The stage manager is one of the few and distinct characters missing from most plays and dramas. The Stage Manager, on the other hand, is one of the characters in the play “Our Town” who is interested and active in the events of the show from beginning to end. He is not only a member of the drama’s staging team, but also a performer in the scenes. In order to engage the audience, he must be able to function simultaneously in two major dramatic realms in this play. He describes the drama and all of the people who produced it at the start of Act I. Additionally, introduces the director and characters in the play which helps the audience to understand “Our Town” better when watching. Moreover, each act commences and ends with the Stage Manager’s descriptions, clarifications and comments. He begins and ends the drama, besides harmonizing the play in all the three acts available in the novel (Laster, 24). In addition, he is part of Grover’s Corner world and outside the context he identifies himself as one of the residents of the town. Besides, acting the role of several town citizens such as Mr. Morgan and the minister during George and Emily’s wedding. However, he remains conscious of the play throughout the three acts which makes this drama unprecedented as it has outshined the theatrical conventional. The odd combination of viewpoints is noteworthy especially when he includes in the town’s time capsule a copy of “our town” drama which he is part of the character group. Thornton Wilder employs this major instrument to introduce the show to the audience and tell them the next course of events on the stage. The author manages to break the fourth wall in the drama because the Stage Manager repeatedly speaks to the viewers than any characters in the play. From a perspective outside the Grover’s Corner world, the Stage Manager uses his ability and proficiency in the play to talk with deceased characters in Act three (Myers, 44). Also, he takes Emily back in time to remember her 12th birthday instead of proceeding with the current day’s events.
One notable feature of this unique character is his ability to manipulate time among the actors on and events on stage. In each act, this character occasionally interrupts actions and events in the play with the aim of hinting another scene. Therefore, the Stage Manager plays a significant part in giving the audience relevant information about either the next course of events or discussing what has just transpired or what is about to happen on stage. All these roles the Stage Manager play reveals that even though he is part of the characters in the drama, he is an individual who operates behind the scenes. Although the Stage Manager considered a position outside the actions of the drama, he occasionally assumed at least one role of the town citizens. The character is as proficient at altering the sets as he is changing his duties in the play. These versatile roles in “Our Town” allows the Stage Manager to appear in two worlds; one that the viewers occupy and the other in which Grover’s Corner exist. Thornton Wilder makes ambiguous the location of the Stage Manager in the drama, and it is this vagueness that allows this character to connect every personality on stage with the viewers. In bridging the gap, the Stage Manager allows the audience to understand every event in the play and follow it carefully. Even though frequent disruption of the play’s chronology may seem confusing and equivocal to some audience, the act creates a great connection that most dramas have lacked for more than a century (Laster, 56).
The creation of this character has helped the author to bridge the time gap between the past and present events between the audience and actors who are performing on the stage. Additionally, the Stage Manager has the capability to prompt acts and scenes in the play whenever he desires and call events previously done by the characters on the stage at will. Thornton Wilder unmistakably shuffles time flow within the drama to please, inform and engage the audience in the actions on stage in three significant ways. Firstly, he utilizes non-chronological order of events approaches in the play to engage the audience by upsetting their anticipation of the conventional theatre. Contrary to the traditional theatre approach of plays, Wilder wanted to show his audience unrelated events, re-arranging them in such a manner that will reflect the Stage Manager’s philosophical themes as well as his. Secondly, the Stage Manager’s informal approach to the flow of time gives the drama its beautiful tone that lack in most dramas. Finally, through the inclusion of flashbacks among the characters within the narrative the author wanted to remind the audience how fast time flies. Most of the characters on stage spend the time flashing back at memorable events that transformed their lives.
One of the roles taken by the Stage Manager besides acting in the scenes is to guide the audience. For instance, he breaks an imaginary wall ‘fourth wall’ existing between the public and the events on the stage to facilitate a discussion between the content of the drama and audience. Consequently, the author of “Our Town” manages to create another course of events that form part of the play (Patrick, 121). However, the audience may not have a clue of whether the Stage Manager is also an inhabitant of the town or foreigner who has the privilege of being Grover’s Corners. The vagueness of the character and event plots make the Stage Manager both mysterious and familiar; hence giving him a metaphorical role in “Our Town.”
The Stage Manager gives a hint of the presence of a Supernatural being who controls time and all the events that occur to human beings. Even though in “Our Town” play there is no mention of religion, Thornton Wilder provides a hint to his readers that a supernatural entity controls and manages life just as the Stage Manager. The character dictates the flow of events and plays disrupting chronology of the events and time to connect with the audience. The Stage Manager commands attention from the audience by making them participate in the events happening on the stage. The presence of this character in “Our Town” disobeys the conventional approach of theatre which traditionally excluded the audience from the events that occur on the stage. “Our Town” has changed that perception of putting the audience to have a passive voice in the events onstage. The audience of the play gets engaged in the scenes, actions and introduced into new characters coming on stage by the Stage Manager who facilitates dialogue at the end of every act and scene.
In summary, Wilder’s “Our Town” has utilized one of the unique approaches to the play that has given it its attractive tone that some dramas have lacked. The Stage Manager has built a strong connection between the audience and the characters on stage beside introducing the drama. At the beginning and end of every scene, the Stage Manager plays a significant role in informing the audience. Consequently, the audience of the play became engaged in the scenes, actions and introduced into new characters coming to the stage by the Stage Manager who invites dialogue at the end of every act and scene. Moreover, the Stage Manager can manipulate time among the actors and events on stage. In each act, he occasionally interrupts actions and events in the play with the aim of cueing another scene. Thus, the Stage Manager plays a significant part in giving the audience pertinent information by either discussing what has just transpired or what is about to happen on stage. The nebulousness of the Stage Manager and event plots make him both mysterious and familiar; therefore, giving him an allegorical role in “Our Town.”
Akey, Kathy. “Thornton Wilder’s Our Town 1989.” School Library Journal, no. 12, 1995, p. 56.
Laster, Lori Ann. “Welcome Back to Grover’s Corners: ‘Our Town’ Never Left the Stage, but This Season’s Productions Are Finding Sharp New Angles.” American Theatre, no. 5, 2008, p. 24.
Myers, Eric. “American Classic ERIC MYERS Interviews Ned Rorem about the Composer’s New Project – an Opera Based on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.” Opera News, vol. 70, no. 2, 2005, pp. 42-45.
Patrick, Stephen Allan. “Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.” Library Journal, vol. 131, no. 7, 15 Apr. 2006, p. 121.