The Stage Manager opens by informing the audience that “This play is called ‘Our Town.’ It was written by Thornton Wilder. The First Act shows a day in our town. The day is May 7, 1901.”
Exactly 114 years later to the day, the Stage manager, played by Nils Haaland, will repeat those lines, beginning the final Blue Barn production at its current Old Market space. After sixteen seasons and over sixty productions at its current space in the Old Market, the Blue Barn will move from the Old Bemis Bag Building to its new home at Tenth and Pacific Streets.
The choice of “Our Town” is no coincidence. The Blue Barn, like the townspeople of Grover’s Corners, is experiencing transition, looking to the past while moving on into the future. This is woven through the production. The cast includes many members of the Blue Barn community (it is the largest cast to perform in a production at the Bemis space), ranging from new members such as Susie and Dennis Collins to long time residents like Nils Haaland. Transition is expressed through patterns on the platforms on which they perform, which range from a church window and a curtain from Gover’s Corners to scenic art from “American Buffalo” and “Spring Awakening.” And just as the townspeople of Grover’s Corners bury a time capsule in the foundation of a new building, the Blue Barn community will place their own mementos in the cornerstone of the new theater.
According to Edward Albee, the play “is probably the finest play ever written by an American.” How has the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning play maintained its appeal for so many years? “It’s intrinsically spiritual in a universal way,” says Clement Toberer. “It’s very simplistic in its voice, and it expresses deeply human themes that everyone has either gone through or knows that they will eventually go through. The simplicity and stripped down quality creates an ability to move any person regardless of their age or background.”
In the final act, Emily, wishing to relive one happy day of her life, returns back to her twelfth birthday. She realizes that human beings do not fully realize life as they live it. Does Clement Toberer have a moment in her Blue Barn past that she would go back to savor? “’Seascape.’ It’s Albee, and the voice is deeply rooted in who we are as people and our place in the universe.” Also, during the day she could lay out and rest on the set’s beach scape.
The Blue Barn may be moving, but it will always be the Blue Barn. “The space is not who we are,” explains Clement Toberer. As for the past souls of the Blue Barn community? Clement Toberer says they will follow along. “Pam Carter, Chef Bob. They’ll know the way.”
“Our Town” will run at the Blue Barn Theatre, 614 South 11th Street from May 7 to June 7. Shows are Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and Sundays at 6:00. There will be no shows on Sunday May 10 and Sunday May 24. Tickets can be ordered on line through the Blue Barn’s website, www.bluebarn.org. Questions? Call them at (402) 345-1576 or e-mail them via the website.