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St. Mary's students perform 'Our Town' for two nights only

BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | October 25, 2012

LANCASTER- It’s a story that each of us can relate to in some way between the joy and laughter, and the tears and loss, “Our Town,” a Pulitzer-prize winning play by Thornton Wilder, is an American timeless classic about two families who live in a small, fictional New England town called Grover's Corners.

Performed on an almost-bare stage, more than 20 students of the St. Mary’s High School Performing Arts Department are currently putting the finishing touches on their performance and eagerly awaiting opening night Thursday, Nov. 1.

The story follows the ordinary but rather pleasant lives of the Gibbs family, the Webb family, and their neighbors, set early in the 20th century. The play focuses particularly on the lives on Emily Webb and George Gibbs.

St. Mary’s High School English and Dance Teacher Heather Ruhland, who also is the director of the play, said she wanted to have the students perform this show for a number of years, because it is one of the dramas the students are assigned to read for school.

“So, the kids actually really get excited about it and I wanted to give them the opportunity to perform it on stage and give other kids a chance to see it,” remarked Ruhland.

This is St. Mary’s largest fall play they have ever done, added Ruhland, noting that normally the cast is between10 to 12 students and it is double the size.

Since the second week in September, each cast member has been learning their lines, about their characters, and how to pantomime.

Ruhland said there is not much scenery and the actors often do not use props and instead mime actions for the audience, which required her to work with the actors by playing charades in the beginning to get them used to acting things out.

Starring in the play is senior Jess Kobis performing as Emily and senior Nick Chadwick taking on the role as George.

“They have the best chemistry,” said Ruhland. “They represent Emily and George, who are very innocent and very young. They are really good at bringing out the characters, especially together.”

Performing in the St. Mary’s plays and musicals since she was a freshman, Kobis is starring in her first big lead role as Emily.

“I think it’s somewhat bittersweet, because it’s nice that people look up to you and depend on you, but there is always that thought ‘what if I mess up?’” said Kobis. “I think it is good and it helps me to get use to speaking in front of people.”

Able to relate to the role, Kobis described Emily as your everyday all American girl who is smart, outspoken, and knows what she wants. Although the show is set in the 1900s, she said she finds it interesting to learn about how people lived so differently.

“I really enjoy it,” commented Kobis. “It is weird though with the mannerism and the slang they used back then,” mentioning for example the words ‘By golly’ used in the play.

A challenge Kobis said she faces is balancing her time between the show and soccer practice, which she is the co-captain of the school’s soccer varsity team.

“I think the play is great, because it is really relatable,” remarked Kobis. “It’s everyday life. Everyone has worked really hard on this play. I know it has been a big deal for our school, because I don’t think we have ever done something like this on such a big level before.”

Taking on his first performance and lead, Chadwick said it has been quite challenging because he has a lot of lines and he has to make sure he is on cue all the time. But with the help of his fellow cast members, he said it has been going very well.

Chadwick said when he read the book “Our Town” in his sophomore year he was just fascinated with it as it is a story that is enjoyable and fun, but has its dark moments.

Talking a little about the story, he said George is a teenager who lives with his mom, dad, and sister. In the second act, he confesses his love to Emily and they marry, and in the third act she dies.

“The end of the play it is a secret, but it is a good ending,” said Chadwick, noting people should come and see the show. “We have been slaving over it for a long time. All we want to do is put on the best performance and I think it is going to be really enjoyable seeing how we act out everything, because there are no props at all just stairs and tables.”

“Our Town” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, in the St. Mary’s Auditorium, 142 Laverack Ave., in Lancaster. Tickets are $5 and are available at St. Mary’s or by calling 683-4824.

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