- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Our Town” is coming to Norristown, but it’s not being performed where you might think.

On Dec. 20 and Dec. 21, employees of Montgomery County Emergency Services will be putting on “Our Town” in Building 33 - a theater on the grounds of the Norristown State Hospital.

“Depending on who you ask, it’s one of the most enduring, iconic plays written by an American playwright,” said Gabriel Nathan, the play’s director and a development specialist at MCES.

Everyone involved in the production is employed by MCES, and Nathan said it wasn’t hard to find people for the various roles.

“I kind of depended on the fact that I know theater and I know ‘Our Town’ and I know the people at MCES. I just kind of picked people whose voices that I heard while I was reading the play over,” he said.

He said most of the people he approached were up for the challenge of the performance, and the first rehearsal was on Aug. 25.

“The theater has no air conditioning so we were dripping with sweat as we were sitting in the theater reading the play for the first time,” Nathan said. “We’ve come a long way since then.”

The staff has been rehearsing twice a week since that first read-through, and Nathan said everyone is prepared to put on the play.

Nathan explained The Clayman Family Foundation approved $1,000 of a grant given to MCES to be used for the budget of the performance of “Our Town.”

“They gave us the grant to support a yearlong concert series at the hospital and when I had the idea to do ‘Our Town,’ I approached the head of the Clayman Family Foundation and asked if we could use $1,000 from the money to support a budget for ‘Our Town’ and he said absolutely,” Nathan said.

In a phone interview on Nov. 28, Nathan explained that he was sitting at a table set in the theatre that came from his own dining room. Other employees involved in the play have also brought in personal items for the performance.

However, Nathan and cast are also getting donations. The Wolf Performing Arts Center of Wynnewood and The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Chester County have donated costumes and pieces for the set.

“Help is coming from all over, which is really extraordinary,” Nathan said.

To see the MCES staff’s performance of “Our Town” is free. However, playgoers can make a donation to the MCES Patient Fund. Money from the patient fund goes towards the benefit of the patients.

“For the patients that unfortunately have to be hospitalized during Christmas, they get a gift bag filled with all kinds of good stuff. That stuff is either donated or it’s purchased with money from the patient fund,” Nathan explained. “It’s all things that benefit those hospitalized at MCES.”

Earlier, MCES received a grant to have musicians come to the hospital and perform for the patients. Nathan said that grant went into the patient fund.

Raising money for the patient fund isn’t the only reason Nathan decided to put on a play utilizing the staff to fill the different characters.

“I think that we all work really hard for the good of the patients. We’re so busy during the course of the day that we don’t really have time to stop and appreciate one and other. I think that’s a big tragedy,” Nathan said. “One of the main messages of ‘Our Town’ is, let’s look at one another. Let’s stop and let’s take that time to appreciate each other and who we are. Through rehearsing this play, I feel like we’re getting a little closer to that.”

The MCES staff will be putting on two performances of “Our Town,” one on Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and one on Dec. 21 at 2 p.m.

“It is a gorgeous theater. I can’t even believe talking to you that I’m standing in this theater that it’s on the state hospital campus. It’s just beautiful,” Nathan said. “It’s pretty incredible that this is here. It’s just not utilized.”

Anyone who wants to see the show can get to the theatre in Building 33 by going through gate two on Sterigere Street, follow Circle Drive. The theater is on the left.

Nathan said based on the feedback he’s gotten from staff members who are involved in the show, as well as from those who are not, he already considers it a success and is preparing for the next year.

“I’m getting ready for next time,” he said. “It’s just going to be a smaller show. Next year we’ll take it a little easier, but I definitely see this as being a once-a-year event.”


Online: https://bit.ly/1G7D6e9


Information from: The Times Herald, https://www.timesherald.com/

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