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Duke Ellington School of the Arts Our Town

By • Mar 16th, 2009 • Category: Cappies

Playwright Thornton Wilder once described Our Town as “a little play with all the big subjects in it.” Duke Ellington School of the Arts tackled “the big subjects” in the play with grace and determination Thursday evening in a standout production of Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize winner.

Our Town follows the lives of the inhabitants of Grover’s Corner, a fictitious town in New Hampshire, from 1901 to 1913. We see the relationship of two schoolchildren progress through adolescent awkwardness, marriage, and death, all of which serve as a catalyst for the themes the play presents: the fleeting nature of life, and the importance of companionship.

Chelsea Harrison breathes life into Emily Webb, the studious young girl that wants nothing but to grow up happy. Ms. Harrison uses facial expression and gestures to great effect to convey the righteousness of her character. Opposite Ms. Harrison is Nuri Hazzard, as an earnest, enthusiastic, and pleasing George Gibbs, the eventual husband and widower of Emily. Together, they share chemistry that is an endearing and real addition to the play.

Admirable performances as the stage managers of the play came from Elijah Cooper, Aleca Piper, and Ellen Winter. These three kept the action of the play moving, and provided the grounding elements of the ever-shifting plot. Also engaging were the two mothers (played by Mayaa Boatang and Micha Green), whose interactions were perfectly timed to garner the most laughs.

The entire production was carried along by the enormous energy and fluidity of the 22 person cast. Every member of the ensemble had purpose and focus, and were invested in revealing the deeper meaning behind every seemingly mundane movement that their characters made. There were rarely any mistakes in consistency, a feat made doubly impressive by the fact that the script eschews props, and has actors miming actions instead.

Also in accordance with the script, the set is minimal, and used to its fullest effect by the cast and crew of Our Town. Lance Lewis, Assahian Campbell, and D’Ana Mapp used this lack of a set to their advantage in the lighting design, which defined the boundaries of houses, and developed the mood in key scenes of the play. The sound effects were also used to help define movements and actions, from the clinking of the milkman’s bottles to the slap of newspapers hitting the front walk.

Overall, Our Town was a hauntingly beautiful look at American life at the turn of the century. The Duke Ellington cast members truly realize the life of the play as they live it — “every, every minute.”

by Callie Fosburgh of Woodrow Wilson Senior High School

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