Our Town Arthur Dirks
Portfolio Index

Our Town

By Thornton Wilder

Produced: Spring, 2007
Bridgewater State College Theater
Director: Henry Shaffer
Scenery: Arthur Dirks
Facility: Bridgewater Campus Center Auditorium

This show turned out to be a surprising design challenge. Wilder's stage description is a theatre backstage, flats leaning against the wall and only chairs for properties. We began rehearsals using our small thrust configuration with the audience seated on stage. I was going to clean the backstage and avoid our usual masking. In one rehearsal we learned the necessary spacial relationships wouldn't work, and it became a full proscenium show.

I decided that Wilder was rejecting the theatrical conventions of 1938 in this show, which no longer constrain us. The simplicity of the show wanted a spare elegance, and not clutter. The scenery here amounted to a period proscenium frame and a second portal with some millwork shapes and posts. There were two rolling staircases, two slipstages for the ladders, two large slipstages upstage for the choir, two period tables and 16 matching chairs. We brought in a borrowed LED light curtain behind a black scrim for the end of the graveyard scene.

I focused on trying to evoke the era without illustrating it. The millwork shapes in the background confused some people. I had to do something with that expanse, and everything else I thought of was too much. The shapes were cut once from screen cloth, which was too opaque. They were re-cut from hardware cloth and sprayed black. The stair railings were constructed independently so they can go into stock and be applied on any 8"x11" staircase.

Our Town
Our Town
Our Town Our Town
Our town Our Town

All original content © 2007 copyright Arthur L. Dirks