Extraordinary Ordinary Life
I have a confession to make: I read OUR TOWN in high school….and I hated it. I remember thinking “I don’t know why in the world I have to read this. It’s about a bunch of people talking about their boring everyday lives.” It’s surprising to me, considering I loved reading Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. Those stories were pretty much about everyday lives too. Perhaps I was more in love with the main characters in those stories, or perhaps I was just enough older by the time I read OUR TOWN that I was more interested in other things. Whatever it was, all I knew was that even though OUR TOWN was viewed as a classic, I just didn’t see what the big deal was.
In order to write somewhat intelligently on a blog about a show at QCT, one has to study the subject at least a little. One of the first things I do before I start blogging a show is to read the script, so of course, I knew that it was time to read the script for OUR TOWN, but I was dreading it. To prepare for my first blog, I opted to research the history of Thornton Wilder, the history of the show, and its connection to HELLO, DOLLY! thus avoiding the script reading a bit longer. Apparently still scarred by my high school experience, I kept putting it off. But, knowing I had an upcoming deadline, I took the script and headed out the other evening, found a beautiful spot along the river, and started reading.
I read Act I dutifully at first, but the more I read the more I wanted to keep going. Instead of being bored, I was fascinated. I smiled. The people of Grover’s Corners are ordinary, starting an ordinary day in an ordinary town. Neighbors greet one another and talk about the weather, the train that’s due in soon, and the babies that were born last night. The milkman makes his morning deliveries, and kids eat breakfast and head off to school. It was all so extraordinarily ordinary. And I was captivated.
Act II, Love and Marriage, is exactly that. It tells the story of the wedding day of two people from Grover’s Corners and how they came to be the bride and groom on this happy day. Once again, I was captured by all of the moments one would expect at such a time: nervous conversations between groom and father-of-the-bride, a teary bride and mother on the morning of the wedding. I got a little teary too.
OUR TOWN is about the life and times of everyday people, so naturally, Act III is about death and dying. Death, of course, is not a happy thing, but it comes to all of us. This last act comes nine years after Act II. People’s lives have changed. Some people have moved away, but have come back to Grover’s Corners to pay their respects. A woman has died and is being laid to rest. It’s a somber moment as friends and family members mourn, but it’s the dead who have the true perspective on death….and on life. The woman who has just died gets a chance to go back and live over one day in her life and discovers that no one understands while they’re living just how fast the moments go. They’re too hurried to really look at each other, to really appreciate the gift of every day. In the final moments of the show, she realizes that no one living really sees the gift they’ve been given in the ordinary things, and we shouldn’t take for granted the gift of family, or the simple things like clocks ticking, a cup of coffee, sleeping and waking up.
I may not have liked this play in high school, but after reading it this week, I think I love it. Maybe I just didn’t have the right perspective then. I hadn’t truly lived. Through the years, life has taught me some important lessons about living in the moment, appreciating the simplicity of everyday things, slowing down to really look a loved one in the eye and hear them. I can see it now, the precious moments we’re given here, the joy that real living brings, and that the earth, and the people we share it with, is truly wonderful.
Learn more about the show…