Our Town, At Visalia Ice House

Oct 27, 2010 | Arts & Entertainment, Theatre

by Nancy Holley

When Leeni Mitchell committed to direct Our Town for the Visalia Community Players, she realized that she needed to know more about Thornton Wilder’s message and reason for writing the play. In her research, she found that the play had layers to be peeled away. The interactions and reactions of families to life, death, and marriage are universal. Yet, the homogeneous aspects of community and family life in a small town are in juxtaposition to characters, such as Simon Stimson (Donny Graham), who do not quite fit the mold.

Standing from the left are Ron Armstrong, Sergio Garza, and Donny Graham; in the back on the ladders from the left are Allison Enos, Chance Croft, and Ali Clyborne

The major characters in Our Town, which has a large cast, are the Stage Manager, the Gibbs family, and the Webb family. The daily lives of the Gibbs, the Webbs, and their neighbors are depicted with humor, highlighting the philosophy that the more things change; the more they stay the same. To support the timeless qualities of Our Town, Mitchell has chosen a modern costume design. According to Mitchell, “period costumes might lead the audience to ‘get stuck’ in the early 1900s rather than seeing how the content of the play relates to their lives.”

Because he likes to portray story-telling characters, Keith Lindersmith is enjoying his role as Stage Manager. Mitchell’s vision of Our Town’s stage manager is as a “director” who is always present, doing whatever is necessary to move the play along and engaging the audience in an intimate telling of Wilder’s classic. Keith’s approach to the character has a timeless quality, with the Stage Manager in the present day telling a tale of daily life in small town America from 1901 to 1913. Keith sees Our Town as having the same universal quality as Shakespeare’s plays.

Allison Enos and Chance Croft

Timothy Rich is Dr. Frank Gibbs, a gentle spirit, who knows how to remind his son of his duty to his mother and to maintain harmony in his household by allowing Julia to think she “rules the roost.” Julia Gibbs is played by Summer Robinson, and Chance Croft is cast as their son George. The Gibbs are a loving couple, affectionate by early 20th century standards. Timothy views Our Town as a snapshot of life in small town America with a nostalgia that he is enjoying. “It is nice for a change to be part of a community where everyone knows everyone else’s business and actually cares.”

Janice Talbert (Myrtle Webb) says it is serendipitous that she is in Our Town. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” Myrtle Webb is the wife of Editor Webb (Sergio Garza) and the mother of Emily (Allison Enos), who marries George Gibbs during the course of the play. Janice says that Myrtle has a good heart, but feels she must be reserved in her actions, resulting in a formal relationship with her husband. Janice says that early bonding of the cast helped them see that Our Town is all of us, regardless of where we live.

Sergio Garza portrays Editor Charles Webb as a family man, striving to be a better father than his father before him. Sergio commented, “Our Town is so beautifully written that the characters and the lessons transcend time and space. The play is a celebration of life and all the wonder and pain that comes with it.”

Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning Our Town opens at the Ice House Theatre on Friday, October 29th and runs for three weekends.

Our Town
7:30 pm: 10/29, 10/30, 11/5, 11/6, 11/12, and 11/13
2:00 pm: 10/31, 11/7, and 11/14
Ice House Theatre, 410 E. Race Avenue (at Santa Fe Street), Visalia
Tickets: $12 adults, $6 students
Group Rates available
Reservations: (559)734-3900

Nancy Holley has been involved with the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970’s, both as a director and actor. In July, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since then expanded her role at the Players and is now Vice President of the Board, and on the perusal committee. Watch for another Local Live, here next Wednesday at 7 p.m.


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