Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Our Town & Other Plays


I often hear from friends about a new work of fiction, non-fiction, mystery they recommend me reading,  but very seldom about a drama or play.  Regarding plays,  I think it safe to say many folks   enjoy going to the theater to see a play performed, but  not many choose to read one. Why this is I don't know. Playwrights choose interesting themes to write about, provide dialogue and plot to captivate one's attention.

Although I've  never written a play, I would like to, and  have found drama  an interesting genre from the time I was a freshman at Bell High School and enrolled in Drama class.  I still   have  a few  books of Plays on my shelf today,   Sixteen Famous American Plays, Twenty-Five Best Plays of the Modern American Theater,  and the Complete Plays of Lillian Hellman,  that include plays I like very much - Life With Father, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and The Women My favorite among them is  Thornton Wilder's Our Town. 

Perhaps one reason Wilder's Our Town ranks high with me is because from the time I was a little girl I remember my darling  Grandmother Cooney talking about my dad having a major part  in his high school production of Our Town, playing  the role of stage manger. Maybe it's because it sounds so much like  the small town of Council Bluffs, Iowa where  my mother and dad grew up . Or maybe,  my own small town of Bell, California where neighbors knew each other well.  Each day very much the same, just as it was in Wilder's fictitious Grover's Corner, but every day precious ... only in later years do those living there realize how precious those simple moments were, and how they helped to shape who they were, and form the memories they share.

Thinking back on studies, I am reminded the playwright often gives only a skeletal description of a a character ; A  key to reading and understanding a  play is to use the stage directions and the dialogue  to help 'see' the play in your mind.  You might ask youself :

*How does this scene look ?
*What might this character look like?
*How might this character dress , walk, talk and gesture?

Be sure to listen, question, connect:; Whom does this character remind me of? When did something similar happen to me?  How would I respond?

And respond: How does this make me feel ? What's interesting about this?  I like this character because...

The play Our Town stresses the  ties that bind and  importance of relationships - the meaning of routine and every day living - small happenings, and ordinary events.  It's easy for me to relate to those sweet years of my youth, but also the routine my husband and  family now share.  And  to those no  longer   here..

Just like a novel, plays provide setting, plot and dialogue. While books are divided into chapters, plays are divided into acts and scenes, which indicate a change in location or the passage of time.

*Note - some reference from Glencoe Literature The Reader's Choice copyright 2002


Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

This post brings back fond memories of my first acting experience, playing Sabina in a high school production of Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth. I loved participating in community theater and miss it now. Great idea to incorporate theatrical concepts into other kinds of writing.

Patty said...

I love plays so found your post very interesting. Our Town is one of many I've enjoyed on stage and in novel form. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Brings back fond memories of working on stage and helping to bring plays to life for me too. It was a fun time.
Thank you so much for sharing this.