PORT TOWNSEND — Witness a rehearsal for “Our Town” in this particular place, and you don’t see the usual headlong rush to recite lines and move props.
Instead, director Kelly Doran guides her performers through an interlude of meditative breathing, yoga poses — and setting intentions for the afternoon.
Ask yourself, she says: How can I make my performance stronger?
So began rehearsal last week in the Port Townsend High School auditorium.
The students, age 14 to 18, were focused on the people in “Our Town,” Thornton Wilder’s beloved story about life, death and love.
The drama “gets students to think about those simple things that make a big difference in our lives,” Doran said. “Our Town” won the Pulitzer Prize 81 years ago, and has since become one of the most-performed plays of all time.
This, Doran believes, is because Wilder’s words cut straight to the heart. The production unfolds on sparse tables, chairs and ladders — nothing else. The message: Don’t get caught up in life’s unimportant details.
“Our Town” illustrates how our chances to love, to pay attention, to enjoy one another are all fleeting, Doran notes.
The show itself will be here and gone fast: Performances are at 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday and Nov. 15 and 16; matinees are set for 2 p.m. this Saturday and Nov. 16.
Tickets at the door of the Port Townsend High School auditorium, 1500 Van Ness St., are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.
“I think what this play shows, and the main thing that is important, are the people around you,” said Pascal Sanok, 15. In the lead role of Emily Webb, she’s finding “Our Town” both relevant and relatable.
“The most important thing we do as humans,” she said, “is interacting with those around us: making connections and loving each other.”
Pascal is part of the cast and stage crew from Port Townsend, Chimacum and Brinnon.
Her fellow actors, several of whom have also appeared in Key City Public Theatre productions in Port Townsend, include Orion Pendley as Doc Gibbs, Finn Brooks as Constable Warren, Aiden Hill as Wally and Grace Wentzel as Myrtle Webb; Trillium Burbank plays Mrs. Soames, David Smith is Mr. Webb, Riley The Gregg is Simon, Hunter James plays Sam Craig, Taylor Sue Germeau is Rebecca, Jackson Miller is George, Moe Gardner is Joe Stoddard, Rachel Doan portrays both Si and Joe Crowell, Julia Neville is Julia Gibbs and Ben Tyler plays Howie Newsome.
Zoe Cook, 14, is the Stage Manager, the narrator who gets to deliver “a lot of really impactful lines,” she said, “that have changed my way of thinking.”
Sequim’s Linda Dowdell serves as music director, Susan Latham is the costumer, Kendall Mahoney designs the lighting and Doran, Latham and school faculty member Jim Guthrie are the stage painters. Doran extended added thanks to secretary Jan Boutilier, principal Carrie Erhardt and teacher Chris Pierson for their unflagging support of theater at the high school.
Doran, who has taught and directed theater at Peninsula College, Pierce College, the Tacoma School of the Arts and the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, is brand-new at Port Townsend High. She finds “theater kids” have much in common, wherever you go: “They’re slightly wacky, and sweet. They’re willing to risk, and they’re willing to go deep,” she said.
“Our Town,” the story of two families in a small community between 1910 and 1913, takes on profound ideas — and so do the teenagers on stage in 2019.
“My goal in choosing any play for performance,” Doran said, “is that it be transformative for the students.”