What I love about college theater
There’s a play at FGCU’s Theater Lab which I found utterly charming and delightful. I urge you to go. It’s “Our Town”, the Thornton Wilder classic American Play, and at FGCU they did it brilliantly. But, then, I love college theater. I rush in the Spring to get up North to catch all the April and May plays at the five colleges near where I live in Massachusetts, and I stay as late in the fall as I can to be there for the five of them to show me their fall productions.
I’ll tell you what this thing I have for College Theater is about. For one thing, you feel the smell of aspiration. This is a big deal for everyone cast into a college play. The tryouts are highly competitive, and the cast you get truly wants to be there. There are no stale, bored performers in college theater. They pour their hearts out and the success of the production is part of it.
Behind the scenes there is a whole dedicated crew of set builders, and lighting and sound kids wanting to make it. This is true of the costume and make-up crews as well, and even for the humble ticket takers when it’s College theater. I simply love the spirit.
This play, “Our Town”, is a perfect choice for a College. The cast is huge. Broadway producers would shudder at having to pay Equity rates for this play these days. The challenges of “Our Town” are many. Young actors have to play old people. Some have to play younger people than are, as well. But FGCU has the talent, and they pulled it off beautifully.
This is a different, more radical, production of “Our Town” than you may have seen before. That makes it all the more reason to go. You have to pull your feet in at some rows because Howie Newsom the milkman and his cow Betsy aren’t up on the proscenium. Howie walks right down the street of Grovers Corners, and it might be your row.
Anyhow, the effect is that you are right in the play, no matter where your seat is in that lovely Black Box Theater. Mark Danni, the director, borrowed from his day job down at TheaterZone in Naples, did a superb job with the college students. His direction draws out the best in all of them, and he keeps it moving and very much alive.
Extra kudos go to Brad Chidester as the Stage manager, Wilder’s narrator, complete with New Hampshire accent and a delightful twinkle in his delivery of some of those marvelous lines. Grant Ramos as George Gibb brought a competent range to the boy as he grows up. Emily Van Pelt brightened the scenes she was in.
I suspect in real life she might just be a lot like Emily Webb.
Get up to FGCU and get a taste of what college theater can be for you. “Our Town” runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and closes with the Sunday matinee 2 p.m., Nov.15th. Call 590-7268 for tickets.