The play was written in 1938, but its message is more relevant now than ever, says DW Poppy drama instructor James Howard.
Our Town, the latest theatrical undertaking by students at DW Poppy Secondary, follows the story of ordinary people living in the small town of Grover’s Corner.
“It’s set from 1901 to 1913, but it’s message is probably more vital to the world we live in now than in any other point in its time,” Howard said.
“The play is about the importance of the little things, and not thinking of an endless amount of time on earth. With the social media and our phones today, I think that’s such a huge (message). Even just the mundane routine is, in the grand scheme of things, special because you are alive, you’re living a life that no one else is.”
The Pulitzer Prize winning drama, by Thornton Wilder, is being performed in the school’s drama June 6 to 9.
Starring 22 students, many of whom acted in Poppy’s musical production of Willy Wonka earlier this year, Howard decided to once again stage two plays to give the students one last opportunity to showcase their skills.
Originally, he was going to double up most of the 26 roles, but after auditions, the strength of the students’ acting led him to cast more than planned.
“I like theatre that’s — I don’t want to get too philosophical — but the whole idea that theatre is holding a mirror onto society. I think you can get that more in a serious, dramatic piece,” Howard said.
“I like the intimacy of acting in a room like this, where your audience is only six feet away from you potentially, as opposed to the space in a full on theatre. I think it makes them (the students) stronger actors all around. Those musical theatre students will bring their musical theatre skills to this production. Now they can take their dramatic skills and the intimacy that they find here, and next year add it to their musical theatre again.”
The set is very minimal, and the costumes are from the school’s collection, meaning the story telling is all up to the actors.
“In a play like this, costumes and staging won’t save you. If the acting isn’t strong — you can hide that in a musical somewhat — but not in a play like this,” Howard said.
“It’s a very dramatic piece, it’s a very serious piece. There’s a few little elements of humour, but compared to musical theatre — which is what this school is known for and has a history of — yes, musical theatre can deal with serious issues, but at the end of the day, it is still very light. It doesn’t take long before they break out into song and dance. I have a lot of actors with strong comedic timing and comedic sense, and they really need to tone it down and internalize their acting. Say the lines and a nod is all we need.”
Tickets for Our Town are $5 at the door. Those who wish to reserve in advance can email Howard at JHoward@sd35.bc.ca.
Doors open at 6:40 p.m., showtime is 7 p.m.