Our Town at Olympia High School

by Kelli Samson for OLY ARTS

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, long-heralded as the most American of plays, graces the stage at Olympia High School this winter under the talented direction of Kathy Dorgan. Wilder’s play is simple, focusing on the citizens of a small, 1900s American town over a 12-year period. “It’s always been on my list, but I’ve stayed away from it because I just love it so much,” shares the director. “It always feels risky to tackle a show I revere.”

Dorgan’s decision was solidified when one of our region’s most respected actor-directors, Brian Tyrrell, agreed to join the production. Tyrrell recently retired from 25 years in the theater department at Centralia College. He’s graced stages from Olympia’s Harlequin Productions to both the Alabama and Oregon Shakespeare Festivals to the National Shakespeare Company in New York. This will be his third time performing in Wilder’s masterpiece. Says Tyrrell, “I’m ready to portray the play’s ‘Stage Manager,’ a character who, in a Greek-chorus fashion, lives simultaneously in the present and the past, capable of connecting directly with the audience, providing information about ‘our town’—but also willing, when necessary, to provide commentary about the play and the world at large. It’s an absolute privilege to get to say Mr. Wilder’s words.”

A hallmark of the production is its spartan set design. Explains Dorgan, “Wilder wants us to concentrate on the relationships and the moments in the show, unencumbered by material objects.” She continues, “These moments capture the essence of life and the experiences that we all share at some point. Without sets and props, the cast has to create the reality of Grover’s Corner for the audience.”

Dorgan says the cast has been remarkable. “They listen to each other, they connect with one another, and it’s been quite lovely to watch them grow into these roles. The characters they’ve created feel very real, and I think their experiences will be familiar to our audiences.”

Even though the play is set over 100 years ago, assures Dorgan, “Our struggles and our joys are ever the same.”

Echoes Tyrrell, “To paraphrase Mr. Wilder, every moment of every day is full of wonder, impossible to fully realize while we’re living it.”

What: Our Town

Where: Olympia High School,
1302 North St. SE, Olympia

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday – Sunday, Feb. 3-11

How much: $5-$8

Learn more: 360-596-7000 | OHS

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