the play because it was the first one she saw in high school. “[It deals with] the timeless elements of the human experience.”
Shakespeare 70 will be doing another production of “Our Town” at Mercer County Community College in January 2022.