UW-W celebrates play’s 75th anniversary

 

Production of ‘Our Town’ joined by Emmy Award-winning actor :

The UW-Whitewater theater department will end the year with a 75th anniversary performance of the play “Our Town” this weekend.

The show will be held at 2 p.m. on April 21 and at 7:30 p.m. on April 22 in the Young Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased in the Center of the Arts for $19, $17 or $14.50 depending on seating.

“Our Town” is a 1938 play by Wisconsin native Thornton Wilder that details the life and romance between George Gibb and Emily Webb. It’s a story about the everyday situations people face in life.

“It has the same conflict we all have: birth, life, death and love,” Director James Butchart said.

The play will be staged in conjunction with the Big Read, an annual community event that highlights different literature. The performance of “Our Town” is one of the many events celebrating Wilder’s life.

Lesh

Seniors Jacob Lesh and Alycia Ruge star as Simon Stimson and Emily. Professional Milwaukee actor John McGivern will join the cast as the Stage Manager, acting as a narrator for the play.

The Emmy Award-winning actor drops in for rehearsal and to teach the cast as they practice; an opportunity Lesh said he relishes.

“For us, as students on the brink of the professional world, it’s really interesting getting to sit down and watch John work,” Lesh said.

McGivern often gives students insight during rehearsal by altering aspects of the play mid-rehearsal.

“If he’s making a choice or decision on stage, he’ll just change it, just for the sake of changing it, because that’s what rehearsal’s about,” Lesh said.

Ruge said one of the challenges the cast had to overcome was learning to act without the use of props, considering the play has almost none.

Ruge

“We’re actually doing a lot of mime work like eating food, carrying books and making breakfast,” Ruge said. “So we’ve actually had rehearsals on just mime work in the show so that we can make it look realistic.”

Wilder purposely left props out of “Our Town” to make it overtly theatrical.

“I think his idea was to make it universal and to make the audience realize that they were watching a play that was about things that happen in life,” Butchart said. “I think he forces people then to use their imagination.”

The cast spends countless hours together rehearsing and producing the play, but despite their constant close proximity, they remain close.

“It’s stereotypical to say, but we’re family,” Lesh said. “With this environment, specifically with Whitewater, I absolutely love it, because not only are the majority of the students, but the entirety of the faculty are so supportive to everybody.”

Ruge said she couldn’t agree more with Lesh’s comments.

“It sounds really corny, but it’s true,” Ruge said.  “Even if we fight, I’d be willing to do almost anything for anyone in this department.”

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