Paul’s Pick: ‘Our Town’ finds poetry in the ordinary

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The Stage Manager (Jessie Davis), foreground, tells the story of Emily Webb (Kellsey Cornnell) and George Gibbs (Noah Austin) during a rehearsal for “Our Town” at the Market Theatre Company in Anderson. Photo by Noah Taylor.

Paul’s Pick of the Week: “Our Town,” Feb. 8-17 at the Market Theatre Company in Anderson

Why you should go: Playwright Thornton Wilder finds the beauty and poetry in the ordinary.

Most of us live our lives in the ordinary. Most of us don’t win the lottery or lead an army into battle or create a high-tech startup or get elected to high office.

But what if the real miracle of life is the day-to-day journey?

That’s what Wilder explores in this great classic American play, which premiered in 1938.

“Our Town,” set in the early 1900s, is the story of any community in America. It’s a profound play that conveys its profundity lightly, with humor and warmth – from its breezy beginning to its heart-tugging final pages.

Most of us sleepwalk through life, Wilder says. He wants to wake us up.

No surprise, “Our Town” is one of the most-often performed plays in the country.

Minimalist setting: Wilder’s stage directions call for little scenery and few props.

That’s exactly what Robert Fuson, the Greenville-based director of the Market Theatre production, has planned.

“I love the simplicity of the play,” Fuson said. “I love the fact that our set is two tables and 10 chairs. That puts much of the storytelling on the actors.”

Fuson is no stranger to minimalist productions. He’s the artistic director of the Upstate’s Guerrilla Shakespeare Company, which has staged the Bard’s plays in bars and breweries among other unique locations.

The Market Theatre’s nostalgic red-brick building seems ideal for a play that takes place from 1901-1913. The theater’s intimate space, meanwhile, lends itself to the sincerity that Wilder asks of his actors.

“It feels much more natural than presentational,” Fuson said.

Non-traditional casting: Fuson’s production includes some non-traditional casting: The central role of the stage manager, a narrator often played by a grandfatherly actor, will be performed by Jessie Davis, a young actress.

“I opened the casting call to all genders because the stage manager, while referred to as a ‘he,’ does nothing to identify himself as male,” Fuson said. “It didn’t feel like the part had to be male. The actress we have playing the role, Jessie Davis, just knocked it out of the park. She continues to validate my decision every single rehearsal.”

The cast features 13 Upstate actors in all.

“Bringing the play to life has been an extremely rewarding experience,” Fuson said. “The cast we have is phenomenal.”

Spotlight on Anderson: During the run of the play, the Market Theatre will feature a lobby exhibition spotlighting Anderson’s past, present and hoped-for future.

Paul Hyde, a veteran Upstate journalist, writes about the arts for the Greenville Journal. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

IF YOU GO

What: “Our Town,” by Thornton Wilder, produced by the Market Theatre Co.

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8-9 and 14-16; 3 p.m. Feb. 10 and 17

Where: Market Theatre Co. in Anderson

Tickets: $10-$12

Info: 864-729-2999 or www.themarketanderson.org

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