Playwright Thornton Wilder's American classic explores the cycles of love, marriage and mortality in a small, New England town with grace and consummate humor.
Playwright Thornton Wilder's American classic "Our Town" explores the cycles of love, marriage and mortality in a small New England town with grace and consummate humor.
"I believe it is truly one of the great American plays," says director Paul Mason Barnes. "And I think Wilder is one of our finest playwrights. The way he juxtaposes death with birth, the universal with the particular and our struggles with our achievements is remarkable. He has a tender-tough understanding of the human heart and the way in which our lives unfold against an eternal landscape over which we have little control."
Performances are set for 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, Nov. 14-16 and 21-23, and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday, Nov. 23-24, in the Center Stage Theatre on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.
Tickets cost $21, $18 for seniors and $6 for students. Those who subscribe to three or more plays at SOU will receive discounted ticket prices of $17, $15 for seniors. Tickets can be purchased by calling 541-552-6348, online at sou.edu/performingarts or at the box office. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and two hours before each performance.
Wilder uses metatheatrical devices throughout his play, such as narration by a stage manager, played in SOU's production by Jim Edmondson, an associate artist at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
"The idea of getting to direct the play with Jim Edmondson as the stage manager was delicious," Barnes says. "Besides being a fine actor, he's beloved by students and faculty in SOU's theater program as well as people in this community — and 'Our Town' is a play about community. I know that students involved in this production will benefit from getting to work with him."
During his 38 seasons at OSF, Edmondson directed about 34 productions and appeared in about 100 roles, including Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman" and Richard in "Richard II."
"I also knew 'Our Town' would provide lots of opportunities for students in SOU's large, theater program," Barnes says. "It's a place filled with eager and hungry, young theater artists, and it's important to provide worthwhile projects that such a talented, passionate, fun and hard-working group can sink its teeth into. I especially thought 'Our Town' would be a challenging project for student designers. Simplicity is at the heart of Wilder's plays, and learning simplicity is one of the most difficult challenges for a designer — or a director or an actor."
Barnes is a guest director at SOU. He was one of the five founding members of Oregon Cabaret Theatre. In the '90s, he served as conservatory director and associate artistic director of Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in Santa Maria and Solvang, Calif.
The SOU cast of "Our Town" includes Mark E. Brown, Connor Bryant, Autumn Buck, Ryan Costello, Madeline Flemming, Dominique Francis, Olivia Harrison, Reid Honeywel, Taylor Hood, Rachel Kostrna, Eoghan McDowell, Ethan Niven, Corey Porter, Zlato Rizziolli, Rachel Seeley, Emily Serdahl, Henry Steelhammer, Denise Wagne, Austin Weyand, Devin White and Samuel Wick. Scene design is by Amelia Burke-Holt, costumes by Francesca Solano, lighting by Chris Sackett, and sound is by Joel Ferrier.