|Term Paper Title
||Our Town; Homecoming
|# of Words
|# of Pages (250 words per page double spaced)
Our Town; Homecoming
Every year across this great country of ours, hundred upon thousands of plays are produced. Some at the professional level, some at the college level, but most of our theatrical entertainment comes from that of our local high school productions. From Shakespeare to Rogers and Hammerstien, thousand of parents and family watch as their children go out onto stage to become a star for the night. Thankfully, no one goes to a high school show expecting professional quality work. Someone will forget a line, the sets aren't the greatest and the show can be down right boring. It is rumored that Our Town is the number one produced play at the high school level, and because of that it has suffered greatly as an American masterpiece. Donald Haberman stated it best in his analysis of Our Town: "Our Town has a unique problem for a play: it is performed too often. It is easy to put on. It requires no scenery and nothing in the way of costumes. For a school production, especially, it has the attraction of a big cast, every student who wants a part can get one"(Haberman 8)". Even though Our Town is criticized for being performed too much and performed poorly, it still remains one of the most powerful plays ever written for American theatre.
In order to understand Our Town one must first learn about its playwright Thornton Wilder. Thornton Wilder was born on April 17, 1897 in Madison Wisconsin (Stresau 3). Thornton actually spent most of his childhood years abroad in China and Hong Kong due to the fact that his Father was a consul general to Hong Kong during the era of Theodore Roosevelt (4). Wilder returned to America in 1915, from there he went to Yale and began his writing career (4). Besides Our Town, Wilder is greatly known for two other works; The Skin of Our Teeth and The Matchmaker. Although those are his popular works, Wilder has also written many other masterpieces such as The Long Christmas Dinner and Love and How to Cure it. Wilder was highly recognized for his works. He received the Pulitzer Prize for three of his plays (Our Town, The Bridge of San Luis Rey and The Skin of Our Teeth) and we was also awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Goethe Plaque and the Peace Medal of Pour le Merite (121-122). After a long and successful career, America lost one of its greatest playwrights on December 7, 1975.
The first production of Our Town was produced in 1938, then moved on to Broadway in 1939 where it caught critical acclaim. Wilder received the Pulitzer Prize for Our Town in 1938. Although I could not find any reviews for the original production of Our Town from 1938-39, it has been revived many times in this century. In 1969, the Plumstead Playhouse revised Our Town and in its cast included Henry Fonda as The Stage Manager. As with everything else in this world, when "professional" critics criticize something, someone is either going to love it or hate. Our Town is no exception in this field. Out of the seven reviews I found, three liked the showed, three didn't and one was in between. Some praised it; "It is a pleasure to revisit Grovers Corners (New York Theatre Critics' Reviews 176)." "Our Town says everything you've ever wanted to say about your country and your town and your life (179)." And, "If you've never seen Our Town you've never seen the greatest of American plays (179)." With ever praise though comes criticism; "But I reject Our Town as an American classic because instead of coming to grips with American life, it looks at it with foggy nostalgia (170)." And, "I don't want to put down Our Town's gray hairs, or its Pulitzer Prize, or the undeniable skill of Thornton Wilder; but, I must say I found most of it boring as a play, and all of it simplistic and annoying as a hunk of philosophy (179)." It's no surprise that Our Town can be received negatively or positively, it is a slow play with deep meanings and ideas which can easily be overlooked by the average audience member, but, it is because of those meanings and ideas that it can fascinate anyone for years (like myself).
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