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WHS' 'Our Town' opens May 2

Woodbury High School's production of Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize winning play "Our Town" will run May 2-4 at the school.

Woodbury High School will be bringing an American classic to the stage next month.

WHS' production of "Our Town," written by Thornton Wilder, will open May 2 at the school.

The Pulitzer Prize winning play tells the story of small town life in America in the early 1900s.

The play is set in Grover's Corners, N.H., where the Gibbs and Webb families are neighbors. It follows the relationship of George Gibbs and Emily Webb - their growing up, their falling in love, their marriage and eventually Emily's tragic death in childbirth.

"I really like how you get to see how the characters' relationships really develop," said WHS senior Angela Yang, who will be playing Emily Webb. "You see them go through all these stages of life. The plotline is so deep, it's about appreciating life while you have it."

Theater director Karen Seashore said "Our Town" stresses that life should be lived with passion, with full participation in relationships and an awareness and appreciation of the world.

"We thought it was really important to have our students involved in this play and to experience it," Seashore said. "The play does a great job of telling the important truths that I guess we all need to sort of think about. And for the kids, they get to understand some aspects of life that they maybe hadn't considered before."

Making theater real

Seashore said one of her favorite aspects of "Our Town" is that there is such an emphasis on acting and making the story and characters feel real.

"Without all of the extra set details and props, it really relies on the kids to be really real," she said.

Seashore said she and husband Jon, who is co-director, spent considerable time working with students on the text before even beginning rehearsals because the dialogue and emotion is so important to the play.

"We were trying to understand what the characters are trying to say," she said, "and look at this as a more realistic form of acting."

WHS junior Caleb Van Ornum, who plays George Gibbs, said he enjoys how "Our Town" is a return to classical theater.

"It's not necessarily contemporary and flashy. It gets down to really good plot and good character development," he said. "You actually have to feel when you say the words."

One aspect of acting that students had to pay close attention to was pantomime since "Our Town" doesn't incorporate a lot of props.

Even though the pantomime was challenging at first for Yang and Van Ornum, they said it has helped them become better actors.

"It's almost like having to visualize an entire world in your head," Van Ornum said, "and you have to interact with that imaginary world."

Both Yang and Van Ornum said "Our Town" has been one of their favorite plays to be a part of.

"It's almost like a breath of fresh air," Van Ornum said. "You understand just how much motion and facial expression plays into emotion."

Seashore said audiences should expect to feel a lot of emotion radiating off the stage come opening night.

"The students' biggest strength is how they play it real and the audience is going to sense that," she said. "Every time the kids do certain scenes, I get teary eyed. The words are so true and that's why the play is so great."

Woodbury High School's production of "Our Town" will run May 2-4 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets are available one hour before the show.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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