David Roth has acted in 3 productions of “Our Town.”
In 1980 — the summer he moved to Westport, as a rising Staples High School freshman — his introduction to his new town’s drama community came via Thornton Wilder’s classic play.
A few years later in college, he was cast in it again. The third time was as an adult, with the Wilton Playshop.
Kerry Long was introduced to “Our Town” as a Staples student. English teacher Karl Decker traditionally read it to his senior class.
Roth and Long now co-direct Staples Players. But in over 60 years, the nationally recognized organization has produced the play only once.
That was in 1962. Craig Matheson directed, 4 years after founding Players.
This Thursday through Sunday (May 23 through 26), Roth and Long will stage “Our Town” again.
Both love it.
“It’s brilliant,” Roth says. “It so well captures the human experiences we all go through.”
Much has changed in 57 years. Besides the auditorium, there’s now a smaller Black Box theater.
That’s where Players will stage “Our Town,” from Thursday through Sunday (May 23 through 26).
But much has not changed.
The set is spare. Props are minimal. Very little separates the audience from the actors, or both from life’s experiences.
Emily (Sophie Rossman) and George (Nick Rossi) at the soda shop. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Players’ 2019 cast wears contemporary clothing. Though the play is set in 1938 — and the “play within a play” covers the years 1901 to 1913 — Roth and Long want their audience to focus on the timelessness of the message, not its time frame.
The directors make good use of the Black Box’s intimacy and versatility. The audience sits on stage. They flank the actors, so the action happens both in front and behind.
Roth and Long have loved “Our Town” for years. They are excited to introduce a new generation of performers — and theater-goers — to it.
Mrs. Gibbs (Camille Foisie) and Doc Gibbs (Tobey Patton). (Photo/Kerry Long)
Most of the teenage actors knew of of the play, Roth says. But few of them actually “knew” it.
Now they appreciate it as much as their directors do.
That’s the magic of theater. Of “Our Town.”
And of Staples Players.
(“Our Town” will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 23, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 26 at 3 p.m. Online tickets are sold out, but a limited number will be available half an hour before curtain, at the door.)