By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez
It’s opening night of Our Town! This show has come together in a short amount of time and we are so proud of the cast and crew and can’t wait to share their hard work and creativity with the community.
Our Town presents the small town of Grover’s Corners in three acts, and depicts the simple daily lives of the Webb and Gibbs families as their children fall in love, marry, and pass on–ultimately reminding us of the importance of living our lives with intent and purpose.
The newest member of the GTA Marketing Team, Ethan Baez, interviewed cast members Marcello Valencia and Anna Nowosielski. Marcello is a junior BA Theatre major who plays Sam Craig, and Anna is a junior BFA Acting major who plays Mrs. Soames. They tell us what the shortened rehearsal experience was like, and
Marcello, tell us about your role in Our Town?
Marcello: My character’s name is Sam Craig, he is a cousin of the main two families. He comes back to town after everything that has transpired. He wasn’t in the picture, though the majority of the show. And so he comes back after a tragedy. The town that he once knew is not the same, so much has changed. The guilt of him leaving and not maintaining a connection with the place where he grew up is really hitting him. It’s a moment that the audience will see how it goes from the normal, happy, and joyful tone to a very serious and realistic one.
You mention your character has been gone. He’s coming back to his hometown and it’s changed. For your characterization, are you drawing from personal experience?
Marcello: Yeah, he had other desires. A lot of people from Grover’s Corners want to have a family. They wanted to live a very quaint life, but he saw himself doing bigger things. He wanted something beyond that. He knew if he stayed there he wasn’t gonna change and he wasn’t really going to grow. That’s why he left and he doesn’t regret it. However, there is a sense of guilt. As you know, all these people that I’ve loved are gone now. He sees these people who he should know he should be close with when he’s not. There’s a part of him that says, what if I did stay? Or what if I didn’t choose to grow but just stay in the safe place? He’s really contemplating that during his scene.
You mentioned that the play shifts in tone a lot from being very joyful, happy and exciting to something more introspective and painful. You’re going into rehearsals every night, and you’re playing this pain. Do you have a process to get out of that painful acting?
Marcello: A lot of it is just appreciating it. It’s not like you have to get out of it. The purpose of the show is to emphasize how precious life is. How we really don’t take advantage of it as much as we should and no one truly can. You can say 20 million times, “oh my gosh, life is so precious, I need to take advantage” but if you’re truly living in the moment, you can’t take advantage of every aspect of it. You know, you can only live as much as you know. There’s a scene where it goes back in time. She’s trying to live that moment, but it’s hard for her because she knows so much about the future. It just really emphasizes at the end of the day, life is so short and you have to really just appreciate the people you have.
So, we’ve talked a little bit about your process of getting in and out of character. We’ve talked a little bit about what the show means to you. How do those contribute to the rehearsal process as a whole? What’s a day-to-day rehearsal look like for you?
Marcello: I’m not gonna lie, it’s a lot of sitting! I am near the end of the show and obviously because I wouldn’t make sense for my character to just pop up! A lot of it is just watching and understanding the show, just really taking it in. Seeing these characters go through that process of their process so I can better understand mine. Seeing them try to keep such a bright and happy tone regardless of them knowing, hey, it is gonna be a gut-wrencher. Watching them work on that and seeing these beautiful moments. It helps with my character when I’m thinking “oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine what these moments that I’ve missed that I could have been a part of if I just stayed.” So I’m learning from them and watching how they do acting and take on their roles is beautiful to see.
Anything else you’d like to add on about the show?
Marcello: If it wasn’t obvious already, bring some tissues! It is an amazing show. This is just one of those shows where I think everyone needs to see and it’s a great reminder that life is so precious. Make sure you tell those people that you love them one extra time. Don’t take for granted the little things.
Hi Anna, could you tell us about yourself and your role?
Anna: My name is Anna Nowosielski. I am a BFA acting major and I’m a junior. In Our Town, I’m playing the role of Mrs. Soames and I’m understudying Mrs.Webb.
Do you have any familiarity with Our Town? Is this the first time you’ve performed in the show?
Anna: I had some familiarity with it. I’ve seen it a couple times, some versions better than others. One of the things that I’ve always really enjoyed about seeing Our Town and experiencing the story of the show, and what the show represents is the simplicity of it, and how that simplicity is so powerful and so poignant. How it really is a play that anyone can do and anyone can do well and it still always lands and especially in that last moment. The beauty of the simple life is able to shine through in a way that always really connects well with audiences.
I’ve spoken with some of the other cast and crew and we’ve talked about this idea of the emotional relevance of a show being a reminder versus being a lesson. Could you speak on that?
Anna: Yeah, I don’t think it’s a lesson just because a lesson makes it feel like it’s very harsh and hard. Even though the story of Our Town has very deep and intense final moments and a very deep and intense meaning, it absolutely is a reminder just to look around and have that patience and love for one another. Have that patience and love with yourself and with your own life and appreciate all the moments as they pass by. For me personally, it’s definitely been a great reminder to just be with the people around me more and appreciate who I have in my life and appreciate the life that I have. Life can be really difficult sometimes and you can really get caught up in worrying. But, sometimes that really isn’t as important when you’re considering the fact that you have so much to be grateful for and you have so many people around you that you really gotta take the time to notice.
Does this discovery come from your analysis of the script or analysis of the character a little bit of both?
Anna: Well, the character I play is the town gossip. She does like to stir the pot, she definitely does. But I really do admire how much she loves. You don’t see her a lot, but in Act 2, her entire purpose is just to show the joy of not only the families, but also the townspeople at a very joyous celebration, a wedding. I absolutely do think that while it’s kind of a funny bit, it’s nice to just be the person who’s like, “God, isn’t this a wonderful moment? Isn’t this beautiful, isn’t this incredible?” I’m very lucky to be working with some incredible actors, incredible crew members, and incredible directors. They have really just helped create the world of the story and the world of the town. Every time we settle in for a run you definitely are like, “yep. I need to call my mom more.”
With your character of the town gossip, how easy was it for you to settle into this kind of character? And if there was a process, how much of it was your general approach to acting and how much of it was “I’m going to use this for this character”?
Anna: So, I love talking to people, even though I myself can be a very introverted person. However, I’m a very loud and expressive person in normal life. I love observing people and while I don’t think of myself as a very gossipy person, I do think I’m a very observant person and I think most actors are. In that sense, Mrs. Soames is if I just said all the things I was observing out loud all the time. I think in the first act, she definitely comes off as a rude person. But in the second act, it’s definitely shown that she really cares about the people in Our Town and she really loves the people in her town. Then in the third act, it’s shown again that she especially loves the main character, Emily. That she really cares for the young people in the town. She really wants them to have a good life. And I agree, I also want young people to have a good life. I think that she has a good heart, I like to think that I have a good heart. I didn’t want to characterize her because it was a big thing Zechariah Pierce instilled into us as our director. He didn’t want us to characterize these characters. So, I definitely had to work to just make sure that she was authentic. Even in the moments where she is like being gossipy, it was very grounded in reality and not hateful for the sake of being hateful.
How is your process of finding more humanity in these characters as opposed to just finding a caricature?
Anna: I think for finding the humanity in the characters, the main purpose of it is to make it feel like this is a real place and that they are real people that even that audience members can connect with and even us as actors can connect with. Because there’s definitely a difference between I’m over here playing a real character and someone over here playing a character. Your connection is always going to be different. Especially for those of us who have ensemble roles, who are very simple, it’s very easy. I think, at least from my understanding and from my experience, it’s very easy to slip into a caricature and just be like, this is what I do instead of really looking at your character. From what I’ve observed and what I’ve seen, I think my fellow castmates have done an incredible job of really observing the characters and really figuring out what they’re about, what they’re doing, making sure that every moment that we’re on stage, we are in character. We’re not just playing the little guy next door in this podunk little town. We are making these moments really come to life and being present in those moments.
Anything else you’d like to add on about the show?
Anna: Come see Our Town! I think it’s an incredible show. It’s just a beautiful show about life. Anyone can come see it! It is truly a wonderful piece of art and I am so grateful and so lucky to be a part of this cast and this show.