WRA will perform Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, the play about life in the small village of Grover’s Corners, Jan. 27 at the Knight Fine Art Center.
Often described as a drama, this three-act play is full of both complex sentimental and comedic moments.
This will be the third time Director and Fine and Performing Arts Department faculty member Donalee Ong directs Our Town on the KFAC stage.
"This is my 19th year directing the spring and winter plays and my 39th production," said Ong. "I love Our Town. Grover’s Corners has families who work, go to school, fall in love, get married — the people of Grover’s Corners are you and me, they embody our strengths, our faults and even our embarrassments.
"Our Town asks the age-old question: how do we appreciate the significance of every single day? It has a timely message and is beautifully written."
Last year’s winter play, The Laramie Project, was one for the books, receiving an abundance of praise for its power and emotion. When asked how Our Town compares to last year’s performance, Ong described it as "apples and oranges."
"The Laramie Project was about a town dealing with a single tragedy that happened there," she said. "Our Town is the story of lives told through its traditions of daily life, love, marriage and death. And while some will find the third act sad, acts one and two are about ordinary life, love and marriage."
However, both winter plays have small sets in common.
"Similar to Laramie, there’s no set for Our Town," said Ong. "Our Town is a little more involved with furniture and the like, but the audience will use their imagination for this show as well."
Cast member David King ‘22, who will play Joe Stoddard the undertaker, described the simple set design as a fitting contrast to the compelling writing and complex characters.
"Our Town’s script is filled with strong and dark moments that play out through a set that surprisingly only contains not much more than a few tables and chairs," he said.
The simplicity of the play ends at its set design; the characters in Grover’s Corners represent "every person" and that comes with complex emotions.
Cast member Noah Luch ‘20, who will play the Stage Manager, agreed.
"The role of Stage Manager is different from any other role I’ve had so far," he said. "He’s so passionate about his town and the world around him. To him, this play embodies every town, and every person, and he really strives to show his audience that."
Nadia Konovalchik ‘20 said that though the play takes place in the early 1900s, students will still relate to the characters and stories. Konovalchik is making her KFAC stage debut as Emily Webb — a small town girl from Grover’s Corners who wants nothing more than to marry the boy of her dreams, George.
"Students will relate most to the minds of the teenagers we’re playing," said Konovalchik. "Emily and George act like normal teenagers. Their initial attraction and interactions with each other are totally awkward. And they share a love story that’s almost impossible to not relate to in some fashion."
Konovalchik described the three-act play as a bit of "an emotional roller coaster."
"My character, Emily, goes through a flurry of emotions and changes — from being in love to screaming and crying within moments. As an actor, grasping and differentiating these emotions was difficult for me, but I love the complexity it gives her as a character. It’s just another thing that makes this character so relatable."
"I hope all the actors will be celebrated," said Ong, reflecting on the hard work each cast member has put in. "The way I see it, they all have a story to tell with a message — a reminder — to ‘realize life while [we] live it. - - every, every minute.’ If they can do that with truth, humor and love, they have succeeded, in my humble opinion."
Having done this show a few times now, Ong has a long history with Grover’s Corners.
"In rehearsals, as I watch these kids do their parts I am reminded of each student who played the part before them," she said. "My thoughts have been with them for months now. I can still hear their voices saying the same words... I often wonder if they think about the play, its message, their experience. I hope they look back with fondness. I know I do."