The play begins with the Stage Manager narrating.
The name of the town is Grover's Corners, New Hampshire-just across the Massachusetts line: latitude 42 degrees 40 minutes; longitude 70 degrees 37 minutes. The first Act shows a day in our town. The day is May 7, 1901.I read that the fictional town of Grover's Corners was modelled on Peterborough, or perhaps another small New Hampshire town, so I mapped the location. To my surprise the position is off the coast of Cape Anne in Sandy Bay near Rockport, MA at the approximate location of Dodge Rock. I would like to think that anticipating the success of "Our Town," Wilder intentionally selected this nearby offshore location to preclude future comparisons of Grover's Corners with a real place.
Despite this minor geographical detail, both the script and Trinity's production deliver simple, but compelling messages about the human condition.
Our Town helps the audience focus on the deeper meaning of life which often slips by unnoticed among the rush of mundane everyday tasks like making breakfast, getting children off to school, and choir practice.
Now there are some things we all know , but we don't take 'em out and look at'm very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being. You know as well as I do that the dead don't stay interested in us living people for very long. Gradually, gradually, they loose hold of the earth... and the ambitions they had...and the pleasures they had...and the things they suffered...and the people they loved. They get weaned away from the earth-that's the way I put it,-weaned away.
And they stay here while the earth part of 'em burns away, burns out; and all that time they slowly get indifferent to what's goin' on in Grover's Corners.
Some of the things they're going to say maybe'll hurt your feelings-but that's the way it is: mother'n daughter...husband 'n wife...enemy'n enemy...money 'n miser...all those terribly important things grow pale around here.
Babies are born, a couple falls in love, marries, some grow old.
Emily's final scene is a reminder to celebrate and savor life today and every day.
"Oh Mama, just look at me one minute as if you really saw me.
I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another." She goes on, speaking so only the Stage Manager can hear: "I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed."
Thornton Wilder, 1897-1975. "Our Town" won the Pulitzer prize for Drama in 1938.
I recommend you see it if you get a chance. Playing now through March 4, 2007
Quotes from "Our Town" were taken from Twelve American Plays, 1920-1960 Edited by Richard Corbin & Miriam Balf, Charles Scribner's Sons, NY 1969
Here is Trinity's Video Clip about the play.
Our Town at TRC