Myra Lucretia Taylor thinks of her block in Manhattan, the neighborhood where she’s lived her whole life, as its own little village. She remembers the people around her as children. Some remember her as a child. She’s been to weddings, funerals, and every kind of life event in between. When she was a child, her mom used to look out the window of her apartment and watch the world go by. Taylor finds herself doing the same thing on occasion.
“Your block becomes your hometown, so much so that if you see someone from the block in another part of the city, you get very excited,” she said.
This very particular life experience – the smallness and intimacy of the small town set in the world’s grandest metropolis – gives her a very interesting and unique perspective on her role as the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, running on the Mainstage from October 8 through November 2.
Taylor’s first experience with Our Town was only recently. She didn’t read the play as a teenager, which is oftentimes one’s first engagement with the play. “I remember reading Romeo and Juliet and Silas Marner, but I don’t recall that one,” Taylor said.
She was preparing for an audition for the play at another theatre when she first read the script and watched the 1940 film with William Holden as George. “It seemed like a fairy tale for me,” she said. “It was lovely to look at William Holden. He was so young back then.”
Taylor has been on a voyage of discovery about the play. She’s been working to familiarize herself with the Stage Manager’s long monologues. While the process of discovering the character in rehearsal will certainly yield new ideas, she initially sees the Stage Manager as an orchestrator of events, one who shapes what the audience sees throughout the play. She is intrigued by the Stage Manager’s sense of omnipotence. “The character has chosen to give some emphasis to some things rather than others,” Taylor observed.
Taylor has an appreciation for many of the images Wilder presents in the play. For example, the concluding speech of the first act, when a young girl incredulously describes to her older brother the address on a letter her friend received. Wilder riffs off of James Joyce, having the little girl say, “He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: Jane Crofut; the Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America … But listen, it’s not finished: the United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God – that’s what it said on the envelope. And the postman brought it just the same.”
The speech taps into a consistent theme of Wilder’s, balancing the quotidian against the universal. “I actually made a drawing of it – circles expanding,” Taylor said. “It helped me really see what Wilder was doing. We are specks in the center of a huge idea. But this huge idea is composed of all of those specks. That was very compelling to me.”
Taylor noted that history studies the lives of the exceptional in great detail. But those lives are rare, and far removed from the ordinary existences of most people. Our Town honors the lives of regular people, and asks its viewers to do something small, but profound: “To pay attention. To pay attention to the details of your life, the minor miracles that happen every second,” Taylor said.
— Steve Scarpa