The University Theatre began the production of “Our Town” Oct. 13, the deceptively simple, world-renowned play that was created by Madison native Thornton Wilder.
Many describe the play as having no main plot or dramatic climax, but the play’s simplicity allows the audience to relate to the material. The show covers the highs and lows of life, and the themes of death and enlightenment are weaved throughout the performance, though never explicitly explained.
The relatable material draws the audience into the performance and they become involved with the theatrical experience, Roseann Sheridan, the director of “Our Town,” said.
“There’s a deliberate attempt to include the audience in the experience throughout,” Sheridan said. “It’s a relatable piece … and it’s also very universal in its themes and ideas. It has a lot to do with being present and letting go of our attachments.”
‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ tackles macabre subject matter with whimsy, humorCurrently playing at the Overture Center for the Arts, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” makes serial killings comical Read…
When people realize life involves euphoric and dreadful moments, and come to accept life’s inevitable truths, they connect with each other, Sheridan said. The themes in the play juxtapose to create a simultaneity of the two qualities of life.
There is a production of “Our Town” in Manchester, England right now in response to the 2017 bombing incident. The play was specifically chosen because of how the community reacted, and they needed to process what had happened, Sheridan said.
Like all theatrical performances, “Our Town” is a way to tell a story. People understand the world and its truths from story telling. With “Our Town,” the audience is constantly reminded that they are watching a play with actors, Sheridan said. The relatable content, however, still allows the audience to immerse themselves in the show and find themselves reflective in it.
The play was created in 1938, and has since been turned into a movie and radio play, and has been performed on stage both regionally and on Broadway. Directors tend to differentiate their work from the other shows, but Sheridan didn’t make her creative decisions just for the sake of being different.
“The first and foremost thing is how does this play speak to me and what do I really want to say about it,” Sheridan said. “I don’t really try to make it different for the sake of being different from other productions.”
To produce the show, Sheridan had to consider the cast, layout of the theatre and budget. These factors were major considerations for how to approach the show.
Usually this show involves a cast of all ages, ranging from children to seniors. For this production, the entire cast — with one or two exceptions — is comprised of all undergraduate students. Sheridan had to consider how the show can work properly when students were playing different ages and different roles.
This factor perhaps makes the show even more relatable. The entire community is encouraged to attend the show, but the target audience is college students, Sheridan said. It is representative of the college-aged student, and was designed to engage with that particular audience.
Sheridan then had to consider the environment and resources available. She was told the production budget would be small and it should be turned into a contemporary performance. In the end, Sheridan’s 25 years of directing experience allowed her to create the play as she envisioned it — regardless of the factors present.
Latest UW Theater production brings old classic to new lightUniversity of Wisconsin’s University Theater’s fall production of “Stupid Fucking Bird” is a light-hearted take on Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” and offers Read…
Her expertise is also evident by her selection to direct this play. Plays held at the University Theatre are usually directed by staff in the Theatre Department — but Sheridan does not work for the university, she is the artistic director at the Children’s Theater of Madison. When she heard that “Our Town” was coming to the University Theatre, she reached out to the head of the theatre production and landed the job.
Even with her great experience, there were inherent challenges with directing the play. The casting, environment and budget were factors to consider, but not entirely difficult to overcome. The main challenge was with interpreting the play itself, Sheridan said.
Even after years of reading and studying the script, Sheridan ran into difficulties when deciding how to present the material. The deceptively simple content led to challenges with interpretation. The play is not as simple as it looks, and yet it’s simpler than it looks, Sheridan said.
University Theater presents ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ like you’ve never seen beforeUniversity Theater will be ringing in the holidays with their unique radio production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” A timeless Read…
When a playwright creates a good piece of material, there’s a lot of room for interpretations. At the same time, there’s hardly any room for interpretations, Sheridan said. It’s both simple and complex at the same time, just like how the opposite themes and emotions of euphoria and dread are simultaneously contrasted throughout the show.
Over the summer, Sheridan constantly thought about the play and tried to answer the question, ‘What does the playwright give us?’ It’s hard to break this piece apart and present it in a way that keeps the original language authentic while still keeping things simple. It was difficult to crack the nut of this play, Sheridan said.
Performances run through Oct. 29, and Sheridan hopes people come to see the play that is quintessential to both the American experience and the universal human existence.
“I hope that some place in every person in the world, there’s an interest in [theatre],” Sheridan said. “Come without expectations. Be curious about the world of the play.”