Meg Bouchard’s “Our Town” could be subtitled “Rutland County.”
She’s directing a very personal take on Thornton Wilder’s classic play about a small town, from the local cast to her unique interpretation.
“For me, ‘Our Town’ comes back to the title,” Bouchard said over coffee in downtown Rutland recently. “This is my interpretation of lots of people I love in southern Vermont. We’re trying to bring as much truth to it and as much of who we are to it as we possibly can.”
Bouchard’s reimagined “Our Town” is being presented for two weekends, beginning April 5 at the Old Tinmouth Firehouse and moving to Stone Valley Arts in Poultney April 12.
“There’s a David Wyeth quote that inspired my take on it,” she added. “‘We have so many allies in this world, including just the blue in the sky.’”
Bouchard directed a production last year, but this year the rehearsal period has been significantly longer and the cast has had more time to really develop and embody the characters.
“Last year it was a workshop production, so we had scripts in our hands, and it felt more like a reading,” said Melissa Chesnut-Tangerman, who plays Mrs. Gibbs again, opposite Bouchard’s father, Bruce Bouchard, who plays Dr. Gibbs. “This feels much more like I really climbed into the character. I had seen ‘Our Town’ when I was younger, and was never swept up by it. Meg’s approach opened my mind to it.”
“I thought, what if the text could be used as a way to express ourselves as a community where we are?” Meg Bouchard said. “It’s been done with a certain vocabulary for a very long time and, sadly, a lot of cliché, (which) I think created distance, instead of what Wilder was aiming to do, in my mind, which was explore the experimental aspect of theater. So I’m kind of leaning into the experimental part of it. That whole notion of referring to the play as it’s being played is something I really wanted to pull on.”
Bouchard has held nontraditional rehearsals that take place in her house and encouraged connecting with the story through conversations and emails full of relevant personal experiences.
“Why do it if it’s not a challenge, right?” Chesnut-Tangerman asked. “That’s where the meat is. That’s what an actor wants to do, is find something new in themselves.”
“I pitched this from the get-go,” Bouchard said. “This isn’t going to be the normal ‘We’re going to put up a play.’ I’m interested in bringing as much of our lives to this as we can. What would it be like if it felt like we were really watching human beings that we could see pouring us coffee, and it didn’t feel distanced by that kind of period thing that has happened often when I’ve seen this production?”
Bouchard’s vision has the cast in regular clothing, with some current music included, both part of creating a time period Bouchard called “everywhere and nowhere.”
“We’re in this magical world dancing in between two realities, which is at the heart of where I thought Wilder was (coming) from,” she said. “For a long time (the play) has been done a very particular way. But what I had to offer it was something else.”
Theatre in the Woods presents “Our Town” at 7 p.m. Friday, April 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at the Old Tinmouth Firehouse, 5 Mountain View Road in Tinmouth, and at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 12 and 13, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at Stone Valley Arts, 145 E. Main St. in Poultney. Tickets are $20, $10 for students, at the door; for reservations (recommended) or information, call 235-2050, email email@example.com, or go online to www.theaterinthewoodsvt.org.