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A Play Not Only for the Heart, but from the Heart

Our Town, the play prepared and performed by Forest Hills Eastern Theatre, was a tug at people’s heartstrings. Through hours and hours of dedication, a masterpiece was presented by performers as they brought the heartfelt show to life.

The plans and casting for the play began mid-September and the process lasted until November 6, the final show. Throughout the two-month process, performers practiced and developed ways to help their characters leap across the stage as though they were real people. By stepping into and embracing each of their parts, the members of the play put forth a spectacular performance.

George Gibbs (played by senior Deni Tepic) with Emily Webb (played by senior Olivia Challa) during a pivotal scene where feelings are confessed. The corner store manager (played by senior Ben McKim) adds comedic relief.

Although the production of plays and musicals only last for a few months at the most, the bonds of friendship that the actors gain last much longer. In other extracurricular activities such as sports, the athletes sometimes don’t have the time to connect with their teammates and develop strong lasting friendships as they are too focused on the sport and athletics themselves. But in theatre, there is more time to allow the performers to truly get to know one another and create close relationships. “I would recommend theatre because you get put into an experience where you build empathy for a ton of different things. You build empathy for other people and their experiences because you get so close with the others and get to learn those personal things,  but [at the same time] you also get to be a part of the theatre experience,” Ben McKim (‘22) shares. Ben then went on to say that “you build so much respect for those people, especially with the director, and I think it’s a maturing experience too.” Clearly, the true theatre experience is not only the performances and practicing, but also the mutual respect, empathy, and friendships you build with one another.

Emily Webb (Olivia Challa) and George Gibbs (Deni Tepic) get married!

No matter how small a role may seem, they play a big part in the production. “[When it comes to] the ensemble, everybody in [it] collectively makes the group. Without [the ensemble] the show wouldn’t be anything. There would be nothing without them,” Ben stated. Jaisal Chopra (’22) continued, remarking, “even if you are in the ensemble, if you work hard enough, tap into and become who your character is, you can make your character stand out.”

The play Our Town takes place in a small fictional town, Grover’s Corners, in the 1900s, and tells of the everyday lives of its citizens. It specifically centers around George Gibbs and Emily Webb. During the play, the audience is able to connect with each character, watching how they grow up and find what their future holds. “I believe that the [theme of] Our Town is the importance of relationships and how strong relationships can get, [along with] the amount of care and love you can put into [each of them],” Jaisal Chopra (‘22), a lead in the play, explains. He then said, “we see how connections can be built outside of just family, and [can connect] two families through [friendship] and marriage. [Olivia Challa’s character, Emily Webb] died during childbirth, and the irony of that, of bringing life into the world as she’s going away, is so powerful.”

Olivia Challa (‘22) agreed and added some of her own thoughts on the play and its characters. “[Our Town] is such a parallel to life. When I was acting out the final scenes, I acted really sad and [my character realized] how [she] should’ve appreciated life. But it all was a parallel to how our high school career is coming to an end and reminds me to appreciate all the times I spent with my friends,” she explains. This show taught Olivia to live in the moment and enjoy life as it is happening every day, and she knows the audience received the same message. As Our Town came to a close last Saturday, Olivia was especially aware of her character’s journey and its relevance to the present day.

A dead Emily Webb (Olivia Challa) tries to extend comfort to her grieving husband, George Gibbs (Deni Tepic) who kneels on her grave.

“It hit so much deeper during the show dates [because] I knew it was ending,” Oliva said. Her character, Emily Webb, only appreciates life and realizes it for all its goodness after her life is taken away. Our Town reminds the audience how easy it is to get caught up in the monotony of life and merely ‘get through’ every week just to look forward to the end of the next. Every day is a gift. Every moment is a memory. It is important to be thankful for every little thing, because, as Emily will tell you, “it all goes too fast.”

A funeral procession in honor of the death of Emily Webb (Olivia Challa).

Whether it is putting on Our Town or performing a musical, any experience in theatre is one to be remembered. Demonstrated by the friendships and respect grown within the small-time together, theatre is known for being able to not only act out wonderful performances but also for the close and welcoming community that they bring forth. As Olivia Challa says, “[theatre] is more than a friendship, it’s a family.” Within a family, it’s especially important to make sure to appreciate each and every moment, no matter how small it may seem. Because as Our Town shows, everything can be gone within the blink of an eye.  Moments can happen without becoming memories, but memories are nothing without the moments.

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