Esko High School innovates with 'Our Town'
November 11, 2022
The Esko theater department turned back the clock to the turn of the century on Thursday night for their debut of the Pulitzer Prize winning drama "Our Town." Set between 1901 and 1913 in the fictional small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, the show explores the universal struggle of the human race to understand the big picture of life and death from the perspective of a rural community living during that time.
"You get to follow the same characters at different snapshots in their life, and you get to see all the tragedies, joys and everything in between that they experience," said director Steve Krueger.
Esko's rendition stays true to form as the play is performed with a simplistic set on a mostly bare stage. The actors mime actions without the use of props, which was a new challenge for several of the actors including senior Drew Erickson.
"I haven't seen any other play or any sort of production that's like this one, where there isn't a lot on stage," said Erickson, who plays one of two stage managers. "I think that uniqueness will draw the audience in and make them pay more attention."
According to Krueger, a lot of time with the cast was dedicated to fine-tuning the blocking on stage to reflect the mannerisms of the early 1900s. The attention to detail shines through as the cast makes it effortless to picture the world around them.
"I feel like a lot of productions, especially nowadays, rely a lot on pretty elaborate costuming, set pieces, props and everything. Whereas in 'Our Town,' we rely so much on what actors can and are doing to draw the audience in and keep them there," Krueger said.
Separated into three distinct acts, "Our Town" progresses from daily life to love and marriage before ending on a somber note of death and eternity.
The story is traditionally presented through the lens of a single narrator known as the stage manager; however, the Esko performance adds a new dynamic by dividing the role into separate characters portrayed by Drew Erickson and Maddie Hurst. Both actors succeed in offering something unique as they intermittently break the fourth wall to speak directly with the audience, pose questions, and operate as a link between the viewer and the characters on stage.
Although written in 1938, the play has weathered the test of time as the theme continues to reach a new generation.
"At first it's kinda slow and it may seem like there's not much of a point, but toward the end you start to finally see the entire piece and realize the message: don't take life for granted," said senior Blake Leslie, who plays the role of Mr. Gibbs.
"Our Town" continues to run Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Runtime is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes with two intermissions. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students, and free to children 3 and under. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance online at esko.ludus.com or by calling Joyce Bergstedt at (218) 879-4673, Extension 230.