Our Town at the Lookingglass Theatre – March 21, 2009
On Saturday, March 21, 48 friends of the Raven Foundation flocked to Lookingglass Theatre’s production of Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The theatre is an intimate space with those in the first row so close they are often illuminated by the stage lighting. Ensemble members Laura Eason and David Schwimmer, who have been friends since college, played the young lovers Emily Webb and George Gibbs. As the audience followed their lives and the lives of their family and friends, laughter turned to tears in the third act with Eason’s moving attempt to return to life and Schwimmer’s grief at her graveside. Following the performance, Lookingglass Producing Artistic Director, Philip R. Smith (who played Ivan in the 2008 production of The Brothers Karamazov) joined Raven Foundation friend, Dr. Rosemary Johnsen from Governor’s State University, for a discussion of the themes of the play. Dr. Johnsen highlighted the way George tries to live up to Emily’s expectations of him. She tells him to be perfect as her father and his father are in her eyes. George accepts the challenge, and strives to become the man she wants him to be. Dr. Johnsen explained that this demonstrates the way we are all formed in imitation of our models. Mr. Smith explained the setting and costume decisions as well as the concept behind the direction by Anna Shapiro and Jessica Thebus. The actors were told that they were not to approach their roles as actors becoming the characters, but that they were to be themselves playing the role. For example, the character is not Emily Webb, but “Laura Eason as Emily Webb” or “David Schwimmer as George Gibbs”. This was done to broaden the themes to include us all – this is not just the story of Emily and George, but of Laura and David as well and all of us in the audience.
Dr. Johnsen’s article for Lookingglass Theatre’s study guide to Our Town is available for download here.