Mary Wash Professor Stars in ‘Our Town’
By RYAN MARR
The UMW theatre department is blurring the line between faculty and student in their currently running production of the canonically American play, Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”
Director Gregg Stull offered the leading role of “Stage Manager” to UMW Professor of Psychology Chris Kilmartin, an actor/playwright in his own right, who made his UMW acting debut in the school’s production of “Into the Woods” back in the mid-90’s, and, in 1998, delivered his own self-written solo performance to 130 campuses across the country.
When casting the play, director Gregg Stull was worried that the role of the “Stage Manager,” rife with extended monologues and the responsibility of carrying the play’s narrative, would be more than a full-time student could handle.
“I just thought it was a terrific role for Chris,” said Stull. “It requires a vast amount of preparation, and I thought he did a really amazing job.”
Despite his theatrical experience, Kilmartin was hesitant about the lengthy role at first.
“We started rehearsals five weeks before and I had to start memorizing my lines two weeks before that,” Kilmartin said. “I felt very pressured to perform, and I didn’t really feel relaxed until the second performance.”
Yet, despite the tedious process of memorization, Kilmartin thoroughly enjoyed the experience and felt like he received new insight into the play, particularly the workings of the playwright’s mind.
Most of all, Kilmartin enjoyed the rehearsals and the chance to get to know his fellow cast members.
“I really enjoyed discovering my character while having the opportunity to watch other actors discover theirs,” Kilmartin said. “Gregg Stull solves a thousand problems, and I just love to watch him develop his actors.”
Stull, however, delegated much of the directorial decisions to tradition by allowing the text to speak for itself.
“[Our Town] is a play that has its own legacy and it’s a legacy we honored by being as honest and truthful to it as we could,” Stull said. “The play gives the audience the chance to reflect on how life is constantly changing.”