By Ari Berk
The Lusher theater department dug into the old and the new for this year’s spring play. Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (first performed in 1938) was performed along with Corner’s Grove, its 21st-century adaptation penned by Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin. It was a very unique and challenging production for our actors, many of whom were cast in both plays and thus had to keep the lines of two different characters straight.
While Our Town and Corner’s Grove take place in different time periods, according to junior Arlo Mizell, who played wedding DJ Manny Crowell-Ortiz in Corner’s Grove, they touch on similar subjects, like “the loss of loved ones and moving on as a community.”
Mizell said that Corner’s Grove “takes a lot of Our Town’s ideas and makes them much less pre-World-War-One New Hampshire.” Modern topics like gender identity, gentrification, and the Afghanistan War play big roles in Corner’s Grove, he added, and they made the show inherently relatable to modern audiences.
But, according to Our Town’s Ben Burstain (a senior who plays Mr. Webb, the editor of the local paper), despite Our Town’s age, there’s a reason why it’s the most-performed play in American history.
“Our Town is timeless,” he says. “Those themes of family, love, and death are incredibly relatable and, although the speech is a little outdated, the interactions that occur are the same that happen today. That is how the show has been so long lasting.”
Both Mizell and Burstain agreed that Corner’s Grove essentially built on what Our Town created. “I love that we [premiered] Our Town first because I believe that Corner’s Grove becomes an entirely different play once you've seen what it's based on,” Burstain says. “They both feel like their own show, but I feel like they work best together. The whole process of connecting these two shows has been really ambitious, but also really cool.”
“Corner’s Grove makes a couple of references to Our Town … and seeing Our Town would definitely make those references make more sense,” Mizell adds.
Lusher’s double-feature, mixing an all-time classic with a new adaptation, was one of the most ambitious projects the theater department ever undertook.