Peninsula High to put on ‘Our Town’ during 75th anniversary

January 8, 2014 

Talk about memories. Six years after Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” opened in 1938, my high school class of 1944 presented it in the auditorium at Lincoln High School in Tacoma.

It was a great show then, and, while I took photos of Peninsula High School thespians in dress rehearsal a few days ago, it became clear that nothing has been lost throughout the years.

“My advanced play production class is working on the 75th anniversary production of Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town,’ ” Kara Beloate, a drama coach at Peninsula High School, wrote in an email.

The play will be held just one weekend. Show times will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 16-17, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 18, and at 3 p.m. Jan. 19.

“Our Town” first opened off Broadway in 1938 to mixed reviews, but it eventually worked its way to Broadway and a Pulitzer Prize. Audiences of the time, used to lavish sets and costumes, found the play exactly the opposite.

The three-act play uses pantomime, music and minimal sets to present the beauty of life, love and death. It’s been called “the greatest American play” and is the most widely produced high school play in the country.

“I chose this play because, not only is it its 75th anniversary, it is my favorite play,” Beloate said. “I named my daughter after the character Emily. It is an honor and privilege to be working with her and this wonderful cast and crew.

“Honestly, I am a bit afraid of this play, because it is so smart, so beautiful in its simplicity, that it is almost intimidating. We want to do it right.”

Emily Beloate, a Peninsula High senior who plays Emily Webb, said it’s the perfect play to perform for her final year of high school.

“Themes the play embodies have such a powerful effect on both the actors and the audience,” she said. “It turned the cast and crew into a family. Hopefully the audience will become part of our family when they see the show.”

Junior Caleb Powers said being on the technical crew is a unique experience.

“I’ve done a handful of small parts in plays before, but this is my first experience with lighting and tech,” he said. “It is so cool to see the other side of a drama performance. The detail behind the lighting setup is much more than I realized. When we’re not working lights or sound, we help Mrs. B with anything she needs.”

Senior J.C. Romero plays the stage manager.

“The most meaningful lesson in this play is that not everybody really takes time in life to enjoy what they have,” Romero said. “By being a part of the cast and play, I have learned to take a step back and start enjoying life, rather than fighting it.”

Kendra Brown, also a senior, is double cast as Mrs. Soames.

“The most meaningful thing that I have learned by doing this play is how timeless it is,” Brown said. “It makes sense, no matter the era. It can resonate with anyone, and anyone can get something from watching it. It has been great being able to come back and be able to work with Mrs. B after reading the play in her English class last year.”

Sophomore Jaclyn Kissler, who also plays Mrs. Soames, said performing drama is a life-changing experience.

“From slowly cracking away at the large shell I hid within to blooming in creativity,” Kissler said. “PHS drama is full of loving and creative individuals. And working with them will be something I will cherish for a very long time.”

Freshman Garret Cranford, who plays Wally Webb, said he loves to share laughs with the cast and crew.

“The most meaningful thing for me about ‘Our Town’ is it is fun, sad, happy, all mixed together to make a great play,” Cranford said.

And that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?

Tickets, $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors, can be purchased in advance through the Peninsula High School bookkeeper during regular school hours, or through the PHS theatre box office from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Fridays or from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. Tickets also will be available at the door.

Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@ centurytel.net.

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