'Our Town' performed by local teenagers | Arts & Culture
One of the most beloved American plays of all time, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, will be performed by Patel Conservatory Youth Theater students in the TECO Theater at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 17 - 19.
Directed by Kerry Glamsch, a University of South Florida (USF) acting instructor, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Our Town is a thought-provoking and emotionally stirring production featuring 15 high school and college students from around the Tampa Bay area.
Our Town is the story of a fictional, small New Hampshire town during the beginning of the 20th century. While the play is mainly about ordinary people living out their lives, it touches on deep themes concerning life and death and the meanings of both. The plot centers around Emily and George, who begin as neighbors early in their lives, then fall in love, marry and are eventually separated by death. Our Town addresses questions regarding what in life is valuable and how human beings relate to one another.
Winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Our Town is one of the country’s most frequently produced plays and is considered an American classic.
Initial work began on the Patel Conservatory’s production of Our Town in early September, but Kerry told me a few weeks ago that his connection to the play goes back many years. After seeing a production in the early 1980s, the play stayed alive in his memory.
Then, on a long flight to Romania in 2008, where he was headed to teach drama on a Fulbright Scholarship, he read the play and it blew him away. He then taught Our Town to his Romanian students, and was impressed with their enthusiastic response. He realized the play resonates cross-culturally, and with those of all ages.
“While teaching the play at Craiova University (in Romania) I focused not so much on its staging, but on the content and theme. And the students got it. They loved it!” Kerry said. “Our Town transcends, literally ‘going beyond’ time and culture, speaking to a part of us, if we are ready to listen, that is universal. As the Stage Manager character remarks, ‘… there are some things we all know but we don't take ‘em out and look at ‘em very often.’ This is a play about seeing miracles in the everyday and giving thanks for what we have.”
Before rehearsals started, Kerry told me he feels grateful for the chance to direct Our Town because he knows the process of working with these young cast members will be incredibly enriching and it will be an amazing experience for all involved. Judging by what I've heard from everyone since rehearsals began, his assessment was correct.
The students are overjoyed with the experience so far. A couple of students are blogging and posting videos about their experiences in the play, at http://patelconservatory.blogspot.com.
Kerry graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in theater from USF, earned a Master of Fine Arts as a Michener fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and worked as an Equity actor for years. He served as a professor of theater at USF from 2003 until 2010, directed a number of critically acclaimed plays, was a Fulbright lecturer at University of Craiova and has taught acting workshops in Tanzania, Bucharest, Bali and New Zealand. He has studied acting with Dell’Arte in Denmark, the Free Theatre of Munich, Two Chairs Studio in Austin and at the Atlantic Theatre in New York City. His screenplays have won numerous awards and his fiction has been published extensively.
Our Town performances will be held Nov. 17-19, Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. Regularly priced tickets start at $12 through Nov. 3 and $15 starting Nov. 4 and may be purchased by calling 813-229-STAR (7827) or 800-955-1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at www.strazcenter.org.
As part of the non-profit Straz Center, the Patel Conservatory offers camps and classes for children and adults of all experience levels in all kinds of dance, music and theater. More information about the Patel Conservatory is available by calling 813-222-1002 and by visiting www.patelconservatory.org.