College theater stages bare bones 'Our Town'

Posted

Guests to Kilgore College theater department's upcoming production of "Our Town" will have to bring their imaginations as there will not be any sets, curtains or properties throughout the play.

"It's interesting because it's one of the first attempts in theater's history at doing a play without props and scenery," KC theater instructor Micah Goodding said of the original play. "We keep that in our production. It lends to the humanity of the piece."

The three-act play, written by Thornton Whilder, is about life, love and death, he said. Instead of being somber, though, it is instead about "cherishing life and experiencing life in the most present moments and appreciating it while you have it."

It has been about 15 years since the college staged a production of "Our Town," but Goodding, who is also the play's director, said he wanted to bring a play that was important to theater history and had artistic value to add to the theater students' education.

"The subject matter is important for them to encounter at this moment," he said. The play asks loaded questions, such as what makes life worth living and what people's experiences should be in life.

Many times, he said, the play is staged as a Norman Rockwall painting, set as a "quaint American painting of life," but it has more substance and broader discussions than the Norman Rockwall painting idea initially evokes.

"There's discussion about why we're here and what we're about and what happens to us after we die," he said. "Those aren't what you get in a quaint little slice of American life."

One of Goodding's focuses with the play is helping the students learn how to address the subject matter.

Although not the reason for doing the play, Goodding noted, a KC theater student died suddenly shortly before the spring semester began last month.

The loss has allowed the students and instructors to explore the subject matter in a more personal way and from a viewpoint in life where many questions are asked and "hard and fast answers are hard to come by," he said. The experience has allowed the students to process their grief and grapple with the idea that any person can pass away at any time.

"It's been great because essential to our belief in theater and why we do it and why we're still doing it after [thousands of year] of human history is the idea that it's a way of exploring life and a way of understanding what it means to be humanhellip; When we practice theater we're practicing being humans," Gooding continued. "It's an opportunity for our students to grow through the lab of life that is theater and deal with some very serious subject matter that is happening in their own lives."

At the core of theater, he explained, is an actor's ability to feel someone else's pain, sorrow, joy or excitement instead of just copying those emotions.

"An actor's job is to empathize - not to sympathize, but to empathize," he said.

That subject matter has made "Our Town" a universal play, being translated into "about as many languages as the Bible," he said, adding it is performed every day of the year, on average.

"I'm hoping the audience taps into that timeless wisdom that the play offers," Goodding said.

The play's setting is the theater in the 1930s with one of the characters simply named Stage Manager with the purpose of helping narrate the story and interact with the characters on stage at certain points. Set in the theater itself, "Our Town" discusses the play as the events are happening on stage.

Without any props, though, Goodding said, the students have had to learn to pantomime with the props and scenery, and the audience must imagine both as well. Imagination comes into play with physical appearance of the Van Cliburn Auditorium as well as the lack of curtains allows the audience to see the lighting equipment, backstage and all the bare bones of the theater - the "bowels of the fine arts building."

"That's the way of exposing the show and saying, 'We don't really have anything to hide,'" Goodding said.

The show is scheduled to run Feb. 18-21 in the Van Cliburn Auditorium in the Anne Dean Turk Fine Arts Center on the KC campus. From Feb. 18-20 the show will begin at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee performance at 2:30 is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 21.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for KC students with a student ID. Discount tickets are available for parties of 10 or more at a cost of $5 per ticket. For more information or to reserve tickets, go to or call 903-983-8126.

KC THEATRE DEPARTMENT PRESENTS 'OUR TOWN'

Production StaffDirector/Production Manager - Micah GooddingAssistant Director/Dramaturg - Kaitlin de GraffenriedTechnical Director/Designer - Michael AtkinsStage Manager - Judah ArmourAssistant Stage Manager - Brittney Crane

CrewLighting Technician - Victoria SmithSound Technician - Taylor FreemanWardrobe Head - Brianna CopelandBox Ofc. Mgr., Publicist, Wardrobe - Hannah SandersProperties/Wardrobe Crew - Brittany CraneProperties/Stage Hand - Judah ArmourUsher, Publicist - Miriam NewmanUsher, Publicist - Andrew WilliamsonUsher, Publicist - Brandon Fleet

CastMrs. Webb - Brenna TooleHowie Newsome - Brett LeeMrs. Soames - Janay PeloquinMr. Webb - Taylor FarrellStage Manager - Trevor NewlinJoe Crowell, Simon Stimson - Jedo HelpenstillGeorge - Colton AskewRebecca - Leisa JenkinsEmily - Kami PackProfessor Willard and other roles - Jacob JohnsonSam Craig, and other roles - Wyatt RobertsSi Crowell, and other roles - Madison GableDr. Gibbs - Brandon DupréWally - Michael MurrayMrs. Gibbs - Annalise WisdomJoe Stoddard - Travis NoriegaLady in the Box and other roles - Hollie BerryWoman in the auditorium & other roles - Alyssa McClainConstable Warren - Morgan KidwellBaseball player and other roles - Christina LloydChoir Member and other roles - Tristin Sechrist

Comments