Our Town

Set to the majestic music of Aaron Copeland, Our Town is based on Thornton Wilder’s classic tale of love, loss and modern life. The ballet “remains faithful to its source while translating it into vivid impressionistic physical terms.”
Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times, 1996

“The action of this time-capsule drama remains absorbing. Like a pair of lovers gazing into each other’s eyes, for whom the rest of the world ceases to exist, ‘Our Town’ focuses inward. With its spare set pieces of black umbrellas, ladders and folding chairs, the ballet dwells on essentials, and on “what really matters” — the emotional bonds that grow as Emily Webb and the boy next door, George Gibbs, experience first love, marry and have children.

“…Jerry’s ballet, set to Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and other pieces…has much to teach us about ourselves and about our country…[It] also supplies juicy opportunities for the two leads, George and Emily, portrayed here with bluff earnestness by Marc St.-Pierre and with true soulfulness by a fragile yet resilient Brittany Fridenstine. The community encircles them when they make their vows, and they are everyone’s hope, from the hesitant beginnings of their courtship to their desperate pleas for parental approval and to the chilly final moments when they find themselves alone.

“’Our Town’ also has special resonance for ARB, which is based in Princeton (where both the play and the ballet had their premieres). It seems right that Douglas Martin, the company’s new director, has made this touching revival a priority.”
Robert Johnson, The Star Ledger

Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” offers a portrait of small-town life detail by detail, moving at a deliberate pace that is realistic in its (usually) mundane progression. Not everything Wilder paints is suffused with a nostalgic glow- a small town can smother as well as nurture – but all his observations are truthful. Grover’s Corners may be smaller than the town we live in, but we all can recognize in the activities of its characters the unconsidered rituals that constitute the practice of our everyday lives. Wilder’s accomplishment is to make us fathom the miraculous nature of that routine. The lives of his characters are our lives: making coffee in the morning, chatting with friends on the street, looking up at a full moon at night; not a life of high drama, perhaps; who would mis it?

Emily Webb would. Emily is able to go back after her death to any day of her life she chooses; “Pick the least important day of your life,” one of the dead in the cemetery tells her, “it’ll be important enough.” The lesson we and Emily learn is a painful one: it all goes by so quickly, appreciate it while you can. The older we get, the deeper Emily’s cry penetrates our hearts: “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you.”
Philip Jerry, For My Mother