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Wednesday, 04 September 2013 09:04

Our Town is your town, according to Rosebud

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It is often said it takes a village to raise a child.


Well, in Rosebud, Alberta, it takes a hamlet to create a play.
Our Town, one of the greatest plays of all time, opens on the historic Opera House Stage Sept. 13. More than 50 people from this ‘little hamlet with a big heart’ are busy rehearsing, designing and building it.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play, written by Thornton Wilder, is a timeless drama about life in the village of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. It tells the story of two young neighbours, George Gibbs and Emily Webb, whose childhood friendship blossoms into romance, culminating in a rather chaotic marriage ceremony.
Narrated by an all-knowing Stage Manager, the play chronicles the seemingly ordinary — but ultimately profound and universal — lives of the town’s residents, including Joe the newspaper boy, Howie the milkman, family physician Dr. Gibbs, young Wally Webb, temperamental choir conductor Simon Stinson and many others.
Morris Ertman, artistic director of Rosebud Theatre and the director of this production has wanted to produce this play for some 35 years.
“Our Town is a theatrical classic and one of the most beloved and most produced plays in North America,” he says. “This year, the play is 75 years old, and we at Rosebud Theatre are simply delighted that it is a big part of our own 30th anniversary season.
“Rosebud is a place where life is chronicled. We live out the notion that art is an extension of life and life is a reflection of art, a perspective we share with Thornton Wilder. It’s as if this play was written for our stage and our stage was created to produce this play. There is a palpable air of excitement in the hamlet right now.”
And there should be. The production is comprised of resident company members, apprentices from Rosebud School of the Arts (RSA), and guest artists from across the country.
RSA Education Director Paul Muir (playing Editor Webb in the production) echoes Ertman’s excitement about the project.
“Guest artists work hand in hand with the resident acting company. Students rehearse with their teachers,” Muir says. “The work we are doing in this play exemplifies the work we do here in Rosebud with the theatre, the school and the Rosebud Mercantile.”
There are even familial ties in this production. Ertman’s son Luke is the sound designer and composer for Our Town.
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The elder Ertman deftly directs, with the younger creating an original, organic auditory experience for the audience.
Father and son David and Donovan Snider will share the stage as Mr. Gibbs and Wally Webb respectively. Resident company member David (Matthew in Anne of Green Gables, Mitch in Tuesdays with Morrie, Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat™) is widely known to and beloved by Rosebud audiences.
“There is a deep power in doing this play with my son Donovan,” says Snider. “In light of the play's theme of accepting life as ever-changing while living in hope of life everlasting, I am so proud to witness Donovan learn and grow. But it is humbling to accept the reality of how quickly his boyhood will change to manhood - beautiful and terrible both. It is a great gift to share this experience with him.”
Judith Buchan (Marilla in Rosebud Theatre’s Anne of Green Gables) takes on the pivotal role of the Stage Manager, the third-party observer who narrates this bittersweet story of small-town life, love and loss. “Working on this play has personally affected me more than any other I’ve done,” says Buchan. “I am moved to be more present and see more in my own life.”
Heather Pattengale (My Name is Asher Lev, Mary’s Wedding and Queen Milli of Galt), plays Emily to Byron Allen’s George. Says Pattengale, “There is so much Rosebud in Our Town. We are in a unique position to create and show people how important their everyday life is.”
The cast is rounded out by resident artists and RSA staff members Bill Hamm (Music Director), Maki Van Dyke (Mrs. Soames) and Kelsey Krogman (Mrs. Webb); guest artists Tim Dixon, Byron Allen and Tim Hildebrand, graduates Mike Thiessen, Amy Burks, Laura Gillespie, Jesse Anderson, Natalie Gauthier and Conrad Belau; and RSA apprentices Alixandra Cowman, Jenny Daigle, Alysa Glenn, Chrissie Muldoon and Sarah Spicer.
David Snider sums up the communal feeling that Our Town has brought to the residents of Rosebud: “To our audience I would say, bring your WHOLE family to see this play, whether kindred in blood or spirit. It will bless the bonds that hold you together.”
And there is a plethora of the hamlet’s population who can attest to that. Come to Rosebud and experience your life... your town... with Our Town.
Our Town opens on September 13 and plays until October 19 on the Rosebud Opera House Stage. Adult/Senior tickets range from $59 to $71 plus GST. Tickets include a buffet meal at the Rosebud Mercantile. Group rates available. To purchase tickets for this limited engagement, please contact the Rosebud Theatre Box Office at 1-800-267-7553 or www.rosebudtheatre.com. See our website for a special offer when you purchase tickets to both Our Town and It’s a Wonderful Life before Sept. 15, 2013.

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