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Small town with big emotions: CSU Theatre performs ‘Our Town’

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Collegian | Samantha Nordstrom
Colorado State University students Kaitlin Thompson-Highsmith and Courtney LaFontano perform as Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb during the “Our Town” dress rehearsal at the University Theatre in Fort Collins April 18.

A story of everyday life in a small town may not seem that enticing or exciting at first glance. However, Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” has perfectly captivated audiences at Colorado State University through its fantastic performances and meaningful messages.

The CSU School of Music, Theatre and Dance premiered Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” Friday, April 19. There will be more performances this weekend.

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Cast members performed numerous acoustic songs such as “American Teenager” by Ethel Cain, which touches on subject matter surrounding growing up in a small town. The performance was full of life and energy and fit perfectly with the other songs in the play and the play’s plot itself. 

Directed by Wesley Longacre, “Our Town” is the story of Grover’s Corners, a fictional New Hampshire town, and its changes at the beginning of the 20th century. 

Each character beautifully portrays what grief and death are like. Emily and other characters who have passed on in the nine years since Act 2 are able to make death tangible.”

Act 1 of the play covers daily life in the town. Characters are introduced, and the audience learns their routines and what makes up their lives and, ultimately, what makes everyday life meaningful. From school crushes between characters Emily (India Thompson) and George (Hollis Andrew) to neighborly gossip sessions after choir between Mrs. Webb (Courtney LaFontano) and Mrs. Gibbs (Kaitlin Thompson-Highsmith), each scene can connect to someone in the audience. The main purpose of this section is to show how seemingly mundane tasks and challenges can have a tremendous impact on everything in one’s life.

The simple acknowledgment and dissection of each character’s actions are what brings the story to life along with the performances. Witty and simultaneously true to life, the tone contributes to keeping the audience captivated throughout. 

A unique aspect of “Our Town” is that the fourth wall is frequently broken; the Stage Manager, played by Zail Acosta, repeatedly engages with the audience, creating a close-knit community feeling that matches the small town setting.

Moving into Act 2 brings new challenges and meaningful moments. After a three-year time jump, George and Emily are to be married. With this comes a day of stress and a move back in time to a year previous, when confessions of love from both Emily and George are made. Throughout the stress of the wedding and hesitations, there are beautiful displays of parent-child love and connection. However, such happiness can’t always last forever. 

Act 3 serves as a lens through which the audience can look at life and lifetimes, and the inevitable, heavy presence of death moves through until the very end.

Each character beautifully portrays what grief and death are like. Emily and other characters who have passed on in the nine years since Act 2 are able to make death tangible.

Death is an incredibly complex concept that often cannot be fully understood. Despite this, the cast and script itself do an incredible job of tackling it.

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The story of “Our Town” illustrates just how wide the reach of grief and loss is. Thompson’s portrayal of Emily is wrought with emotion palpable throughout the scene, and the other characters contribute to the sadness and simultaneous hope radiating from the stage.

While no one really knows what happens when after death, the play offered a sense of what it could be like. Eternity and mortality are difficult discussions to hold, but both the writing and performances leave such an impression that makes it difficult to not acknowledge its importance.

While “Our Town” may not end on a particularly joyful note, there is still happiness and hope woven throughout that leaves the audience captivated well after everyone has taken their bows and left the stage.

Reach Aubree Miller at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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