It’s the 75th anniversary of the first production of Our Town by Thornton Wilder, and the Ladysmith Little Theatre is set to present what is considered one of the most popular plays in the world, starting this week.
This “enduring tale of small town life at the turn of the 20th century” has been in continuous production since it opened. Director Mort Paul describes Our Town as a classic American drama.
“It’s the story of the life of a small town in New Hampshire, starting in 1901,” he said. “It’s about the three Ls — life, love and loss.”
Paul says this play appealed to him because he has known about it “forever,” and he has done it twice before — always to very positive reaction.
“It’s a very heartwarming story about the way we live our lives,” he said. “The stage manager, who is the narrator, says, ‘You’ve got to love life to have life, and you’ve got have life to love life.’ It will make you think but also tug at your heartstrings. You’re going to laugh, and you’re going to cry.
“It’s a wonderful story and a love story. It’s amazing because you just go along in their daily life and love and marriage, and you just get swept up in it, and at the end, you just think ‘oh wow.’ When I’ve done it before, people have just said, ‘what a wonderful play.’”
Paul says Our Town was quite revolutionary when it was first presented in 1938 because there is no scenery, and there are no props.
“The two mothers in the play come into their kitchens and start loading their stoves with wood and making breakfasts, and they have no stove and no pots — they do all this preparation out of the air,” he explained. “The sound effects and lighting are very important. In all three acts, we have milk delivery, and you hear the horse whinnying and the rattle of the milk bottles, but there’s nothing there. So it’s a real good use of your imagination. It just captures your attention so you’re not just listening to everything — the audience has to build up these pictures themselves.”
Paul says rehearsals for Our Town have been “an adventure.”
“This has been a big season for flu and colds,” he said. “We’ve had three cases of pneumonia, including me. So we’ve really got this small-town feeling of everyone pulling for everybody else. One cast member had blood poisoning and had to go for intravenous antibiotics. One cast member had to drop out due to personal matters and we added someone new on Sunday.”
Despite the challenges, everything is coming together, says Paul.
There are 20 actors in the play, and many of them play two or three parts.
“One of the reasons I chose this play is because it was a large cast, and it would give everyone something to do, but it would also be a good way to start — it’s an inviting play for people to get their feet wet,” said Paul.
And Our Town features a number of new faces, including the lead female, Leah Holman, who is performing in her first play. The cast recently added Stephen Mitchell, who is performing with the Ladysmith Little Theatre for the first time and who was recruited by his mother.
Our Town runs March 21 to April 7 at Ladysmith Little Theatre at 4985 Christie Rd. Ladysmith Little Theatre presents evening performances March 21-23, March 28-30 and April 4-6 at 8 p.m. and matinees March 31 and April 7 at 2 p.m. Dinner theatre is offered Friday and Saturday nights.
For tickets, visit the theatre’s website or call 250-924-0658.