American Players Theatre Presentation Of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town

Some how I put off seeing Our Town for 72 years and then suddenly experienced two compelling performances in a matter of months! (Here’s my response to my previous encounter at The Lake Country Players). But today, I want to share my thoughts about Our Town at APT!

cast Our Town, 2023. Photo by Liz Lauren.

So once again, I find myself in Grover’s Corners, NH, but this time seated outdoors amongst towering trees, ten thousand crickets, a number of agile bats, and an audience of eleven hundred other theatergoers who are about to become my best friends and neighbors. Partly by our close proximity sheltering from a brief bit of rain and then by Wilder’s classic take on small town rural America!

Ronald Romàn-Meléndez, James Ridge, Teri Brown & Samantha Newcomb, Our Town, 2023. Photo by Liz Lauren.

And as we settle into our seats, we see that APT has taken Wilder’s stage directions to heart and we have the two dining table sets and two ladders that define the two households that share the timeline of the story. Perfectly suited to the rustic stage at the Hill Theater. And the cast took to heart the directions to mime most of the activities…perfectly…from stirring pots in the kitchen, to pumping water, to delivering milk, and tossing the morning paper on the porch (accompanied by a very satisfying and resounding slap sound effect)!

In act one of course we meet Grover’s Corners through a pair of presentations to the audience from guest speakers on stage, the description of the town’s geography by the stage manager, and then the commencement of the typical day…and we meet the residents as they play out their familial interactions and daily activities. And as we watch and eavesdrop, we realize that every day life in an idyllic community isn’t always quite so idyllic. A far more realistic portrayal than sit coms of the 1950s and 1960s, for certain.

But we do meet the two nuclear families central to the story. The actors here exemplify their characters to a T! The Gibbs family, James Ridge is Dr. Gibbs, Teri Brown is Mrs. Gibbs, and their two growing, active, and curious children, Ronald Roman-Melendez as George and Phoebe Werner as Rebecca. And across the stage in Spring Green but across Town in Grover’s Corners, we learn to love the Webb family, newspaper editor Mr. Webb played by Jefferson A Russell, Mrs. Webb played by Tracy Michelle Arnold, and the aware Webb children, Samanatha Newcomb as Emily, and Susanna Van Hallgren as Wally. A perfect cast that presents the characters and personalities of their roles just as you’d expect for turn of the (20th) century rural America. And the young people to pay close attention to are George and Emily of course, as they age and mature, and discover how deep feelings can really really reside.

Ronald Román-Meléndez & Samantha Newcomb, Our Town, 2023. Photo by Liz Lauren.

And of course scene two is where the pinnacle of the action in Grover’s Corners is told. As Emily calls out George for an unlike George change in attitude and action…and George comes to the realization of what he really wants out of his life and the best way to achieve it…and of course his love for Emily. Wedding bells ensue!

Samantha Newcomb, Our Town, 2023. Photo by Liz Lauren.

And then on to the third and final act which gives us Wilder’s expressed theme, The play is about Mortality. And here brings to fruition the Emily she grew into in the previous two scenes…an observant, mature, and feeling human being unlike anyone and everyone else in the play. Samantha Newcomb truly presents that feeling human being and is the star of this show!

Sarah Day & Jefferson A. Russell, Our Town, 2023. Photo by Liz Lauren.

An aside and then a quibble: For me the stage manager is the key ingredient for a successful Our Town. The stage manager needs to be flexible since the role changes throughout the play and it requires a certain amount of gravitas. Over the years, I have loved Sarah Day in any number of plays, but I don’t think she quite had the feel for the stage manager the evening I attended the play. And the quibble: I sat dead center although higher up in the seating bowl…but Sarah played too much to stage left, particularly during the intro even for me sitting in the center.

Our Town played as the classic play that it has become. Tim Ocel did a marvelous job directing given the sparse sets and props that Wilder allows if you are to stay true to his vision while also expressing your own. And the 1901 costuming provided by costume designer Scott A Rott sets the mood for the period as well…wonderful.

As always: Extra credit reading: The 2023 Season Playbill

And if you want to catch Our Town: click here for more info and tickets!!

Tamara Brognano, Ronald Román-Meléndez, James Ridge, Teri Brown, Samantha Newcomb & Tracy Michele Arnold, Our Town, 2023. Photo by Liz Lauren.

all photos are courtesy of American Players Theatre

PSA: American Players Theatre Announces Their 2023 Season

Hot from my email inbox…the announcement for APT’s 2023 season already. I can’t wait to see as many as these as I can fit into my summer!


SPRING GREEN, WIS: American Players Theatre (APT) is thrilled to announce its 2023 lineup, to run June 10 – October 8, with the shoulder season production opening in late October. The Hill Theatre will open with one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor, on June 10. The second Shakespearean classic will be Romeo + Juliet featuring Shakespeare’s words performed both in spoken English and in American Sign Language. Also playing on the Hill, David Ives’ farce The Liar; Thornton Wilder’s great American Classic Our Town; and Anton’s Shorts – a series of early one-act comedies by Anton Chekhov, adapted by award-winning playwright Aaron Posner.

Next season in the Touchstone Theatre offers four productions never seen before on APT’s stages: Once Upon a Bridge by Sonya Kelly; The Royale by Marco Ramirez; and Wolf at the Door by Marisela Treviño Orta, who wrote last season’s The River Bride. Finally, playing late October through November in the Touchstone, David Auburn’s Proof, directed by Artistic Director Brenda DeVita.

Ms. DeVita said, “The 2022 season has been a gift. Which is not to say it was perfect – I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this past season brought more ups and downs than is typical, with weather and COVID cancellations, and an unprecedented number of understudy put-ins. And I think we learned some lessons about how we can make that path smoother in the future. All that aside, in the end, we were able to successfully return to our rotating repertory structure. Which is so huge – it’s hard to articulate how important that was to this company. We were able to welcome back those glorious, large-cast, gorgeously appointed plays. And we were able to perform them in front of very full houses. It was such an unbelievable blessing to have all those faces back in the audience. It truly felt like a family reunion.

And as we move into planning for 2023, we’re carrying that feeling along with us. I’m not saying it’s a theme, because we don’t do themes, but the stories we’ll be telling next year are about community, and taking care of one another, and how vital it is to have that connection to another human being, or group of human beings. And how sometimes that doesn’t look like you’d think it would. We’re incredibly excited to bring back two great, beloved Shakespeares – The Merry Wives of Windsor, a delightful comedy, and Romeo and Juliet, which will feature actors who are deaf playing Romeo and Friar Laurence, sharing Shakespeare’s poetry through ASL. Of course, we have a great American Classic, Our Town, coming back to the Hill for the first time in 30 years, as well as The Liar – a hilarious farce, which our company will just have a blast with. And a piece newly adapted from Chekhov’s early one-act Vaudevilles, and partly created from whole cloth by Aaron Posner, who is a genius. And in the Touchstone, we have four gorgeous, poetic, contemporary plays that are new to us, as we continue our journey into exploring the new classics, and how they connect and intersect with our foundation and our future.

In The Hill Theatre!

The Merry Wives of Windsor By William Shakespeare Director TBA

When the infamous Sir John Falstaff arrives in Windsor, he immediately decides his path to riches lies in finding a wealthy woman to woo. So he sets about writing identical love letters to two married ladies about town – Mistresses Ford and Page. Though the letters fail to have the intended effect, the ladies find them an excellent inlet to toy with Falstaff, resulting in a funny and energetic exploration of marriage, miscommunication and forgiveness, featuring charming characters and shenanigans to spare.

The Liar By David Ives Adapted from Les Menteur by Pierre Corneille Directed by Keira Fromm

Ridiculous situations abound in this warm and hilarious adaptation of Corneille’s famous farce. Charming Dorande is a shameless liar, and he’s just arrived in Paris with good times on his mind. He very quickly falls in love with a local lady, Clarice, who he has mistaken for her best friend, Lucrece. Further complicating matters is that, unbeknownst to Dorande, Clarice is already engaged – to his childhood friend, Alcippe. Throw in a servant who cannot tell a lie, and a father who is anxious to marry off his wayward son, and you’ve got the type of uproarious comedies that APT does best.

Romeo + Juliet By William Shakespeare Directed by John Langs

In this gorgeous new production originated at ACT Theatre in Seattle, American Sign Language is seamlessly united with Shakespeare’s sweeping poetry. The story is one you likely know – the feuding Montague and Capulet clans come crashing together when the star-crossed Romeo and Juliet fall utterly in love, even though, in this case, they speak different languages. As characters speak their truths with their whole hearts, a chorus of actors speaks along with the signing in this lush, full-hearted imagining of one of the greatest tragedies ever written.

Our Town By Thornton Wilder Directed by Tim Ocel

Wilder’s Pulitzer-Prize winning classic returns to the Hill Theatre for the first time since 1992. That little town of Grover’s Corners contains multitudes. Centered around George and Emily, a young couple in love, the story of their lives together evolves as the acts carry on, intertwined with the story of the town itself, the narrative stewarded by an all-knowing stage manager. A timeless tale that gently reminds us about the importance of appreciating the life we have, and the people with whom we share it.

Anton’s Shorts Brief Plays & Vaudevilles by the Young Anton Chekhov Freely adapted for the stage by Aaron Posner Directed by Jake Penner

Sometimes, Russian comedy isn’t so much comedy in the traditional sense (just ask anyone who’s seen The Seagull). That said, Anton Chekhov had a phase in his youth where everything seemed very funny indeed – even when the topics are serious ones: the complexities of love and life; of marriage and moving on. Adapted by award-winning playwright and regular stage director at APT, Aaron Posner, who weaves the pieces together with an original work of fiction featuring Chekhov himself.

In The Touchstone Theatre

Once Upon a Bridge By Sonya Kelly Directed by Laura Rook

Based on a true story, three lives intersect for an instant, and are changed forever. A young woman starting out in a new city is bumped – or is she pushed? – or did she fall? – into the path of an oncoming bus, her life spared by bare inches. One man hustles off, while another risks his job to stay. Structured as a series of flowing monologues, these strangers tell a tale of the distance between our hopes and realities; our perceived futures and unchangeable past; between ourselves and the people around us. A poetic and hopeful meditation about choices, consequences and picking up the pieces when they fall. 

The Royale By Marco Ramirez Directed by Tyrone Phillips

In the early 1900s, Jay Jackson, known in boxing circles as “The Sport,” is primed to become the first Black heavyweight champion of the world. It’s an opportunity to open doors for himself, and all the potential prize-fighters who come after him – most immediately, his young could-be protégé, Fish. But what is the price of bringing those barriers down? And who is reaping the rewards of his sacrifice? What do his accomplishments mean to those who come after, and what do they mean to the safety of his family in an intolerant time? A graceful, theatrical play about boxing, without a single punch thrown.

Wolf at the Door By Marisela Treviño Orta Directed by Melisa Pereyra

Wolf at the Door leans into the darkness that can live inside marriage vows, and the extreme lengths that people must sometimes go to break free from them. A mysterious woman arrives at the steps of Isadora and Septimo’s abusive and unhappy home. A pregnant woman, who Septimo sees as the answer to his quest for an heir – whether she’s interested or not. A second play in Orta’s ongoing cycle of Latine fairy tales, along with The River Bride, which APT staged last season. Contains adult themes and language.

Proof By David Auburn Directed by Brenda DeVita

Catherine has lived alone with her father, who had once been a world-renowned mathematician, in order to care for him during a period of mental decline. But the nature of their conversations is starting to cause her to fear that she may share more with her father than a love of numbers. Complicating this is one of her father’s former students, Hal, combing through his journals for something of value, while anxiously wondering if his own best days are behind him at 28. And Catherine’s sister, Claire, who only wants the best for Catherine, though her motives may not be entirely unselfish. A poignant and surprisingly funny look at what we’re willing to sacrifice for those we love – and what we’re not. Contains adult themes and language.

APT is a professional repertory theater devoted to the great and future classics. It was founded in 1979 and continues to be one of the most popular outdoor classical theaters in the nation.

The Theatre is located in Spring Green, Wis., on 110 acres of hilly woods and meadows above the Wisconsin River. The outdoor amphitheater is built within a natural hollow atop an oak-wooded hill. Under the dome of sky, 1,089 comfortably cushioned seats encircle three sides of the stage. In 2009, APT opened the 201-seat indoor Touchstone Theatre, offering a different type of play and experience.

For more information, visit

Which ones are a must see for you?

American Players Theatre: Love’s Labour’s Lost

Everyone loves the major comedies of William Shakespeare. But they often don’t the credit that they deserve because the plots get convoluted or the humor gets lost in translation into the 21st Century. But not so with the American Players Theatre presentation of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Director Brenda DeVita has pushed Love’s Labour’s Lost from simple comedy to slapstick to farce…and the audience loved it…I don’t remember ever hearing as much laughter…giggles…or titters as those elicited in response to this play.

Love’s Labour’s Lost, 2022. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.

And it probably helped that the story here is more direct though not particularly anymore sensible than other Shakespearean comedies…but knowing who the characters are and how they arre expected to act made it all work the more. But DeVita’s wily insertions of cultural touch points like pratfalls and physical comedy reminiscent of ‘professional’ wrestling, some moves that referred back to Steve Martin’s wild and crazy guy and a moment of Hans and Franz style, we want to pump you up, made for easy laughter.

One stand out here…Josh Krause as Dull, the constable…a character to watch as he did his best swaggering Barney Fife and toward just a bit of Charlie Chaplin…a magical character that I imagine would be easy to overlook in other theaters.

And another key yet not out front character is Costard, a groundskeeper, nimbly played by Jeb Burris. At first taken into custody by Dull for flaunting an edict from the King by ‘communing’ with the lovely Jaquenetta, Dull becomes the middle man in much of the plot as the plots transpires! One of his key tasks is to circumvent the king’s edict by secretly delivering missives from the gentlemen of the king’s court to the visiting ladies who are accompanying the Princess of France. And we all knew that hi-jinks were afoot when the stationary for each was a different color…and so they were all mis-delivered. Oafish clumsiness as written or a wily slyness as played by Burris? I am leaning toward the latter!

David Daniel & James Ridge, Love’s Labour’s Lost, 2022. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of American Players Theatre.

Other amazing tidbits that build and support the laughter? That would include Nathaniel, a curate played to the hilt by David Daniel as a pompous preening and ever overreaching in his ultimately silly and laughable discourse with Holofernes. And Holofernes allows Shakespeare a chance to take an on target potshot at academics and in that role, James Ridge knows exactly where and how far to stretch to make it just absolutely hilarious.

Marcus Truschinski, Ronald Román-Meléndez, Jamal James & Nate Burger, Love’s Labour’s Lost, 2022. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of American Players Theatre

And one of the most popular ‘interludes’ is the attempt by the King and his retinue to fool their French guests by appearing unannounced at the ladies camp in Russian garb and performing a number of ‘Russian dances’…and who can’t love the Russian bear in their company. And the unsurprised ladies make great sport of the gentlemen and put them in their place.

And one other sidebar to mention…Triney Sandoval is just a delight as Don Armando, a knight, professor, and guest in the court of Navarre. And is his mispronunciation of English a result of his inexperience with the language or a bit of word play on his part or that of the bard? It comes across as high comedy in Snadoval’s hands.

Jamal James, Nate Burger, Ronald Román-Meléndez & Marcus Truschinski, Love’s Labour’s Lost, 2022. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.

And no, I am not ignoring the principals. But in this presentation I think some of the most hilarious bits of the play come from the effective use of the minor and supporting characters…we know whence the King and Princess will go and what they will do.

But yes, I need to mention that Nate Berger was regal and intellectual as the King of Navarre but he wasn’t always too quick to see when his friends were making sport of him or when the Princess of France was getting the better of him. And the Princess of France? Phoebe Gonzalez was everything you expect from a princess and she was one with her retinue and ready to make sport of the King as well as fall in love with him. Amazing.

Jennifer Vosters, Melisa Pereyra, Phoebe González & Samantha Newcomb, Love’s Labour’s Lost, 2022. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.

And a number of back stage specialists need to be recognized.

There are a ton of situational changes in the story line that require a lot of costume choices and costume changes. So Holly Payne, costume designer, and Jeannette Christensen, assistant costume designer, deserve immense credit for dozens of elegant costumes for all characters and all situations. Their efforts made the story telling here even more magical!! And my hats off to the actors who managed to make numerous changes and keep the flow of the play going.

Triney Sandoval & Matthew Benenson Cruz, Love’s Labour’s Lost, 2022. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.

And then, again, the amazing work of Brian Cowing, choreographer, and Jeb Burris, fight director, needs to be applauded. The various scenes where characters are dancing…or gesticulating wildly in the presence of unseen others…and the dueling scene between Don Armando and his page Moth…were ballet…enchanting…and smooth as silk.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is being presented in The Hill Theatre and runs in repertory through October 2nd, 2022. If you want more information or want to order tickets, follow this link: LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST

Sidebar: There’s Always Room For Jello

David Daniel, Josh Krause & James Ridge, Love’s Labour’s Lost, 2022. Photo by Liz Lauren. Courtesy of the American Players Theatre

[sorry if I overdid the photos]