Last night we had a delightful time seeing the soft opening of the beautiful new Floyd and Delores Jones Theater at the University of Washington. The inaugural show for this theater was one of my favorites – Our Town, by Thorton Wilder.
There are a fair number of plays I’ve seen a fair number of times. Most plays, when you’ve seen them more than twice, tend to fall prey to the “I’ve already seen this (too many times)” syndrome. Wilder’s Our Town, with its spare, almost spartan staging and its direct, unadorned writing – it doesn’t seem to suffer. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen this play – too many to keep count. And yet each time, to my delight and surprise, I find there’s more there than I remember. It’s worth considering that a play that can be done with a set that’s empty except for couple of tables and a few chairs leaves much for the audience to fill in, and in the end that makes the play durable in a way lavish productions aren’t. Sometimes, it seems, it’s really true that less can be more.
The program included this quotation from Wilder:
I am not one of the new dramatists we are looking for. I wish I were. I hope I have played a part in preparing the way for them. I am not an innovator but a re-discoverer of forgotten goods and I hope a remover of obtrustive bric-a-brac.
Some interesting thoughts in there. It makes me want to look at my own work and try figuring out what parts actually do the work and what parts are just obtrusive bric-a-brac.