Classic play ‘Our Town’ engages audience at Macon Little Theatre

lshirley@macon.comFebruary 7, 2014 

When “Our Town” opens Friday at Macon Little Theatre, the play will be marking its 75th anniversary on the American stage.

“That’s one of the reasons we chose it,” said director Weldon Ledbetter. “It’s a classic, and it’s considered one of Thornton Wilder’s greatest works.”

The play is set in the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, N.H., and follows the lives of George Gibbs and Emily Webb from childhood through adulthood in the early 1900s.

“It is traditionally done without a set or props. It is a very stripped-down production, and I think that makes it a lot of fun to watch. People feel like that makes it an easy show to do. My experience is that it is beautiful but a very difficult show because you don’t have those things,” Ledbetter said, adding that the play has a “beautiful script.”

Without a set or props, though, the audience has to rely on the pantomime of the actors. With a background in mime and physical theater, Ledbetter said she has had fun directing that aspect of “Our Town.”

“Wilder was very specific about not wanting the pantomime to be forced, so the acting has to be clear. My point of advice to the actors is they know what they are doing, like pouring water in a pot to make oatmeal for breakfast and stirring the pot, it makes those things crisp. It’s amazing that you don’t even miss the props,” she said.

The production has a cast of 17 actors, both veterans and those new to the Macon Little Theatre stage. Rachel Chabot plays Emily, Joseph Whidby plays George, and Joan McGinley plays the stage manager, who acts as the narrator.

“It is typically a male role, but it can be cast both ways,” Ledbetter said. “It was one of those moments where someone comes in to read and it’s just an epiphany. She’s really made it work.”

“Our Town” is performed in three acts, with one full intermission and a short break, and follows George and Emily from ages 12-26, Ledbetter said, though the same actors portray the characters from start to finish.

“It’s tough to act like a petulant child and then three acts later cry over the grave of your wife and the mother of your child. It’s a difficult thing to do, and they are both doing such an impressive job. It is stunning to watch them manipulate that as actors,” she said.

“The real fun has been working with them on developing these characters. Anyone who comes to see this play will be so impressed by the caliber of these actors.”

“Our Town”

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 7-8, 12-15; 2:30 p.m. Feb. 9 and 16

Where: Macon Little Theatre, 4220 Forsyth Road

Cost: $18 adults, $15 seniors, $10 students (up to age 23)

Information: 478-477-3342 or 478-471-PLAY

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