- Last Updated on 11:41 AM 04/23/12
- BY BY KIRK COMPTON/SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE
Resolutions are on the tip of everyone’s tongue during the first few weeks of any New Year. They are often as unique as the individuals who resolve to follow through on them, but this year let us all commit to one goal — living life for each moment.
This objective — to truly live life — is a central theme in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” an infamous American play being performed by several Carlbrook School student’s this weekend on The Prizery’s Chastain Theatre stage. The one show only production will take place on Saturday at 3 p.m. with all ticket sale proceeds going to benefit The Prizery.
The show’s director, Chris White, an accomplished actor, director, and writer is using his expertise to mold the teenage thespians into an ensemble that is not to be missed. White became Carlbrook’s ‘artist in residence’ after talking with long-time friend and college pal, Andy Coe, Carlbrook School’s dean of students.
“Chris White is a dear friend of mine from college. We have stayed in touch and he was telling me about a production of Our Town that he did at the high school he teaches at in Greenville [South Carolina]. He suggested that maybe he could come to Carlbrook and work with our students,” Coe said.
Since White had recently completed a run of the play at another school, it seemed the right choice for both him and the student’s involved.
“I proposed “Our Town” as I had just directed the play in Greenville, South Carolina with students at J. L. Mann High School. The play was written to be performed during the holidays, can be produced for very little money, and is a good challenge for teenager actors,” White said.
White’s history in working with teens has been useful to him in helping this production come to life. Not only is he working with actors he’s only recently met and never seen perform on stage, the entirety of the show — from auditions to opening night – will only cover the span of three weeks.
White said, “I felt confident that even though we had a short rehearsal window — three weeks — we could mount a successful production. The students I’m working with at Carlbrook have responded well ... even better than many students I’ve worked with in the past.”
And how do those challenged with making Wilder’s words come to life feel about the shortened time frame and rigorous workload?
Lauren McLeod and Lee Barber, both seniors, agree that it’s certainly stressful but rewarding at the same time.
“The amount of time we’ve had is really, really, really, short – two three hour practices almost every day – but since we’ve been on break there’s been time to learn the lines, blocking, and everything else,” said McLeod who’s portraying Mrs. Webb.
Barber, who’s bringing to life the character of Doc Gibbs, feels very much the same and says the line between rehearsal and real life is blurred by the abbreviated production schedule.
“It feels like living in rehearsal with life as a break. I find that I’m speaking like my character sometimes when I’m not working on the show,” he said.
Barber is no stranger to the stage. He notes that he grew up around theatre and enjoys the group effort it takes to make a show come alive.
“I’ve been involved in theatre for 12 years – whether on stage or helping backstage – and I like the unified effort of a whole group working to make one moment as special and spectacular as it can be,” he said.
While McLeod’s history in the theatrical realm may not be as deep as her counterpart’s, she’s thrilled to be able to take part in this performance in order to learn all she can.
“It’s a huge opportunity to take part in this show. It’s a great chance to grow as an actor, to perform in a dedicated theatre space like The Prizery and in front of an audience full of people,” she said.
Filling the audience is something everyone involved with the show hopes will happen. Whether you’ve seen the play before, only ever read the script, or know nothing about it at all, in Chris White’s eyes it’s something that everyone should experience.
“I think everyone should see “Our Town” at least once for each decade of their lives. It has something for every member of the family and that something is different, depending on your age and station in life. It’s a joyful play and a very touching play – you really will laugh ... and cry. I feel confident that everyone who sees the play will leave the theater deeply affected and hopeful,” White said.
White further said, “This particular production will be stronger than most high school plays for a couple of reasons: the theater [The Prizery] is as professional as they come, the student actors will be excellent, and though we’ve been true to Thornton Wilder’s play in every way, we’ve also innovated. Several creative flourishes will serve to make this production of “Our Town” unlike any other.”
Barber and McLeod agree that this production is not to be missed. The two concur that having a zeal for living and cherishing each moment are the true intentions of the characters within the story and motivating factors for those participating on stage and all attending the performance.
“The Carlbrook motto, ‘We learn not for school but for life’ imparts an inherent appreciation for living – whether in school or wherever it’s your life; every moment is your life and it’s the only one you’ll get,” Barber said.
This New Year take time from your busy schedule and bring your family and friends to witness a modern re-telling of this classic story sure to touch your heart and soul.
The singular performance will take place on Saturday at 3 p.m. on the Chastain Theatre stage. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students with all proceeds benefiting The Prizery.
To purchase tickets or for more information visit The Prizery’s website at www.prizery.com or call the box office at 572–8339.