BANGOR, Maine — Rehearsals are underway for the crown jewel of Penobscot Theatre Company’s 40th anniversary season: “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. “Widely regarded as the greatest American play, this piece perfectly illustrates the power, relevance, and importance of theatre in our community,” says Artistic Director Bari Newport. Newport is directing the upcoming production, which will run April 24-May 11, and freshness is at the core of her vision.
“On the surface, “Our Town” is about two rural New England families in the early 20th century,” explains Newport, “but the reason the play has resonated so deeply is that it transcends time and place to get at some very fundamental questions about relationships, the meaning of home, and the relative smallness of the individual against the canvas of time.”
To set the tone, Newport engaged Maine musician Jacob Augustine to compose an original score and soundscape, and he will play live at every evening performance. “Jacob is an extraordinary artist, whose distinctive sound is so raw, so moving. This collaboration has been a joy,” said Newport.
Joining Augustine on stage will be Brendan Powers of Florida in the iconic role of the Stage Manager (last seen by Penobscot Theatre Company audiences as Daddy Warbucks in the 2012 production of ANNIE); and Monica Willey, an Equity actor from Bangor currently living in New York City, and Jordan Lorenz of Hermon in the roles of young lovers Emily and George. A number of talented local actors will round-out the large cast: Allen Adams, Bronwyn Beardsley, Bob Daisey,Nick Danby, Irene Dennis, Shaun Dowd, Julie and Ron Lisnet, Nathan Manaker, Doug Meswarb, Doreen Moody, and Steve Robbins.
The evening of April 21, the Bangor Public Library will host a free “Our Town” event for the public to encourage a community-based conversation about the production’s themes. Bari Newport and Jacob Augustine will discuss their collaboration, offer a preview of the new music, and invite questions and comments.
The theatre is also seeking community involvement in the creation of a time capsule, which will be buried under the stage of the Bangor Opera House, PTC’s historic home, and opened in 40 years. “The Stage Manager makes a significant reference to a time capsule in Act 1,” explains Brad LaBree, PTC’s manager of community engagement. “Taking our cue from Thornton Wilder, we want to spark a public conversation. We’ll be asking people at the library, online, and in our audience to weigh-in on the contents of our time capsule. What items reflect our place in time and the values we share?”
To ensure Wilder’s classic is broadly accessible to young audiences, PTC is offering discounted student matinees, May 1 and May 6, at 10:00 am. Tickets are just $6 per student and the cost of bus transportation may be covered through the Maine Arts Commission’s Ticket to Ride program. Prior to each matinee, the theatre will provide participating schools with a student study guide to prepare for the performance; and PTC will invite student groups to stay after the matinee for a “talk-back” session with the actors and creative team to deepen understanding of the production’s themes and artistic challenges. Additionally, PTC has created an “Our Town” residency, modeled on the theatre’s popular “Shakespeare in the Schools” program, which involves special workshops for grades 5-12 conducted by professional teaching artists.
“Our Town” is produced in partnership with the Maine Arts Commission, Bangor Savings Bank, Quirk Insurance, the City of Bangor, and Lori Argent of Wells Fargo Financial Advisors.