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Our Town by Thornton Wilder


Our Town is introduced by the Stage Manager, who welcomes the audience to Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, in May of 1901. The stage is largely empty, except for some tables and chairs that represent the homes of the Gibbs and Webb families, where most of the action in Act I takes place. After the Stage Manager's introduction, we watch a typical day unfold in the town. Dr. Gibbs returns from an early morning delivery of twin babies; Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb make breakfast, send their children off to school, and meet to gossip in their gardens. Then we have an interruption, as Mr. Webb and Professor Willard tell the audience some basic facts about the town. Afternoon arrives, and George Gibbs walks home from school with Emily Webb, talking about homework. That evening, Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs come home from choir practice together, while George and Emily talk to one another through their open windows. As night falls, the first act comes to an end.

Act II takes place three years later, on George and Emily's wedding day. The morning is rainy, and George goes over to see his fiancée, only to be shooed away by Mrs. and Mr. Webb, who insist that seeing the bride-to-be is bad luck. Then the Stage Manager introduces a flashback to the previous year, when George and Emily went to get an ice cream soda together, and their courtship began. After the flashback, we return to 1904, and their wedding day. Both bride and groom are jittery, but their parents calm them, and they go through with the marriage--with the Stage Manager officiating as minister. They go out together, and the second act ends.

As Act III begins, nine years have passed, and the scene has shifted to the cemetery, where Emily is going to be buried (she has just died in childbirth). As the funeral goes ahead, we hear the voices of the dead, including Mrs. Gibbs. They are detached witnesses to the goings-on, having reached a point of understanding where they are no longer concerned with earthly events. The newly-buried Emily joins them, and quickly decides to go back and relive part of her life. She chooses her twelfth birthday, and we watch as she steps into the past and begins to live the day again. However, she quickly becomes unhappy because she can see and understand so much more than the living, and demands to be taken back to the cemetery. As she settles in to the peaceful wisdom of the dead souls, George comes and weeps by her tomb. "They don't understand, do they?" she says of the living, while the stars come out over Grover's Corners, and the play ends.


Stage Manager - The Stage Manager has no name other than his title, and he seems to exist both in the world of the audience and the world of the play, where he assumes various roles within the daily life of Grover's Corners (a druggist and a minister, notably). He exercises control over the action of the play, moving the other characters around, halting their conversations for his own interjections, and informing the audience of events that we do not see. With his omniscient point of view and power over the events on stage, he occupies an almost divine function in the story.

George Gibbs - The son of Dr. Gibbs and Mrs. Gibbs. A decent, upstanding young man, George is a high school baseball star who plans to become a farmer after high school. His courtship of and marriage to Emily Webb is central to the play's limited narrative structure.

Emily Webb - The daughter of Mr. Webb and Mrs. Webb, she is George's fiancée, and later his wife. At the beginning of their courtship, she acts as his conscience, telling him when he has become too stuck-up. She later dies in childbirth, and joins the dead souls in the local cemetery.

Dr. Gibbs - George's father, and the town doctor for Grover's Corners. (The Gibbs and Webbs are next-door neighbors.)

Mrs. Gibbs - George's mother, and Dr. Gibbs's wife. (The Gibbs and Webbs are next-door neighbors.)

Mr. Webb - Emily's father, and the editor of the local newspaper. (The Gibbs and Webbs are next-door neighbors.)

Mrs. Webb - Emily's mother, and Mr. Webb's wife. (The Gibbs and Webbs are next-door neighbors.)

Mrs. Soames - A gossipy woman who sings in the choir with Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs.

Mr. Stimson - The choirmaster. His alcoholism is a subject of gossip in Grover's Corners.

Rebecca - George Gibbs' younger sister.

Wally Webb - Emily Webb's younger brother.

Howie Newsome - The milkman in Grover's Corners.

Joe Crowell, Jr. - A paperboy.

Si Crowell - Joe Crowell's younger brother, also a paperboy.

Professor Willard - A professor at the state university.

Constable Warren - A local policeman.

Sam Craig - Emily Webb's cousin, who has left town but returns for her funeral.

Joe Stoddard - The undertaker in Grover's Corners.