Our Town

From Academic Kids

See Our Town (1940 movie) for the adapted 1940 film.

Our Town is a play by Thornton Wilder that is set in the fictional community of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. As the narrator, the Stage Manager, says, "nothing exciting happens in Grover's Corners." It is a story of character development and details the interactions between citizens of the town as they live their lives (particularly George Gibbs, a doctor's son, and Emily Webb, the daughter of a newspaper editor). Our Town opened on February 4, 1938 in New York City. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1938. It was adapted into a film in 1940.



The major characters are:

The Stage Manager, the seemingly omniscent narrator. Tim O'Brien speaks directly to the audience, rearranges the set, inhabits characters, and at will moves the plot forward or backward in time, or steps out of it to comment on the action. He reinforces to the audience that the play is just a play being performed by actors. The role was recently (2003) filled onstage by Paul Newman.

Emily Webb, arguably the protagonist. One of the two young lovers in the play, she marries George Gibbs in Act II, and has died when Act III begins. The third act consists mostly of her learning what life is like from the point of view of the dead.

George Gibbs, one of the two young lovers in the play. He decides to skip going to agricultural school in order to stay in Grover's Corners and marry Emily.

Dr. Gibbs, George's father, a town doctor.

Mrs. Gibbs, George's mother. She dreams of taking a trip to see France, but passes away before she has the chance. She appears among the dead in Act III.

Rebecca Gibbs, George's younger sister. She has a major monologue in which she describes Grover's Corners' location in the universe.

Mr. Webb, Emily's father and the town newspaper editor. At one point, the Stage Manager has him come forward and address the audience on the social history and quality of Grover's Corners.

Mrs. Webb, Emily's mother.

Wally Webb, Emily's brother. He appears among the dead in Act III.

Simon Stimson, a town drunk and the choirmaster. He appears among the dead in Act III.

Mrs. Soames, a town gossip who adds some character to the wedding in Act II. She appears among the dead in Act III.

Howie Newsome, the town milkman.

Constable Warren, a town policeman.

Professor Willard, from the local university. Unlike most of the characters, he does not appear in the action of the main story, but only is called by the Stage Manager to address the audience on the geography, history and demographics of Grover's Corners.

Sam Craig, a cousin of Emily's, who comes to town in Act III for the funeral.

Joe Stoddard, the town undertaker, who speaks with Sam Craig in Act III.

Joe and Si Crowell, brothers and newspaper delivery boys.


Act One: Daily Life

Act Two: Love and Marriage

Act Three: Life and Death


Our Town has been produced on Broadway and off-Broadway several times. A 2003 Broadway production staring Paul Newman as the Stage Manager was aired on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. The play is also a favorite in American high schools. A production at Dominguez High School in Compton, California was featured in the 2002 documentary OT: Our Town.

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