Read an Excerpt
Our Town (Sparknotes Literature Guide)
By Thornton Wilder
SparknotesCopyright © 2002 Thornton Wilder
All right reserved.
No curtain.Stage Manager:
The audience, arriving, sees an empty stage in half-light.
Presently the Stage Manager, hat on and pipe in mouth, enters and begins placing a table and three chairs downstage left, and a table and three chairs downstage right.
He also places a low bench at the corner of what will be the Webb house, left.
"Left" and "right" are from the point of view of the actor facing the audience. "Up" is toward the back wall.
As the house lights go down be has finished setting the stage and leaning against the right proscenium pillar watches the late arrivals in the audience.
When the auditorium is in complete darkness he speaks:
This play is called "Our Town." It was written by Thornton Wilder; produced and directed by A. . . . (or: produced by A .... ; directed by B .... ). In it you will see Miss C .... ; Miss D .... ; Miss E .... ; and Mr. F .... ; Mr. G .... ; Mr. H .... ; and many others. The name of the town is Grover's Corners, New Hampshire-just across the Massachusetts line: latitude 42 degrees 40 minutes; longitude 70 degrees 37 minutes. The First Act shows a day in our town. The day is May 7, 190 1. The time is just before dawn.
A rooster crows.The sky is beginning to show some streaks of light over in the East there, behind our mount'in.
The morning star always gets wonderful bright the minute before it has to go, - doesn't it?
He stares at it for a moment, then goes upstage.
Well, I'd better show you how our town lies. Up here -
That is: parallel with the back wall.
is Main Street. Way back there is the railway station; tracks go that way. Polish Town's across, the tracks, and some Canuck families.
Toward the left.
Over there is the Congregational Church; across the street's the Presbyterian.
Methodist and Unitarian are over there.
Baptist is down in the holla' by the river.
Catholic Church is over beyond the tracks.
Here's the Town Hall and Post Office combined; jail's in the basement.
Bryan once made a speech from these very steps here.
Along here's a row of stores. Hitching posts and horse blocks in front of them. First automobile's going to come along in about five years - belonged to Banker Cartwright, our richest citizen ... lives in the big white house up on the hill.
Here's the grocery store and here's Mr. Morgan's drugstore. Most everybody in town manages to look into those two stores once a day.
Public School's over yonder. High School's still farther over. Quarter of nine mornings, noontimes, and three o'clock afternoons, the hull town can hear the yelling and screaming from those schoolyards.
He approaches the table and chairs downstage right.
This is our doctor's house, - Doc Gibbs'. This is the back door.
Two arched trellises, covered with vines and flowers, are pushed out, one by each proscenium pillar.
There's some scenery for those who think they have to have scenery.
This is Mrs. Gibbs' garden. Corn ... peas ... beans ... hollyhocks ... heliotrope ... and a lot of burdock.
Crosses the stage.
In those days our newspaper come out twice a week-the Grover's Corners Sentinel - and this is Editor Webb's house.
And this is Mrs. Webb's garden.
Just like Mrs. Gibbs', only it's got a lot of sunflowers, too.
He looks upward, center stage.
Right here . . . 's a big butternut tree.
He returns to his place by the right proscenium pillar and looks at the audience for a minute.
Nice town, y'know what I mean?
Nobody very remarkable ever come out of it, s'far as we know.
The earliest tombstones in the cemetery up there on the mountain say 1670-1680 - they're Grovers and Cartwrights and Gibbses and Herseys - same names as are around here now.
Well, as I said: it's about dawn.
The only lights on in town are in a cottage over by the tracks where a Polish mother's just had twins. And in the Joe Crowell house, where Joe Junior's getting up so as to deliver the paper. And in the depot, where Shorty Hawkins is gettin' ready to flag the 5:45 for Boston.
A train whistle is heard. The Stage Manager takes out his watch and nods.Naturally, out in the country - all around - there've been fights on for some time, what with milkin's and so on. But town people sleep late.
So - another day's begun.
There's Doc Gibbs comin' down Main Street now, comin' back from that baby case. And here's his wife comin' downstairs to get breakfast.
Mrs. Gibbs, a plump, pleasant woman in the middle thirties, comes 'downstairs" right. She pulls up an imaginary window shade in her kitchen and starts to make a fire in her stove.
Doc Gibbs died in 1930. The new hospital's named after him.
Mrs. Gibbs died first-long time ago, in fact. She went out to visit her daughter, Rebecca, who married an insurance man in Canton, Ohio, and died there - pneumonia - but her body was brought back here. She's up in the cemetery there now-in with a whole mess of Gibbses and Herseys - she was Julia Hersey 'fore she married Doc Gibbs in the Congregational Church over there.
In our town we like to know the facts about everybody.
There's Mrs. Webb, coming downstairs to get her breakfast, too.
- That's Doc Gibbs. Got that call at half past one this morning.
And there comes Joe Crowell, Jr., delivering Mr. Webb's Sentinel.
Dr. Gibbs has been coming along Main Street from the left. At the point where be would turn to approach his house, be stops, sets down his - imaginary - black bag, takes off his bat, and rubs his face with fatigue, using an enormous handkerchief.
Mrs. Webb, a thin, serious, crisp woman, has entered her kitchen, left, tying on an apron. She goes through the motions of putting wood into a stove, lighting it, and preparing breakfast.
Excerpted from Our Town (Sparknotes Literature Guide) by Thornton Wilder Copyright © 2002 by Thornton Wilder. Excerpted by permission.
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