Play gives students fresh perspective

Published 4:55 pm Monday, September 11, 2017

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“From ‘Our Town’ by Thornton Wilder, I’ve learned to enjoy life—to notice the feeling of rain on my face,” wrote PHS junior Lupita Aguilar. “Because of this play, I will relish the life I was given.”

Aguilar, who penned this poetic response to “Our Town,” played the female lead—Emily—in our classroom staging of this theatrical masterpiece. On Monday morning, Emily married George combining her own white lace dress with the veil and bouquet I provided. Aguilar lived the role of Emily asking the quintessential question, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?”

As a high school junior, I discovered “Our Town” and it floored me. Some years, I avoided teaching this play; however, I always return to Wilder’s story of two high school kids who graduate in the early 1900s, fall in love, marry, have children and launch their lives together.

High school juniors balance on the wonder of now. They’re exempt from the pressure of college acceptance and imminent preparation. Juniors enjoy the moment, remembering the past through underclassmen while anticipating senior stress.

For students beginning their junior year, Wilder’s work is a reminder that their time in the spotlight of family and community is time to savor.

“Last night my mom made our entire family eat at the dining room table instead of in front of the television. I was kind of irritated, but now that I’ve finished ‘Our Town,’ I’m realizing I only have two school years before I eat my dinners at college. I am very thankful that I read this play,” one young man responded.

What we take away from literature depends upon what we bring to it. This year, I bring an empty nest to “Our Town.” Having read and shared Wilder’s play for decades, I worked hard to realize “every, every minute” of parenting as a treasure.

Sharing life’s journey with my family and my students continues—differently. I miss my children eating breakfast and dinners at my table—and I’m glad my students, thanks to Wilder, are savoring their moments.