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Seeing Our Town in a Shutdown

30 Sep

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Simon Stimson

Yes, now you know. Now you know! That’s what it was to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those…of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another. Now you know. That’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to. Ignorance and blindness.

Mrs. Gibbs

Simon Stimson, that ain’t the whole truth and you know it.

It might not be the whole truth, but but it sure can feel like it right now. The bitterest lines of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, written 75 years ago, set 100 years ago, put in the mouth of the drunk who hung himself, resonate at a time when the federal government is going to shut down because healthcare is too high a price for ideology and an orchestra spends $14 million on a season with no concerts and all musicians locked out. Nightpath Theatre is doing us all a service by putting on this show right now, and you still have a chance to see it on October 1st. Wilder’s script, earnest and plain-spoken, sometimes to the point of ridicule and easily played for saccharine, comes off well under Maggie Scanlan’s sharp direction and with the capable energy of the ensemble.

Emily

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?

Stage Manager

No. The saints and poets, maybe—they do some.

“Nice town, y’know what I mean?” Michael Ooms as the Stage Manager asks at the top of the show, and Our Town is that idyllic America of days gone past that is so often lamented in politician’s speeches. It is also a town where an immigrant woman who lives on the other side of the tracks can get a doctor to deliver her twins at 1:30 in the morning without having to worry about the cost bankrupting her. It’s a nice town because the people make it that way. It’s a town where change comes and the dead watch on as the people stay and deal with it. Grover’s Corner is a town that knows the faults of it’s members – arrogance and addiction – and do not judge each other too harshly for those faults. It is, on a larger scale today, difficult to think of a politician speaking the words of George Gibbs, our male protagonist, after Emily Webb, our female protagonist, chides him for his arrogance; “I’m celebrating because I’ve got a friend who tells me all the things that ought to be told me.”

Simon Stimson

Now look here, everybody. Music come into the world to give pleasure. Softer! Softer! Get it out of your heads that music’s only good when it’s loud.

But the script of Our Town is eternally hopeful. The townspeople sing in choirs, split beans together, play baseball. I would like to think that they would go watch the locked out Orchestra musicians play at the Lake Harriet Bandshell, support yarn-bombers, and go down to Block E to see what the artists have done to fill the void left by commercial overreach. That’s the power of the play, is that it is the people coming together to be a part of it, together. I am happy to see so many of my friends, my colleagues and my community at work here, and they do an excellent job. So go see Our Town, because it may not solve the world’s problems, but it is a salve and a reminder that the world is what we make it, and we can make it a nice town, and one that lasts. The Stage Manager knows that it’s the people who matter in a place.

Stage Manager

Now there are some things we all know, but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal…everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.

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