“Our Town,” a heartfelt and humorous story that compels the audience to stop and enjoy the simple things in life, will be presented both this weekend and next by the Tar River Players (TRP).
The curtain will rise on TRPs third show of the season at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, as well as next weekend. The play will be presented in McIntyre Auditorium at Edgecombe Community College (ECC) and tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 each for students, seniors over age 65 and groups of 10 or more.
“Our Town is probably one of the best known and greatest American classics as a play,” said Roberta Cashwell, director, president and founder of the Tar River Players. “The play is about what’s eternal in us all, about seizing the day and living our lives to the fullest. It has humor and is just one of those well-loved plays.”
The play, long regarded a classic, premiered in 1938 and was written by Thornton Wilder. The story takes place in 1901 in the small New Hampshire town of Grover’s Corners.
The cast is made up of 19 ECC students and community members who have a love for acting.
Actor Jim Lowdermilk who plays newspaper editor Charles Webb, said he was touched by the play and realized life is too precious to overlook the things we often consider mundane.
“I was always one of those people who paid a little more attention to the simple things, but after doing this show, I took it up a notch,” he said. “I’m paying more attention to the birds, the sunrise and I really appreciate those things in life.
“There are so many different components of this play,” he continued. “It’s visual simplicity and yet the characters are so complex at the same time. It is really about the day in the life of people living in a small community and the time they spend on this earth.”
Lowdermilk has been featured in four of the plays presented by TRP and has assisted Cashwell as acting coach for this one.
TRP charter member Gary Jones will play the stage manager. His character is unique in that he sets the stage for the show and takes the audience through the course of the play, which is a journey through the lives of the characters from birth to death. Jones narrates the entire play.
“The neat thing about the stage manager is, unlike most plays, the stage manager gets to not only interact with the characters in the play, but he also talks directly to the audience,” he said. “The stage manager basically has the ability to move time, too. Sometimes he carries us into the past and brings us into the future.”
Jones’ character is one of the elements that add simplicity to the play. As he narrates, the audience is asked to visualize quite a bit of the activities onstage, because there are not many props. The few props allow the actors to better tell their story. It allows the audience to focus on the characters and their relationships with one another, instead of a piece on the set.
One of the leading characters, Emily Webb, is played jointly by played by Kate Brittain and Mari Whitehurst. Brittain performs the first weekend and one performance the second, while Whitehurst performs the second weekend.
Growing up in Tarboro, Brittain said she can definitely connect with her character.
“I personally love being from a small town and you can tell that Emily does, too,” she said. “That is one level that I can connect with my character.
“I just want the audience to have a good experience at the theater and appreciate what this cast does,” Brittain continued. “We don’t have much scenery and there is a lot of pantomiming involved, but I hope that they have a really nice evening.”
“I think that people will come and find this to be a beautiful, poignant, and, at times, humorous evening of theater and I encourage everyone to come,” Cashwell concluded.