Our Town is a 1938 three-act play by American playwright Thornton Wilder which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that year. It is Thornton Wilder’s most frequently performed play, going on to become an American classic with universal appeal.
The play is typically meta-theatrical, where the characters would often break the “fourth wall” per se and draw attention to the nature of their performance.
The play is set in the town of Grover’s Corner, and it explores the relationship between two young neighbours, George Gibbs and Emily Webb, whose childhood friendship blossoms into romance, and then culminates in marriage. When Emily loses her life in childbirth, the circle of life is portrayed in each of the three acts of the play; growing up, adulthood, and death.
This classic American play has been translated to Sinhala courtesy of Randheera Fernando titled Premaye Nagaraya. Fernando’s take on the play is more of a personal adaptation of Our Town, done in such a way that appeals to the Sri Lankan audience.
The play was produced by playwright Asanka Gurusinghe and it was selected for the final round of the National Youth Awards 2019, where the play won the “Best Supporting Actress” award together with some merit awards.
The play was brought to life by members of Theatre Players, a group of around 20 external undergraduates studying theatre and drama at the University of Kelaniya. This play Premaye Nagaraya is the second theatre production by the team.
As for the behind-the-scenes team, the music direction for the play is done by Maduranga Gamage, the lighting by Saman Malalasekara, costumes by Savini Poornima and Thamali Uthapala, stage settings courtesy of Asanka Gurusinghe, and the makeup department was handled by Sanduni Somarathna.
Much like the original concept by Thornton Wilder, Premaye Nagaraya also keeps the minimal set design. The team producer noted that considering how the original play offers a couple of chairs on a bare stage as the backdrop for an exploration of the universal human experience, they too have attempted to project that same emotion onto their own stage as well.
Gurusinghe also expressed that what captured his interest with regard to Our Town was the telling of the simple story of a love affair and the asking of timeless questions about the meaning of love, life, and death. If you are familiar with the play, if we recall those final moments of the play, we see that the recently deceased Emily is granted the opportunity to revisit one day in her life, only to discover that she never fully appreciated all she possessed until she lost it. “Oh, Earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realise you,” she said as she took her place among the dead. The producer noted that the eliciting of conversations regarding profound conversations such as this, where Emily experiences the realities of the way she led her life, was what inspired him to take this play on.
The play was held at the Elphinstone Theatre in Maradana yesterday (1) at 6.30 p.m.