“Our Town” brought to WTAMU

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“Our Town”, a play released in 1938 by Thorton Wilder, gives the viewer insight into the lives of what was considered a simple time and is one of the productions featured at West Texas A&M University by the Theatre Department this season.

“Known to many as America’s greatest play, Thorton Wilder’s Our Town reflects the ‘pure existing American’ of the Early 20th C. against a backdrop of simpler times,” said the WTAMU Theatre Department’s university website page.

This department has yet again produced another amazing production. Directed by Royal R. Brantley, director of theatre and regents professor of theatre, this play featured a minimal set, the use of pantomime and foley and audience participation. The main focus was on the lives of the people of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire and how the audience could relate to those characters’ everyday lives.

I had never attended a play in which pantomime was used and supplemented by foley so I was very interested by what the students would bring, literally, to the stage. Foley artists performed backstage providing the sounds that would usually occur when actors used props. They produced many a mundane sound such as a train whistle, bells, horses walking and even something as simple as setting a glass down on a table. 

The set was minimalistic with a large map serving as the backdrop and two sets of staircases that could be moved and transitioned by stagehands. Tables and chairs were also used but other household items were pantomimed by the actors. They were expressive with their movements so there was very little guessing as to what the actors were trying to portray.

Scenic and lighting design was done by Angelo O’Dierno, assistant professor of theatre. The lighting featured spotlights that were not the traditional circular shape, but were instead shaped like a box. These, in my opinion and my observation, showed frozen moments in time, and the constraints of personal fears, anxieties, and social norms. I appreciated the symbolism behind the use of lighting in this production.

Costuming was lead by Leigh Anne Crandall, instructor of theatre and costume shop manager. Hair and makeup was lead by Tyler Garrison, theatre design and technology major. Properties master was Sarah Garcia, theatre design and technology major. Production stage manager was Ashley Peikert, theatre education major, and the technical director was John H. Landon, professor of theatre.

The play covered all the points that make a story entertaining including marriage, love, family, faith, life and death. There was laughter, heartfelt moments, and even crying by the audience so it was easy to see why this play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It focused on the importance of life and appreciating every moment instead following the everyday routine of life. 

Stephen Crandall served as the play’s leading role, the Stage Manager that narrated the play and served as various side characters in the play. Crandall is also the Head of the Department of Art, Theatre and Dance and associate professor of theatre. 

“Our Town” shows on Oct. 3 through 4 and 10 through 12 at 7:30 pm and Oct. 6 and 13 at 2:30 pm in the Branding Iron Theater and is rated PG.

The 2019-2020 WTAMU Theatre Season is dedicated to Treston Johnson, a performing arts major who passed away last fall due to a driving accident.

 

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