Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, NY 2013
George (Marcelle Smith) and Emily (Kate Kenney)

George (Marcelle Smith) and Emily (Kate Kenney)


I directed Our Town at Sing Sing Correctional Facility and the men, with their female civilian counterparts, performed the play twice for the population of the facility and once for an invited civilian audience of ~225.

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town opened on Broadway on February 4, 1938 — this year, we celebrate the Pulitzer Prize-winning play’s 75th year of candidly asking us whether we are paying attention to our lives, “every, every minute.” Often dismissed as a high school Valentine, Our Town is much more than the soda fountain scene.  As American director Fontaine Syer says, “If you listen, you have to think about your own life and what you’re doing with it. It’s hugely unromantic and it tells us things that are common to all of humanity and part of that communication for me says, ‘pay attention. This is a true thing.’” The play highlights moments from everyday life to demonstrate that humans are generally too busy surviving to actually focus on living.  How does one live in the moment when one is living in prison?  How do you pay attention to the present when you are wishing 20 years would fly by?  How does one stay attuned to the magical within the mundane when it might be a survival strategy to tune out?

You can read Howard Sherman’s thoughtful appreciation of the production on The Huffington Post. Among his many thoughtful observations, he wrote, “What I can tell you is that Wilder’s play came through loud and clear. There were some minor alterations: George’s kid sister became a kid brother; Grover’s Corners was re-situated in New York along the Hudson River, there’s a mosque up the hill in town these days, and the religious affiliations of the community include a sizable share of Muslims. ”

You can read one of my posts on Samuel French’s Breaking Character; you can also read one of my posts at (I’m delighted to tell you) www.thorntonwilder.com.

You can listen to the Reduced Shakespeare podcast, where I discuss the project with Austin Tichenor.

Peter Kramer wrote about our production in the Journal News.

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