×

‘Our Town’ at the Peterborough Players through the years

  • Thornton Wilder, far right, with Peterborough Players cast rehearsing Our Town, 1940. Peterborough Players archives—

  • - Our Town at the Peterborough Players in 1983 featuring Joyce Cohen. Peterborough Players archives—

  • James Whitmore as the Stage Manager in the wedding scene from The Peterborough Players 2000 production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Peterborough Players archives—

  • The Peterborough Players Our Town cast from 2008 featuring James Whitmore and 2018 ConVal High School graduate Emma Crowley, first row just to the left of Whitmore.  Peterborough Players archives—

  • A double-exposure image from the 1976 Peterborough Players production of Our Town. Peterborough Players archives—

  • A 2008 production of Our Town at the Peterborough Players.  Peterborough Players archives—

  • Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth performed at the Peterborough Players in 1948. Peterborough Players archives—

  • Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth performed at the Peterborough Players in 1948. Peterborough Players archives—

  • The Matchmaker at the Peterborough Players in 1996. Peterborough Players archives—

  • The Matchmaker at the Peterborough Players in 1996. Peterborough Players archives—

  • James Whitmore as the Stage Manager in the wedding scene from The Peterborough Players 2008 production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Peterborough Players archives—

  • Peterborough Players 1948 cast of “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Peterborough Players archives—

  • Ray Coté, Jack Koenig and Dee Nelson in Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth”  at the Peterborough Players, July 2018. Courtesy Photo

  • Jack Koenig, Tess Borsecnik, K. Cody Hunt and Dee Nelson are the Antrobus family in Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth”  at the Peterborough Players, July 2018.  Courtesy Photo

  • Thornton Wilder’s The Long Christmas Dinner at the Peterborough Players in 2007, featuring students from ConVal High School. Peterborough Players archives—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, July 12, 2018 3:32PM

The Peterborough Players shared a close relationship with playwright Thornton Wilder in his life.

The setting for his most well-known play “Our Town” was inspired by the people and places of Peterborough and other Monadnock Region towns. Wilder also wrote parts of “Our Town” at the MacDowell Colony on High Street in Peterborough, just a few miles from The Peterborough Players barn on Hadley Road.

“Our Town” was a hit on Broadway in 1938 and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. In 1940, Wilder returned to Peterborough where he both began work on writing “The Skin of Our Teeth” and helped the Players’ with its first production of “Our Town,” which starred Johnny Stearns – the son of Players’ founder Edith Bond Stearns.

Gus Kaikkonen, artistic director of the Peterborough Players for the past 20 plus years, says his introduction to Wilder came when he began acting with a civic theater in Detroit at the age of 12 and he was cast in a production of “Our Town”

“One of the first things I did there was Joe and Sy Crowell,” Kaikkonen said of his first “Our Town” production. “And then I gradated up into playing George.”

Over the years Kaikkonen has both acted and directed in numerous productions of Wilder plays. The Peterborough Players has produced “Our Town” seven times, The Matchmaker twice and is currently running its third production of Wilder’s 1942 Pulitzer Prize winning “The Skin of Our Teeth.”

Kaikkonen describes “The Skin of Our Teeth” as being “like ‘Our Town’ inside out.”

“And the technique is extraordinary,” Kaikkonen said. “He is constantly making illusions to everything back to the beginning of writing to the bible and to the Greeks and if you don’t get them that’s fine, if you do get them it just adds another layer of depth.”

“He is the playwright who makes the most of the form. Cause he is constantly reminding you that you are watching a play while you are watching a play and doing it in a way that opens up your understanding of your own life and the theatre and the power of the theatre,” Kaikkonen said.

Wilder drew on his world travels in his writing, including part of his childhood in which he lived in China.

“The Stage Manager in ‘Our Town,’ they have this character in Asian theatre that is called the stage manager,” Kaikkonen said.

Kaikkonen said Wilder often doesn’t get the credit he is due as one of American’s great playwrights. Wilder plays tend to be “specific” and “odd” while at the same time being thought of as simple and sentimental, he said; they are thought of as being mainstream, yet not mainstream.

“When I was a kid, it was, ‘Who are the great American playwrights’ and everybody would say ‘Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller’ and I would say, ‘No, no you’re forgetting someone,” Kaikkonen said. “I love Thornton Wilder. … He’s up there with the lions, the American lions of playwriting. I would say Wilder, Miller, Williams and Albee.”

Kaikkonen will be participating in the Third International Thornton Wilder Conference held in Peterborough this week, including a role in the stage reading of Wilder’s one act play “The Long Christmas Dinner.”

Meghan Pierce is Digital Editor at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. She can be reached at mpierce@ledgertranscript.com. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram @monadnockbeat.