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The Artist’s Journey – Without Walls (WoW) Festival Series: Tom Dugdale of OUR TOWN - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

The Artist’s Journey – Without Walls (WoW) Festival Series: Tom Dugdale of OUR TOWN

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We have another terrific entry for The Artist’s Journey – WoW Festival Series! As promised, these guest blog posts will be sharing what it’s like for the visionaries behind the Without Walls (WoW) Festival productions as they dive into the creative processes that will culminate into four exciting days of site-specific, immersive theatre.

Today, we welcome Tom Dugdale, the director of Our Town, a beautifully re-imagined version of Thornton Wilder’s classic that will take place under the stars and stay true to the themes conveyed in the much beloved original.

For Our Town tickets and info, click here.

of Our Town at Without Walls (WoW) Festival

Launching our Our Town

We hit the ground running. Our first night together, we throw a party and eat a meal and talk and laugh until it is dark. Although we aren’t rehearsing yet, we actually are rehearsing, since our performance will be a party—for us, and we hope, for our audience. I look at the table of artists around me. All young, all beautiful. My secret subtitle for the play has always been, “When we were young and beautiful…”  This is not my line but a transposition of Emily Webb’s line in Act 3: “I can’t bear it.  They’re so young and beautiful. Why did they ever have to get old?”

I’m tackling this play with young actors to straddle both the present and the past. We are the age now that all our parents were in those embarrassing home movies. Our young and beautiful company are both a vivacious, youthful Present and ghosts of a beautiful, unreclaimable Past. For me all the actors, in all their roles (some actors play several), constitute one big family, and the table they gather around is Grover’s Corners. Unlike most productions of Our Town where actors enter and exit, playing short scenes, actors in my production will remain on stage in plain view quite a bit, like a large family sprawled across a patio. Why not? We love being together.

We aren’t creating scenery for the production, but rather an installation, an environment which feels like a backyard. Don’t worry, we’ll provide the lawn chairs!  But you’re more than welcome to bring a snack, and as advertised, we’ll provide the soda pop. You can get up during the show, anytime, and grab one from the cooler!

I write music for all my productions, and Our Town is no exception. There’s nothing more wonderful that people singing together onstage. The actor-musicians I work with write music, too. Right now our instrument count is up to three guitars, a portable keyboard that usually works, a little tiny four-stringed contraption that I call a “swizzle stick,” and lots of willing voices. Oh, and it’s not an instrument, but there’s a camera in the show, because there’s a always a camera in the show these days, and in life. The big difference between life ten years ago and life today is that ten years ago we looked at life with our own eyes, while today we look at it on a screen.

Anyway, see you at theater…er, I mean…the party!

Tom Dugdale recently directed in New York’s La MaMa ETC, the Hollywood Fringe, Chagall at La Jolla Playhouse with John Malashock and Yale Strom, and Cry Old Kingdom at the 2013 Humana Festival. He also directed Death of a Salesman and Diary of a Madman at the Hungarian Theater of Cluj, Romania. A recipient of a 2012 Princess Grace Award in Theatre, Dugdale holds degrees from UCSD (M.F.A.) and Dartmouth (B.A., Theater and Music) and lectures in Theater and Graduate Directing at UC San Diego.

This image is by Our Town cast member Taylor Shurte, who takes real Polaroids (“not Instagrams with filters or anything that high-tech”) and then paints/draws on them. This is one of the OUR TOWN creative team’s favorites. Special thanks to Joshua Brody.