Community of Cast Members Help Build “Our Town”
Chairs are lined across the front of the stage like plastic soldiers. The players gather, unpacking their scripts and conversing as they prepare for warm-ups lead by senior Christina Cranshaw.
“Warm-ups,” someone calls.
Everyone approaches the stage, forming a circle, and begin the warm-up with raised, out-stretched hands. The troupe practices various exercises; yelling their aggravation out, kicking and punching the air before them in violent aggression, “rubbing the stress out of their faces,” and attempting to lick the ceiling with their tongues protruding, licking left, right, up and down.
“Now put it back in your mouth,” Cranshaw said.
As a group, they chant, “Unique New York, New York is unique. You know you need unique New York.” Speeding up as they chant, the group of players sound like a cult in their attempts to perfect every syllable and enunciate every vowel.
“Our Town” Comes Together
This preparation propels the troupe into rehearsal for the fall performance of “Our Town,” which premieres on Oct. 18, 19, and 20 at 7 p.m. and on Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. It follows the story of two families and their experiences in the small town of Grover’s Corners. “Our Town” is about growing up, falling in love, dying and the ephemeral range of experiences between these milestones.
Director Jeremy Ferman takes a seat in the scarce audience and prepares himself for rehearsal.
“’Our Town’ is an American classic,” Mr. Ferman said. “It is read in English classes all over the world [and] it is a piece of theatre that truly reflects the time in which it is set.”
As the group of players disperse, senior Wyatt Zalatoris and freshman Catie Williams approach the stage while seniors Cranshaw, Dini Wyatt and Marissa Flatt stand up stage.
As they rehearse lines, Mr. Ferman consistently critiques ill-enunciated words and pauses that are “all-too-awkward.” Every detail of the rehearsal becomes magnified, from junior Madison Fountain’s hand placement as she imagines the bowl of snap peas she will be carrying to the slight tip-toed movement Williams practices as she leans in for an almost-kiss.
Scenes pass and Cranshaw approaches the stage to practice her monologue. Cranshaw plays the part of Stage Manager, alongside Flatt and Wyatt.
“I feel so extremely grateful for being blessed with such a substantial role that means a great deal to the story,” Cranshaw said.
The Stage Manager’s responsibilities in the play include moving the story along and introducing the various characters in Grover’s Corners.
“Line,” Cranshaw said, asking for her cue.
In frustration, she evokes her performance with a passion that could be confused with fury.
“Less angry,” Mr. Ferman said. “Don’t get mad, get glad.”
“It’s the standards I hold myself up to that I want to accomplish,” Cranshaw said. “I know that I can always be better, and all you can really do is just work harder to reach your goal. Acting isn’t easy. I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t a challenge that I could face and improve on.”
Various casting changes were made throughout the rehearsal process of “Our Town.” Because of the casting changes, senior Sarah McDonnell temporarily rehearsed without a stage husband.
“Why is it always my husband that quits the show?” McDonnell asked jokingly.
McDonnell plays Mrs. Gibbs, George Gibb’s mother and Emily Webb’s soon-to-be mother-in-law. She feels positively about her portrayal of the character.
“So far it’s going very well,” McDonnell said.
Having been in theater for all of her high school career, McDonnell has developed her own way of coping with stage fright.
“I don’t get nervous anymore, not even right before I go onstage,” McDonnell said. ” I actually kind of miss that electricity of ‘Oh my gosh I’m about to go on.’ It’s an adrenaline rush, and it helps me get into character after I’ve been onstage.”
Although having been involved in theater for a while, sophomore Destinie Walker continues to become nervous before an audition. Before auditioning for “Our Town,” stage fright hit for Walker during Mr. Ferman’s speech.
“I didn’t actually read the play so I just went up there and performed my monologue and just hoped for a part,” Walker said. “I looked at my hands and they were shaking like crazy.”
Walker eventually made the cast, receiving the role of Professor Willard.
“I didn’t think I did good enough to automatically get a part, but I did and when I saw my name on the cast list it made my entire day,” Walker said.
For this play, the troupe will hardly have any props onstage, so most of the movement and actions are pantomime. This effect tries to make the audience imagine what happens during the play.
“It has been really difficult so far,” McDonald said. “I make an entire breakfast for my husband and two children with nothing tangible to hold. So I’m cooking with invisible food and invisible pots and pans and it [becomes] difficult to feel the weight of something in your hands that’s not actually there.”
Mr. Ferman hopes for the audience to appreciate the work his students have put into the production.
“I am excited for the audience to see it,” Mr. Ferman said. “I would love to get people to come out and see this so that our cast and crew’s work will be noticed by their teachers, parents and peers.”
Click here to see what “Our Town” cast members had to say about the production.