by Jean Moore
Every once in a while something quiet but extraordinary happens - and if you're alert to it - you know it.
This is what happened in the rural town of Tyringham, Massachusetts, Saturday night, March 25, 2017.
That is when 35 or more of our residents, full and part-time, young and old, made our way to Ann and Joe Gallo's house for a fireside read-through and potluck dinner of Thornton Wilder's Our Town.
The event was one more step toward the community-based production planned for two weekends in August of this year and to be held outdoors in Tyringham's "back yard," overlooking the Berkshire Hills.
On this cold and soggy evening, after shedding our coats and boots, greeting each other, and filling our plates, we gathered around in the kitchen and in the living room to eat and to enjoy each other's company.
Then Courtney O'Connor, the director, and Ann Gallo (the driving force behind this effort, although she would strike this reference if allowed) called us to gather in the living room where many chairs and cushions had been arranged near and within view of the fireplace. We grew quiet and listened as Ann and Courtney assigned our reading parts.
There would be several Stage Managers assigned, as there would be for many of the other parts as well. There was one Emily, though, read by Kate Oakes. Her real-life husband, Robert, read the part of George, who would be Emily's husband by Act Two. The rest of us shared parts as the evening went on.
But here's the amazing thing: there was some kind of magic happening in the room. Kate became emily, Robert was George, Maggie Howard, Barbara Palmer, Tom Fennelly - were the Stage Manger, with his charm, his humor and with the wisdom that life brings to those willing to grasp it.
And around the room, the same was true for all who read as Mr. and Mrs. Webb, as Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs, and all the play's children and neighbors. Even the dead seemed to be talking to us from the beyond.
So what was it that made us into actors that night? What animated us that night that transformed us?
Was it the universality of the play itself? It does after all pose the biggest questions life offers, the ones that have been asked as early as drama itself.
What is our purpose? Why are we born only then to die?
I certainly don't have the answers, but for the two hours we were huddled together in Ann and Joe's warm and inviting house, their living room was electric with the questions and with the power that comes from contemplating them together.
As Ann says, "That's theater for ya!"
By the end of the evening, there were more than a few of us who were misty-eyed as we closed our books after seeing the words "The End" on the last page. (Emily, brought back to us as Kate, was handed a tissue.)
As I said, the evening was magical!
Next up: Community Auditions/Volunteer Sign-Up May 20 and June 3rd. See the UBU Theater (Producer) link for further details: http://ubutheater.org/about-1/