Gordon in the News: last updated 02/04/2009

Gordon College Theatre Casts New Perspective On American Classic "Our Town"

January 13, 2009

Jo Kadlecek
Office of College Communications

WENHAM, MA--Since her freshman year at Gordon College, Rebekah Tatro '09 of Methuen, Massachusetts, has been involved with the Theatre Arts Department--behind the scenes. For seven major shows she has worked as the stage manager, making sure lines were learned and props were placed. The experiences earned her the Gordon College Department of Theatre Arts Award for Backstage Excellence and have marked her future: when she graduates in May, Tatro is hoping to secure a position as a stage manager at a theatre company.

Prior to that, though, Tatro has moved to the other side of the stage: as an actor in Gordon's upcoming production of Thornton Wilder's classic play Our Town. In fact, she's been cast as one of the leads, and in this show the lead is, of all things, a stage manager. The show opens Friday, January 30, at the Margaret Jensen Theatre in the Barrington Centre for the Arts, and Tatro is busy rehearsing in a different way.

"It's an odd experience for me because the stage manager is so engraved in me that it's difficult to transition into being a character who is a stage manager," Tatro said. "But it's really fun and rewarding."

The stage manager in Wilder's play--most recently played on Broadway by Paul Newman--is critical to the show's progression. It is like that of a narrator as the audience watches the story unfold. Because it's so familiar to audiences, director Norman Jones, associate professor of theatre arts, decided to try something different. He cast not just a woman as the stage manager but he split the role in two. The other stage manager? His son, Taylor Jones, a sophomore communication arts major.

"I chose to cast the show with two strong actors playing the lead because it's such a well-known play. I knew it had to be set in a fresh way," Jones said. "I hope splitting the role will accomplish that. It gives the audience both female and male perspectives on many of the things happening in Grovers Corners, where the play is set."

The story, which was first produced in 1938, is set in 1901 in a small town where most folks know each other and common issues are confronted. Themes such as love, marriage, death and loss surface throughout the play. Jones selected it after viewing too many plays in New York and in London lately that he felt offered hopeless or uncertain perspectives on life. Our Town, though, "asked the right questions," especially with so many of today's demands on our time.

"This is a play that helps us step outside of the chaos, rush and worry, out of the many events of our lives; and step back to enjoy the moment, to experience life without the need for email, cell phones or deadlines," Jones said.  "It requires we step away from those things that can numb us from the possibility of genuinely caring for each other. Wilder gave us a play that reminds us to stay in contact with each other."

Jones' son agreed. "Both Beka and I have speeches in the play that encourage us to slow down, to live purposefully and not take things for granted," Taylor said. "The message is clear and very real for me, especially since this is such a big role. I couldn't imagine doing it without this community."

Over 44 students auditioned for the play last fall, and the cast of 23 returned early from Christmas break for intensive rehearsals. Jones' technical director is Dawn Sarrouf, and his stage manager is junior Hannah Baker, whom Tatro has trained during other shows.

"Hannah's a great stage manager," Tatro said. "That's our role--we want people to notice each other."

Show times for Our Town are:

Friday, January 30, 8:00 PM
Saturday, January 31, 4:30 and 8:00 PM
Tuesday, February 3, to Thursday February 5, 7:30 PM
Friday, February 6, 8:00 PM
Saturday, February 7, 4:30 and 8:00 PM

Tickets can be purchased by calling 978.927.3400. They can also be purchased at the Gordon College Bookstore, online at www.gordon.edu/tickets, or a half hour before performance time. 

For more information contact the Gordon College Office of College Communications at 978.867.4752.


Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The College offers majors in 37 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian colleges.