'Everyone can take something positive from' CUTC's production of 'Our Town'

'Everyone can take something positive from' CUTC's production of 'Our Town'

CHAMPAIGN — It's a play that's familiar to many, with a familiar sort of people, and an ending we must all face.

But the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company production has its own touches in a play about savoring every moment of life.

Is God on the stage? How much are we stage-managed?

"Our Town," the classic by Thornton Wilder, opens tonight at Parkland College's Second Stage.

The Webbs and the Gibbs are at the center of the play; we watch their children grow up. Like a friend of hers, Emily Webb is a citizen of "Grover's Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God."

Maya Hammond's CUTC premiere performance involves "a lot of pressure to play Emily, because she changes so much throughout the show," she said — from a young girl through her wedding to neighbor George Gibbs to a new beginning.

"You see her as a young girl and watch her grow up and live her entire life. She begins so naive, and I feel like she matures quickly, but never truly loses her innocence."

Described by playwright Edward Albee as "the greatest American play ever written," "Our Town" has Mathew Green directing a cast of 20.

Hammond finds the play "quite humbling."

"I feel like everyone can take something positive from this show and apply it to their life," she said. "This show made me think about all of the little things that my mom has done for me, like waking me up for school every morning and making me breakfast, and how I never even noticed all that she was doing."

Jordan Needham has the key role of the seemingly omniscient Stage Manager.

"Our Stage Manager is, quite literally, the stage manager of the production. We have a show to put on, and I have to be the one to move things along," Needham said. "This is especially prevalent in the first act, where I'm trying to quickly introduce the audience to the characters and surroundings. Slowly, as the show goes on, you get to see the Stage Manager's connection to the other characters, and I think that's when the depth of the Stage Manager really starts to shine."

Needham's most recent role was Hattie in The Station Theatre's production of "The Women of Lockerbie." Other credits include Friar Francis in Parkland's "Much Ado About Nothing," Titania in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Fantine in "Les Miserables."

"As the Stage Manager, knowing everything that is going to happen leads to some really interesting moments between me and my fellow castmates," Needham said. "Without giving too much away, these moments really shine during the more emotionally laborious parts of the show — where I have to be there to listen, but I also have to keep the plot moving forward. It isn't easy, but I don't think being a Stage Manager ever is."

If you go

What: "Our Town" by Thorton Wilder

Who: Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company

Where: Parkland College Second Stage Theater, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C

When: 7 p.m. today through Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $10 to $14, available at cutheatreco.org

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (2):Education, Theater