When it was first staged, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town astonished audiences. Written between 1934 and 1938, the play is notable for its lack of scenery. The actors pantomime actions rather than use props, a revolutionary development for its time. “Thornton Wilder came up with this play that had a bare stage,” says Lee Soroko, who is directing a Savannah College of Art and Design production of Our Town. “In one scene, the Stage Manager comes in with a mock-up of a wooden trellis and says, ‘Here’s scenery for those who have to have scenery.’” The play is narrated by the Stage Manager. While the play is about small-town life, it also is a poignant reminder that life is fleeting and the living may not realize how wonderful life really is. Wilder won a Pulitzer Prize for Our Town, the second of three he was awarded. “The show is a brilliant piece of theatrical entertainment,” Soroko says. The play will be presented April 7-9 at Trustees Theater. Soroko, a faculty member of SCAD’s media and performing arts department. says the production is SCAD’s freshman show. “The production itself is unique to SCAD,” Soroko says. “There are six productions each year that are directed by faculty. “Only one is from the freshman class,” he says. “The freshmen are invited to audition and show their talent to both the Savannah and SCAD communities.” Although the stage will be kept nearly bare, there will be period costumes by MariClaire Corica, a SCAD senior who designed them as part of her senior thesis. “With the costumes, we are trying to keep the palette and the style of the period,” Soroko says. “We have lighting by faculty member Tyler Tunney.” There are 20 SCAD freshmen in the cast of the 100 or more students who auditioned for the show. Casting the show was both easy and difficult, Soroko says. “Talent always rises,” he says. “You can always see people who are passionate and committed to a performance. “However, men are a rare commodity in the theater,” Soroko says. “We always have more talented women, and that’s when it gets difficult.” The students who did get cast have been extremely motivated, Soroko says. “It’s their opportunity to shine,” he says. “They came in early after spring break to get started. It’s an opportunity to show the talents of the student body, an opportunity for success in theater as well as in life.” Some of the students may have seen or acted in Our Town while they were in junior high or high school, Soroko says. They need to take a second look at the play, he says. “If you go back over the text, it’s sentiment, not sentimentality,” Soroko says. “These students need to rediscover this. The productions that they saw in high school or junior high are not the same.” Our Town forever changed American theater. “Thornton Wilder wrote this play during the Golden Age of Broadway,” he says. “At that time, Broadway produced huge spectacles, with moving scenery and truly opulent sets.” By setting his play on a nearly bare stage, Wilder forces the audience to concentrate on the characters and the story. “The play is a revolutionary masterpiece,” he says.
The Savannah College of Art and Design will present Our Town April 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. and April 9 at 3 p.m. at Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St. Tickets are $10 for the general public, $5 for seniors and non-SCAD students and free with SCAD ID. Call 525-5050.