QCT hopes audience sees their town in 'Our Town'

Aren Williams portraying Howie Newsome during a dress rehearsal of Our Town at the Quincy Community Theatre on Tuesday, Sep. 12, 2017. Williams is deaf and signs his lines with actor AJ Wiewel voicing them. An inclusive show will be held for the deaf community. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 13, 2017 8:30 am Updated: Sep. 13, 2017 8:35 am

QUINCY -- A production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" might not resonate with theatergoers if the cast doesn't represent their community.

It's something Quincy Community Theatre Artistic Director Brandon Thomsen knew he would do from the start. He wanted QCT's production to represent Quincy.

"That was important to me that we reflect what our community is," Thomsen said. "So we have people of color, someone who uses a wheelchair, we have an actor who is deaf, we have men, women, young, old, experienced, inexperienced, some with musical gifts, some with not. They're the people who represent our town."

Performances of "Our Town" start Thursday and run through Sept. 24.

Set in Grover's Corners, N.H., the "Our Town" audience is guided by a "stage manager" to peek into the lives of two families as they intertwine over 12 years.

Thomsen has encouraged cast members to find their own voice in their performance.

"What we really keep emphasizing in rehearsals is find your voice," he said. "This character is you, and that is a struggle for an actor. The tendency is to put yourself in another person's show and pretend ‘Now I'm a different person,' and sometimes we want to put little voices and accents. That's not this production of ‘Our Town.'

"We're looking for the humanity, for the truth for them. We want to see them out there, so that the audience can see themselves up there."

"It really is about the everyday life, so we wanted to make sure as much as we could that the everyday man was represented in our show," Thomsen said.

This is the third time QCT has produced "Our Town," with one production in 1939, just one year after it was on Broadway.

Aren Williams, who is deaf, plays milkman Howie Newsome in the production.

Another actor interprets Williams' lines for those who do not know American Sign Language. Characters speaking to Williams on stage will sign with him.

This is Williams' second performance with QCT. He first appeared in this year's production of "Tarzan," which integrated American Sign Language into the whole production.

"I really want to get involved. I want to help. I want to learn new things, and I want to teach other people sign language and be able to get involved in the community," Williams said. "I feel more positive being involved in the community theater."

The final performance Sept. 24 will be interpreted by Jessica Lewis for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Jane Meirose, director of the Interpreter Training Program at Quincy University, said interpreters have been provided for several years at QCT performances.

As part of the production of "Our Town, QCT is launching an interactive storytelling display in the lobby. Questions posted to QCT's Facebook page can be answered by the audience to answer, and their comments and photos will be integrated into the show. Those seeing the show can add their stories to the display as well.

Performances start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

To buy tickets, visit the QCT Box Office in the lobby of the Oakley-Lindsay Center, call 217-222-3209 or visit 1qct.org.