"Living and Dying in Our Town" to Feature Paul Newman, Cynthia Nixon and More

News   "Living and Dying in Our Town" to Feature Paul Newman, Cynthia Nixon and More Veteran stage and screen actor Eli Wallach will host an upcoming documentary special — part of the Character Studies series — about the classic play Our Town that will air on PBS stations this summer.
Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon

The one-hour program — entitled "Living and Dying in Our Town" — will feature actors who have been part of various productions of the Thornton Wilder play and will, according to press notes, challenge "the conventional views about" the landmark work. Among those who were interviewed for the documentary are Frances Conroy, Eric Stoltz, Cynthia Nixon, James Naughton and Paul Newman. The program's executive producer, Tony Vellela, said in a statement, "James Naughton directed the compelling revival of this great play at the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut and then repeated his work when it transferred to Broadway, and then to a filmed version. All the actors have performed roles in Our Town on stage, or on film. For Character Studies, it signals the start of provocative and entertaining hourlong documentaries, which take a fresh look at plays and musicals that have become part of the American cultural language."

Our Town is performed on a bare stage and narrated by a stage manager, who introduces characters and actors and sets the scenes. The action focuses on the mundane aspects of every day life in Grover's Corner's, NH, 1901-13, in the three acts: "Daily Life," "Love and Marriage" and "Death." Like other Wilder plays, it embraces the idea of living richly and fully, and recognizing the tiniest moments — and the interconnectedness — of human existence. A staple in high school English classes and educational, stock and amateur theatres, the play is considered by some to be corny, but was revolutionary in its day (and continues to be). Even in amateur stagings, its cradle-to grave view of human foibles and frailties tends to pack an emotional wallop.

Our Town won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for 1937-38.