October 15, 2010

Our Town Offers Perspective on Life

cast members Amy Dunlap, Jared O'Dell, and Tiffany Evans.
L-R: Amy Dunlap, Jared O'Dell, Tiffany Evans

Our Town Offers Perspective on Life

By Rachel Judy

Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town, is no doubt familiar to theater-going audiences for its simple, yet profound commentary on the complexities of human life. Hoping to capture the elegance of the early 20th century while appealing to today's audiences, Regent University Theatre will present Our Town on Oct. 15-17 and Oct. 22-24 in the Communication & Performing Arts Center's Main Theatre.

Divided into three acts, Our Town tells the story of the Grover's Corners, N.H., residents through the eyes of the stage manager. The stage manager's role is to create the scene and establish the character background; the other actors rely on mime to tell stories of daily life, love and marriage, and death.

Regent's production is directed by guest director Marianne Savell, an actress and playwright who previously directed the 2009 Regent theatre production Dancing at Lughnasa. "Our Town may be the great American play," Savell says. "No matter your history with it, this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama has the power to rattle and shake you to the core again and again."

While many will remember Our Town from their required literature classes in middle and high school, Savell's approach with the Regent production is to honor the classical play with a modern twist. "The play sticks with you and yet, reintroduces itself masterfully every time you engage it," she explains. "A friend of mine wonderfully described it this way: 'Thornton Wilder is radical and reassuring in the same breathless breath.' This couldn't be truer."

The opportunity for the Our Town cast to work with Savell is significant, explains Eric Harrell, chair of Regent's theatre department. "Affording our student actors the opportunity to work with highly accomplished directors from the professional theatre is of tremendous educational value," he says. "Their technique work is challenged and refined when they work with an artist of Marianne's caliber. It's important for them to hear the language of craft reflected in the voice of an industry professional as well as resident faculty."

MFA in Acting students Joseph Martinez and Tiffany Evans will perform their thesis roles in Our Town as Doc Gibbs and Emily Webb respectively.

Savell is an adjunct professor at Vanguard University, an associate artist with Taproot Theater Company and a member of Directors Lab West. She received her MFA in Acting from the University of Illinois and has been a guest artist at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She served as producing director of Actors Co-op in Hollywood and on the advisory board of Provision Theater Company in Chicago and was invited to the prestigious New Harmony Project to direct Margaret Hunt's new play And the Ravens Feed Us in 2008.

Purchase tickets for Our Town through the Regent University Box Office.

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