First produced in 1938, Thorton Wilder's Pulitzer-Prize winning Our Town has become an American stage treasure. The play reveals the ordinary lives of the people in the small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. Our Town defies most conventional theatrical genres: it is neither a comedy nor a tragedy, neither a romance nor a farce. It is, rather, a contemplative work and richly timeless commentary on nothing less than the tragicomedy of human existence. It's also deceptively subtle and doesn't rely on obvious conflict to draw us in or push its plot along. Scenes from its history between the years of 1901 and 1913 play out. The play's narrator, the Stage Manager, is completely aware of his relationship with the audience, leaving him free to break the fourth wall and address them directly, an idea that was radical for theatre 70 years ago. Wilder was dissatisfied with the theatre of his time, stating that he "began to feel that the theatre was not only inadequate, it was evasive."
Our Town earned critical acclaim during at a time when political dangers were increasing in Europe. World War II was on the horizon when the play hit theaters in 1938. It was a time of significant international tension, and people throughout the globe suffered from fear and uncertainty. Our Town directed attention away from these negative aspects of life and focused instead on the aspects of the human experience that make life precious.
Our Town presents a special picture of a small town. Wilder examines Grover's Corners in order to discover lessons about life in a world that contains both triumphs and sorrows. He gently traces the residents' day-to-day activities, their accomplishments and their troubles, their casual discussions and their formal habits in order to stage a study of human life and its complexities. Wilder's fundamental message in Our Town is that people should appreciate exchanges of everyday life while they live them.