Echo likes Our Town

Our Town is our town

By Darren Lum

The entire cast is presented at the start of Our Town during dress rehearsal at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion in Haliburton on Sunday, July 14. There are several local actors in the Highlands Summer Festival play. DARREN LUM/HALIBURTON ECHO/QMI AGENCY

The entire cast is presented at the start of Our Town during dress rehearsal at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion in Haliburton on Sunday, July 14. There are several local actors in the Highlands Summer Festival play. DARREN LUM/HALIBURTON ECHO/QMI AGENCY

Sometimes art imitates life.
It’s appropriate given the similarities between Haliburton and Grover’s Corner, the small New Hampshire town showcased in the Highlands Summer Festival’s staging of Our Town from July 15 to July 26.
The Pulitzer-winning three-act play written by American playwright Thornton Wilder follows life in Grover’s Corners over the course of more than 10 years in the early 20th century.
The story revolves around two neighbouring families: the Webbs and Gibbs. One of the major storylines is the depiction of the young love between George Gibbs and Emily Webb.
This is Wilder’s love letter to people to value the little things. Life is more than the significant milestones that punctuate our lives.
Artistic producer Scot Denton said this play will resonate with any audience, as it appeals to teens with its love story between George and Emily and to others through its lessons about appreciating all that life has to offer.
Denton, who describes the play showing the “cycle of life,” appreciates Wilder’s play more now since he is older with children in their 20s.
“When you’re young it’s hard to know what you possess and the potential for your life. When you’re older you look back and you say, ‘Yeah, I had a lot of things going for me.’ There are lots of things we do and don’t do. Anyway it’s a remarkable story that way,” he said.
He has been the artistic producer of the Highlands Summer Festival since 2008.
Denton, an acting teacher at Sheridan College in Oakville, said the stage manager role played by Brian Kipping gets the audience thinking.
Kipping, who communicates directly with the audience, is excited by this chance to reprise his role. He believes the audience will really connect with the characters in the play.
“I think they’ll associate with these people right away. I think they’ll understand their family values. It’s not so far back that it’s strange,” he said, referring to the period setting of the play. Besides formalities, people are still at heart the same.
“They’ll get it. They’ll get the kids growing up and going to school. The young people falling in love and all those things that the parents are talking about … they are all things that will resonate here. It’s not a big city situation. It’s a small town like Haliburton,” he said.
As the narrator, Kipping finds his role different. “It’s unusual because his dialogue is almost exclusively with the audience and not with the performers on stage,” he said.
Audiences, he said, will laugh.
“It’s quite humorous. It’s not like Nunsense humorous, but it’s humorous to watch them in their lives and the young people growing up and all that sort of thing. It’s a marvelous play,” he said.
Ten years ago he performed the stage manager role in Toronto.
At first he was hesitant since he was concerned about “tarnishing the memory.”
Since this production is quite different it is “equally engaging” for him.
“It’s like a whole new start,” he said. “I’m really excited about it.”
This cast, he said, is very good. Among them is returning actor Kathryn Boyd.
Denton has worked several times with her over the years.
“She’s a remarkable performer and loves the teamwork that one puts together,” he said.
He adds she does the research, but also personalizes each role she performs.
This is Boyd’s second year returning after moving up to Canada’s North to work a few years ago.
“Haliburton holds a special place in my heart as does the festival,” she said.
She adds returning to the festival “worked well” as she has made the transition to move back “south” to Toronto recently.
“Our Town is a wonderful script ­– a classic in the theatre canon, and the role I am playing (Mrs. Gibbs) held some special challenges for me as an actor (particularly creating the reality of the invisible world).”
New for the festival this season is Curtain Talks. Sponsored by TD Waterhouse, this provides the audience with an insight into the performances. Limited to one for each play, Our Town’s talk is Wednesday, July 17.
For tickets phone 705-457-9933, fax 705-457-2534 or email tickets@highlandssumerfestival.on.ca.

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