Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Our Town” was the first play Ron Weber felt compelled to check out of a local library as a seventh-grader. The experience has stuck with him for 61 years.
What just may be the most performed American play celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2018 and Weber is marking it by directing Springfield Civic Theatre’s version of “Our Town,” 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13, and a special matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday at the John Legend Theater.
An American classic from its inception, “Our Town” is the story of the highs and lows of the people of Grover’s Corner, N.H., in the early years of the 20th century.
It’s that appeal that brings Weber, a 30-year member of Springfield Civic, to the director’s chair, his 13th for the group.
“It’s universal, a story of life in a small town that could be anyplace,” he said.
One of the unique features is no feature at all — “Our Town” has no set or props. Weber is in favor, saying he’d rather do a play minimalist, putting the emphasis on the actors.
They’ll be in motion, miming the action, but it also fires and audience’s imagination as to what the cast members are doing.
There are 17 in the cast, including several veteran Civic members.
Playing the lead role of George Gibbs is Ryan Hester, who isn’t a newcomer, having performed it years ago.
He’s discovered that what once didn’t make a lot of sense has greater meaning now, including the trials George faces.
“Back then it was hard to me finding emotion at the end as opposed to now,” Hester said. “I’ve seen personal tragedy. It’s too easy to cry now.”
Fellow cast member Peter Wallace as the Stage Manager, who narrates the story, is eager to get into the John Legend Theater and looking out into an audience.
“I’ve been talking to that door for more than a month,” he said during one of the final rehearsals in the basement of Northminster Presbyterian Church.
Weber will also do double-duty directing and acting in “Our Town” as Simon Stimson. As former theater teacher at Kenton Ridge High School, he’s directed “Our Town” multiple times and recalls a previous production Civic did at the former Marketplace.
“I love directing, translating a story for people. It’s great fun when it’s through and you’ve created something whether it’s great or not,” he said.
HOW TO GO
What: Our Town
Where: John Legend Theater at The Dome, 700 S. Limestone St., Springfield
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct 13 and 2 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $15 adult, $12 students/seniors
More info: springfieldcivictheatre.org/
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