Creating "Our Town"

Published courtesy of Jill Johnson at

Creating Our Town, by Jill Johnson

It's such fun watching a really good director put a play together. When you are cast in a show, but blessed with a very small part, for a good deal of the time, you get to stand outside the action and watch the story emerge. 

Our Town has been in rehearsal since late April. But the whole business of creating the little New Hampshire town of Grover's Corners at the turn of the century began at the very first rehearsal.

During those first rehearsals, the actors for the major roles began to create their "back stories". These imagined parts of their character's lives are based solidly on the script but help the actors understand the parts of their character's lives that occurred either before or after the events of the play. But, very shortly, ALL the actors - even those of us with only one or two lines - were invited to create our own connection to the town – and to one another. These connections are great fun to imagine and create. But, more important , when all of this information is put together skillfully by the director, it creates a web, a series of threads that mesh the characters and their town together. And with each successive rehearsal, that web becomes more complex; the connections more nuanced. 
Of course, Grovers Corners and Our Town have been around a long time. Thorton Wilder's drama was first performed 76 years ago in 1938. Since then, it has been presented in thousands of productions - theatrical, musical - even operatic - on screens and stages all over the world.

Every good director has to have two things: 1. a solid vision of the play and 2. the ability to articulate that vision to his or her actors and crew and work with them to give it life. Our director has both. Watching him coach actors; navigate that exquisitely sensitive business of when to advise – and when to leave it alone – is a delight. Watching actors respond to his strong vision and his support – and then echo that support back to their fellow performers - is even better. 

There is precious little game-playing or grand-standing here. Yes, that is sometimes part of work in the theater – be it professional, academic, or community. And it's stressful, infuriating, and a crashing bore to deal with. But everyone involved with this production is committed to creating Our Town and they are working - hard - to bring it to life. 

If you're in the vicinity, get tickets for Our Town [...] You won't be sorry...


Jill Johnson is a local storyteller and actress with a long background in teaching, training, and international consulting. She lives in Langley and is part of the cast of Our Town.