Thornton Wilder conference comes to New Hampshire

  • Thornton Wilder stands with the inaugural MacDowell medal in 1953. Courtesy

Thursday, June 28, 2018 3:55PM

The third international Thornton Wilder conference will return to New Hampshire July 12 through 14.

Conference events for the three-day festival will take place at The Monadnock Center at 19 Grove St. in Peterborough. The festival celebrates and studies Thornton Wilder, one of America’s most celebrated writers.

The conference will feature more than 18 presentations, round table conversations, panel discussions, readings and events featuring leading academics and theater professionals from around the globe. Many conference events are free and open to the public.

Conference highlights include: Christmas in July, a reading of Wilder’s one-act play The Long Christmas Dinner; a visual tour of the Wilder Collection at Yale’s Beinecke Library; panels featuring teachers on teaching Wilder and actors on acting Wilder; discussions on adapting Wilder’s plays and novels; demonstrations on directing Wilder; academic talks on his prize-winning works like Our Town, The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Skin of Our Teeth, as well as lesser known works; the presentation of the Thornton Wilder Prize to Donald Margulies.

Over 33 participants will take part in the event, including three-time OBIE Award-winner David Greenspan, Mt. Holyoke College’s Christopher Benfey, the Keen Company’s founding artistic director Carl Forsman, Bloomberg Theatre Ensemble’s Laurie McCants and Tappan Wilder, Thornton Wilder’s nephew and executor.

Wilder (1897-1975) has won three Pulitzer Prizes for his writing: in 1928 for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey, in 1938 for his play Our Town, and in 1943 for The Skin of Our Teeth. His other honors include receiving the National Book Award, the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Book Committee’s Medal for Literature.

Wilder also had a deep connection to New Hampshire. He was in a writer in residence at the MacDowell Colony nine times between 1924 and 1953, writing significant parts of prize-winning works here including Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth. In 1953 he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature from the University of New Hampshire and in 1960 he was awarded the inaugural Edward MacDowell Medal.

“Peterborough, New Hampshire is where the myths and realities of Grover’s Corners, that extend throughout the world and have long enveloped Wilder’s reputation, come from. Can there be a more fitting stage for untangling and better understanding the record of this remarkably complex Man of Letters?” remarks Tappan Wilder.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Thornton Wilder Society and the Monadnock Center.

“It seems incredibly appropriate to welcome Thornton Wilder back to Peterborough. The Monadnock Center is delighted to host this festival of Wilder and his works and help celebrate Our Town in our town,” says Michelle Stahl, Executive Director.

There are a limited number of free tickets available for many conference events. Individuals are allowed to attend up to three free events during the run of the conference.

Visit bit.ly/TWConference for a listing of sessions plus a link to make reservations. All sessions are free but you must have a reservation. All participants are subject to change.