‘Our Town’ comes to London

The stage manager, played by Bruce Thompson, left, listens to town newspaper editor, Charles Webb, played by Nathan E. Haley, expound on a topic in “Our Town,” which the Madison County Arts Council will present at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11 in the London High School auditorium.

Emily Webb, left, played by Madi Short, has a conversation with her mother, Mrs. Myrtle Webb, portrayed by Julie Akers, in “Our Town,” a play by Thornton Wilder, which will be presented by the Madison County Arts Council at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11, in the London High School auditorium.

Members of the church choir have a conversation following practice during “Our Town,” from left: Mrs. Louella Soames (Becky Miller), Mrs. Julia Gibbs (Stephanie Stephens), and Mrs. Myrtle Webb, (Julie Akers).

The award-winning play “Our Town” is one which Bruce Thompson has gained more appreciation for since he’s lived a few years.

Now at 61, Thompson plays the stage manager in the Madison County Art Council’s (MCAC) production of “Our Town,” being shown this weekend.

Shows are slated for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 10, and Saturday, July 11, in the London High School auditorium. Tickets will be available at the door for $10 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens.

The three-act play, written in the 1930s by Thornton Wilder, tells the story of the fictional American small town of Grover’s Corners between 1901 and 1913 through the everyday lives of its citizens.

Thompson’s character serves as narrator and has the lion’s share of lines. A veteran actor and community theater participant, he recalls “Our Town” from his middle school English class days.

“A big snooze,” Thompson said of his first encounter.

However, to learn the many lines for his part, there was no time to sleep. His role carries the play.

He said because the volume of lines is great, he breaks them down into segments. As he learns a segment, he moves onto the next. The challenge, once the segments are memorized, is to connect them in the proper order.

By Tuesday evening’s dress rehearsal with fellow cast members and under the watchful eye of director Kevin Lohr, Thompson had his segments in order.

He was drawn to the stage in middle school and over the years has been involved in Madison County arts productions. At one point, when commenting about some sets, he was challenged: if you think you can do better, build them yourself.

So he did.

He was lured back from behind the scenes to center stage by the role of stage manager.

“It’s an incredible role to play,” Thompson said. “It’s a huge time commitment. It comes with an age I’ve come to appreciate.”

As the stage manager, Thompson introduces all of the residents of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire to the audience. In some scenes, he interviews a character, such as Professor Willard, (played by Rob Treynor), to provide information to the audience about the town.

Other times, he introduces characters who then play their scene, as in Mrs. Myrtle Webb (Julie Akers) and her children, Emily Webb (Madi Short) and Wally Webb (Dean Harris).

Sets are sparse; many actions are pantomimed.

As when milkman Howie Newsome, played by Zach Gerhardt, moved around the set delivering imaginary bottles of milk and complaining about his horse. Gerhardt said he acted in high school dramas while at Northeastern High School.

“I’m a mellow guy for the most part, but at times it’s nice to be the center of attention,” Gerhardt said.

High school experience also brought Henry Comer forth to act in his first community theater production. He plays two roles, as a “belligerent member of the audience,” and as Constable William Warren.

He portrayed Johnny Casino in Grease, complete with hand jive, blue velvet tux and ruffled shirt. He had no apparent problem transitioning from belligerent person to officer walking the beat.

To view a trailer created for the play, visit MCAC’s Facebook page.

Dean Shipley can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617, on Facebook at Dean Shipley or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.