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Thornton Wilder

Our Town

Director Matjaž Zupančič



American playwright, novelist and short-story writer Thornton Wilder (1897–1975) was born into a diplomatic family that frequently moved house and travelled around the world. Wilder began writing plays while at Thacher School in Ojai, California, where he did not fit in and was teased by classmates as overly intellectual. According to a classmate, "we left him alone. And he would retire at the library, his hideaway, learning to distance himself from humiliation and indifference." Earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in literature at Yale University in 1920, he continued his studies at Princeton University and obtained a Master of Arts degree in French in 1926.

While still a student he wrote his first play, The Russian Princess (1912–13), which was produced at Thacher School, and is believed to be his earliest play. After graduating, Wilder studied in Rome, Italy, and then taught French at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. In 1926 his first novel, The Cabala, was published. In 1927, The Bridge of San Luis Rey brought him commercial success and his first Pulitzer Prize in 1928. This allowed him to resign from the Lawrenceville School in 1928. He became a literary star and befriended Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. He was awarded his second Pulitzer Prize for the play Our Town in 1938, and the third one for The Skin of Our Teeth in 1943. He was very successful in other fields related to his work as well. He worked as a lecturer, translator from French, opera librettist, actor, and screenwriter. His screenplay for Hitchcock’s Shadow of the Doubt is considered to be a masterpiece. One of his passions was writing letters, which became a very important part of his creative writing. He wrote more than seven thousand letters that were published in several volumes.

Wilder’s three-act play Our Town was first performed at McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey on January 22, 1938. It later went on to success in Broadway at Henry Miller’s Theatre where it opened on February 4, 1938. In the Broadway production Wilder appeared in the role of Stage Manager for two weeks.

Set in the fictional American small town of Grover's Corners, Our Town tells the story of an average town's residents in the early 20th century through their everyday lives and deaths. The main plot revolves around the members of two families, the Doc Gibbs’, and the family of a newspaper editor and publisher Mr Webb. Many minor characters appear in the play to create a colourful atmosphere of a small American town. The play opens with the Stage Manager’s appearance. He acts as a narrator, commentator, master of ceremony and some sort of a guide to Grover’s Corners. Occasionally he gets involved in the action of the play too. In Act One, Daily Life, set in 1901, the Stage Manager introduces the audience to the small town of Grover's Corners and its residents as a morning begins. People are going to work, housewives are putting the laundry out to dry, boys are delivering newspapers and milk … Doc Gibbs’ son, George, and editor Webb’s daughter, Emily, are still at school. Act Two, Love and Marriage, is set three years later on a graduation day at a local high school. George and Emily prepare to wed. People lament how George's sporting career will be wasted because of his marriage. The Stage Manager interrupts the scene and takes the audience back a year, when George and Emily agreed that George would not to go to college, but would stay in home town, so they could start a family.  Act Three, Death and Eternity, is set in 1913. Much has changed in the meantime. The residents have started locking their houses at night for fear of burglars. The Stage Manager takes us to a cemetery and tells us who has died since the ending of Act Two. Emily Webb died giving birth to her second child and now finds herself in the world of the dead where she meets her relatives and friends. She wants to return to Earth to re-live just one day in the world of the living. The dead warn her against it. Emily is determined, so her mother-in-law suggests she chooses a very ordinary day. Emily returns to her 12th birthday. She recognizes people from her youth and gets her presents. Finally she finds it too painful, and realizes just how much life should be valued, "every, every minute." She then returns to her grave, watching impassively as her husband George kneels weeping at her graveside.

Our Town remains of the most frequently produced 20th century American plays. It has been adapted numerous times for radio, television, film and even for the opera.

Translator Tina Mahkota
Director Matjaž Zupančič
Dramaturg Tatjana Doma
Set Designer Alen Ožbolt
Costume Designer Bjanka Adžić Ursulov
Composer and Music Arranger Jani Kovačič
Actor Movement Consultant Branko Završan
Lighting Designer Andrej Hajdinjak
Vocal Coach Simon Dvoršak
Language Consultant Jože Volk
Sign Language Instructor Gabriela Jurkošek    

Stage Manager Branko Završan
Dr. Gibbs Renato Jenček
Joe Cromwell Aljoša Koltak
Howie Newsome David Čeh
Mrs. Gibbs Lučka Počkaj
Mrs. Webb Jagoda
George Gibbs Blaž Setnikar
Emily Webb Liza Marija Grašič
Professor Willard Igor Žužek
Mr. Webb Bojan Umek
Woman Tanja Potočnik
Belligerent Man Igor Sancin
Lady, One of the Dead Barbara Medvešček
Simon Stimson Mario Šelih
Mrs. Soames Manca Ogorevc
Constable Warren Tarek Rashid
Wedding Guests, The Dead Zvone Agrež, Rastko Krošl, Damjan M. Trbovc, Tanja Potočnik, Barbara Medvešček
Sam Craig Vojko Belšak
Joe Stoddard Igor Sancin


Opening 21 February 2014
Performance duration: 2 hours and 10 minutes. One interval.

OUR TOWN © 1938, 1957 The Wilder Family LLC
Copyright agent: Alan Brodie Representation Ltd