Well School students perform ‘Our Town’ for the first time

Emily and George talk from their windows at night as the Stage Manager looks on. 

Emily and George talk from their windows at night as the Stage Manager looks on.  COURTESY PHOTO BY RA ELDREDGE

The seventh- and eighth-graders at The Well School performed “Our Town” for the first time in the school’s 60 year history. 

The seventh- and eighth-graders at The Well School performed “Our Town” for the first time in the school’s 60 year history.  COURTESY PHOTO BY RA ELDREDGE

The wedding of Emily and George. 

The wedding of Emily and George.  COURTESY PHOTO BY RA ELDREDGE

A 2005 Well School production of “Fiddler on the Roof” with Natalie Della Valle, Cleo Flemming, Natalie Whitney, Chloe Pittman, Jordan McCutcheon, Lauren Morrissey, Emily Flemming and Luke Trautwein. 

A 2005 Well School production of “Fiddler on the Roof” with Natalie Della Valle, Cleo Flemming, Natalie Whitney, Chloe Pittman, Jordan McCutcheon, Lauren Morrissey, Emily Flemming and Luke Trautwein.  COURTESY PHOTO BY THE WELL SCHOOL

A 2007 production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

A 2007 production of “The Wizard of Oz.” COURTESY PHOTO BY THE WELL SCHOOL

A 2017 production of “Peter and the Starcatchers.” 

A 2017 production of “Peter and the Starcatchers.”  COURTESY PHOTO BY THE WELL SCHOOL

The progrma for “Our Town.” 

The progrma for “Our Town.”  COURTESY PHOTO BY THE WELL SCHOOL

The townspeople surround Emily and George. 

The townspeople surround Emily and George.  COURTESY PHOTO BY THE WELL SCHOOL

By JESSECA TIMMONS

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 02-22-2024 9:06 AM

Modified: 02-22-2024 9:50 AM


When Well School Theater Director Bronwyn Sims realized that in nearly 60 years of theater, the school had never performed Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” she knew she had the next seventh- and eighth-grade play.  

“I’m not sure at what point ‘Our Town’ popped up in my search, but when I learned it had been written at least partly here in Peterborough, right around the corner at MacDowell, and then when I went back and researched 60 years of theater programs and realized we had never done it,  I went, ‘Oh my gosh — we’re going to do it!’” Sims said. 

The Well School seventh- and eighth-grade performed “Our Town” on Friday and Saturday nights to a packed house.

Since the school’s founding in 1967, The Well School has performed everything from Shakespeare to “Beauty and Beast,” and from “The Crucible” to “The Wizard of Oz.” The school’s founders, Jay and Toni Garland, believed theater is an integral part of education, and participation in theater is mandatory for all students preschool through eighth grade. Seventh- and eighth-graders have the option of filling backstage roles such as lighting and sound design.

Sims noted that “Our Town” was an especially poignant choice for this year’s winter play, as the school suffered the loss of a beloved music teacher, Killian Venman, last spring. Sims and Venman had been in the middle of working on the 2023 spring musical, “Guys and Dolls,” when he died of a sudden illness in May at just 28 years old. 

Sims and the seventh- and eighth-grade cast had many discussions about the four lessons of Wilder’s play, which center on accepting change, trying to help others when possible but accepting it is not always possible, the transformational power of love and the philosophy of carpe diem (“seize the day”).

“The play is challenging. It is a little dark. We talked about death. We talked about compassion. We talked about how you never know what is going to happen,” Sims said.  

Sims, whose long acting and performance resume includes lecturing at the Yale School of Drama and an episode of “The Sopranos,” had never directed middle-school students and wasn’t sure how it would go. 

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“I knew this play would be a challenge for the students. It is not a happy, silly play, but they embraced it, and they did an amazing job. It all came together in a much bigger way than I had expected. If you have done your job as a director, the actors really take ownership, and I really saw that happening, especially on Saturday night. It was really exciting to see that happen,” Sims said. “I’m not really sure how it all came about, honestly. I just kind of had to embrace the chaos.” 

Eighth-grader Caroline Weeks, who played the Stage Manager, has her own personal connection to Peterborough history. When Caroline’s father, Chris Weeks, heard that the Stage Manager character required a pocket watch, he suggested she use a stopwatch that had belonged to her paternal great-grandfather, Warren E. White. White, who came to Peterborough by stagecoach in 1935, used the watch for timing horse races. 

When Chris Weeks went into Hobbs Jewelers and explained why he needed a chain for the stopwatch, Hobbs donated the chain.

“I really enjoyed putting in the work to make people that lived in my town before me make me proud. I feel so lucky to have has the ionic role of Stage Manager, and my castmates did an amazing job making it all come to life. I am grateful to live in Peterborough and to go to the Well,” Caroline said.

The other leads included Chippy Hutchings as George Gibbs, Helena Mackey as Emily Webb, Sierra Ehrman-Katz as Doctor Gibbs, Norah MacNamara as Mrs. Gibbs, Jacob Falco as Mr. Webb, and Nadine Neutra as Mrs. Webb.  

Sims rearranged the theater in The Well School’s Verney Theater to perform “Our Town,” creating a space more similar to theater-in-the-round. The minimalist set represented Peterborough with simple cutouts of familiar buildings, including the Town House, which, according to Sims,  is the way Wilder intended “Our Town” be performed.  Actors drew from the school’s costume attic, which contains costumes from every time period from 50 years worth of plays.

“Theater is such an important part of our curriculum because it presents an option for student to be on stage, to present a different version of themselves. You’re taking on persona and feelings of another person, try to see the world the way another person might see it,” said Admissions Director Holly Horgan. 

Sims is now in the process of selecting the spring musical, which students have the option to audition for.

“It is just a delight to be at the Well,” she said.