Celebrating what it means to be human and the bonds that unite us all, Queensland Theatre opens its 2021 Season with Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town, at the Bille Brown Theatre from 30 January.
With a story so simple and a heart so warm, this classic celebrates all that is precious in life. Life in a small town. Babies are born. Children go to school, and play and dream. People grow up, fall in love, get married, hold down a job, and grow old. The same surnames last down through the years, but the faces change. There are inevitable tragedies and triumphant joys.
As we come to know the people in this town, we see how the threads of their everyday lives are gently woven into the rich and complex, funny and heartbreaking fabric that is community. And for all its simplicity, this play reveals a great truth at its heart: deep meaning and startling value are in every moment of existence. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Our Town has long been America’s most performed play. It reminds us to look to the future with hope, to see the beauty in the everyday world and to cherish the people we love.
“Our Town is a huge story told very simply, about a group of people who live in a small country town, and it’s an extraordinary reminder that it’s the small things in life that matter in the face of big tragedy,” says Director Lee Lewis.
Lewis has assembled one of the largest casts ever to grace the Bille Brown Theatre stage, featuring some of the best actors in the country including Jimi Bani, Andrew Buchanan, Mia Foley, Angus Freer, Lucy Heathcote, Luca Klarwein, Amy Lehpamer, Roxanne McDonald, Libby Munro, Hugh Parker, Jayden Popik, Silvan Rus, Ava Ryan, Colin Smith, Anthony Standish and Egan Sun-Bin.
Lewis said Wilder wrote this play in the run-up to World War II in the 1930s. “People were incredibly worried about fascism and what was happening to the world and the values that they’d cherished so much,” she said.
“He wrote this play to remind them of what was deeply important, creating the story about this little country town called Grover’s Corners. And it’s a town we all recognize. I grew up in a country town, probably a little bit bigger than Grover’s Corners, but still had the same things and similar people.”
“The story focuses on two families living next door to each other, the Gibbs and the Webbs. The young son, George Gibbs, and the young daughter, Emily Webb, fall in love and marry. We follow the town over the course of about 10 years and experience all the changes and the sadness that happens. The end of the play is magic. Thornton Wilder was an incredible form breaker in his time.”
“I think Our Town is a play written for difficult times, to remind us about what matters. And that’s why my heart went straight there when I thought about the possibility of a 2021 Season,” says lewis.
Thornton Wilder was an accomplished novelist and playwright whose works explore the connection between the commonplace and the cosmic dimensions of human experience. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of his seven novels, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928, and his next-to-last novel, The Eighth Day received the National Book Award (1968).
Two of his four major plays garnered Pulitzer Prizes, Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1943). His play, The Matchmaker ran on Broadway for 486 performances (1955-1957), Wilder’s Broadway record, which was later adapted into the record-breaking musical, Hello, Dolly!
Wilder also enjoyed enormous success with many other forms of the written and spoken word, among them translation, acting, opera librettos, lecturing, teaching and film (his screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 psycho-thriller, Shadow of a Doubt remains a classic to this day). Letter writing held a central place in Mr. Wilder’s life, and since his death, three volumes of his letters have been published.
Wilder’s many honours include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Book Committee’s Medal for Literature. On 17 April 1997, the centenary of his birth, the US Postal Service unveiled the Thornton Wilder 32-cent stamp in Hamden, Connecticut, his official address after 1930 and where he died on 7 December 1975.
“A superbly written, gloriously observed, tough, and breathtaking statement of what it is to be alive” – Edward Albee
Director: Lee Lewis Featuring: Jimi Bani, Andrew Buchanan, Mia Foley, Angus Freer, Lucy Heathcote, Luca Klarwein, Amy Lehpamer, Roxanne McDonald, Libby Munro, Hugh Parker, Jayden Popik, Silvan Rus, Ava Ryan, Colin Smith, Anthony Standish, Egan Sun-Bin Costume Designer: Nathalie Ryner Lighting Designer: Paul Jackson Composer/Sound Designer: THE SWEATS
Bille Brown Theatre – Queensland Theatre, 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane
Season: 30 January – 20 February 2021
Information and Bookings: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au
Image: Queensland Theatre presents Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (supplied)