Arts and Entertainment

'Our Town' opens Thursday at San Juan Community Theatre

The cast of ‘Our Town’ includes, back from left, Warren Baehr, Carolyn Haugen, Ernest Pugh, Dana Rice and Keith Keyser; front from left, Bo Turnage and Libby Anderson. - Ann Templeton Monin
The cast of ‘Our Town’ includes, back from left, Warren Baehr, Carolyn Haugen, Ernest Pugh, Dana Rice and Keith Keyser; front from left, Bo Turnage and Libby Anderson.
— image credit: Ann Templeton Monin

In celebration of Friday Harbor’s centennial, Thornton Wilder’s classic play “Our Town” will be performed on San Juan Community Theatre’s Whittier stage Thursday to March 13.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. A total of 10 performances will be shown during the run. Tickets and times can be found at sjctheatre.org, or call the box office at 378-3211.

A public reception is scheduled in the theater lobby Thursday, 6:30-7:15 p.m. A photo exhibit related to Friday Harbor’s history from 1900-1930 will be on display. The exhibit is part of the Centennial Stories/Our Town Theater Project, a series of events designed to commemorate the centennial through theater, literature, history and community dialogue. It is funded in part through a grant from the San Juan Island Community Foundation.

Set in 1901, “Our Town” portrays life in a small town.

“What I find most engaging about this play is that it draws your eye to the small human-sized moments in a person’s life: a family breakfast, a child, the beginnings of a friendship,” director John Davis said.

“The writing in this play makes the routine extraordinary. It’s in the details that you find the life of the town.”

Friday Harbor was incorporated on Feb. 2, 1909. As islanders celebrate the birth of their thriving town, the play serves as a reminder to celebrate life’s every moment — that it’s simple daily living that binds us as a community.

Seasoned actors and newcomers contribute their talents to this play.

Artist Lyne McPherson painted a misty impressionistic view of the San Juan Island coastline as a backdrop. She is a regular theater volunteer.

Carolyn Haugen, retired Friday Harbor Elementary School principal, portrays the artistic lady, and asks Dr. Webb (Keith Keyser) about culture and love of beauty in the community.

Islanders will see some familiarity in Webb’s response: “No, ma’am there isn’t much culture, but maybe this is the place to tell you that we’ve got a lot of pleasure-of-a-kind here: we like the sun comin’ up over the mountain in the morning, and we all notice a good deal about the birds. We pay a lot of attention to them. And we watch the change of seasons: yes, everybody knows about them.”

Deb Langhans, acting and pantomime coach, is drawn to the characters’ awareness of life’s precious moments.

“The bonds of community and ability to appreciate simple, enduring blessings enable us to endure and even flourish during challenging times,” Langhans said.

“ ‘Now’ is our only true reality. To be awake in the present moment and recognize the sacred in the ordinary is a powerful, timeless wisdom.”

The full range of human emotion is captured in Lauren Sanders’ portrayal of Emily Webb, a young woman who falls in love and marries, but dies during childbirth.

Emily: “It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize all that was going on and we never noticed! ... Grover’s Corners, mama and papa. Goodbye to clocks ticking and my butternut tree! and Mama’s sunflowers and food and coffee and new-ironed dresses and hot baths and sleeping and waking up!

“Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you! Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it, every, every minute?”

Ken Serratt, a local photographer, portrays a stage manager, the lead role. He said the messages conveyed within “Our Town” are simplistic, yet full of meaning. The play speaks to the simple truth of human emotions: happiness, sorrow, sadness, wonder, amazement and yearnings.

“The play is about the passage of time; the sameness of time,” he said.

Kate Hunter, a senior at Friday Harbor High School, portrays city girl Samantha Craig and sings a solo in the performance.

Tina Marie Taylor portrays Mrs. Soames. In Act II, her character shares thoughts about Emily and George’s wedding.

Mrs. Soames: “I always say, happiness — that’s the great thing. The important thing is to be happy.”

In Act III, Mrs. Soames expresses her thoughts about life as she faces her mortality: “My, wasn’t life awful — and wonderful.”

Keyser said the play conveys the need to build relationships within our communities. Bonds between people need to be strengthened and take on more dimension. Keyser believes society has lost the sense of connection with others and the sense of belonging.

“‘Our Town’ reflects the simple relationship between people in the everyday mundane aspects of life, which is the heart and soul of life.”

Darvis Taylor, a newcomer from Nebraska, portrays George Gibbs, the young man who marries Emily.

“I’m overwhelmed with the openness and acceptance of just the people here,” he said of Friday Harbor. “As soon as I came here, I felt at home.”

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