Wayne State College presents “Our Town”

Hannah Keller, Staff Writer

Wayne State College students are performing the production “Our Town” at the Black Box Theatre in the Peterson Fine Arts building on March 23 through March 26.  

The performance times are as follows: March 23 – March 25, 7 p.m. and March 26, 2 p.m.  

Rusty Ruth, theater professor and director, and production director for “Our Town” oversees the cast and stage members as they put together a play production each semester. Ruth picks out a play script each semester, and students audition to make it happen.  

Ruth has enjoyed numerous aspects of putting “Our Town” together, but mostly, he’s enjoyed working with the actors and helping them develop their skills and sharpen their artistic abilities. 

The cast includes approximately 25 actors, 10-15 backstage workers and overall over 40 students who have been working to make this production come to life. Auditions were held at the beginning of the semester.  

Ruth said “Our Town” is widely considered one of the greatest American plays ever written and shows the life of the small-town Grovers’ Corners in New Hampshire. The production largely focuses on two families, their children, and their daily lives. It takes place in 1901 and shows 12 years of life in a small town throughout the scenes.  

“The whole point of the play is finding appreciation in life and not taking life for granted,” Ruth said.  

Ruth said he always tries to do something that’s important to the students and that leaves an impact resonating for years to come.  

“Simple but sweet. It gives our students the chance to work on really rooted realistic acting,” Ruth said. 

With the cast being in their sixth week of production, some of the actors have had to overcome challenges. Ruth specifically points out the narrator in the play, Zachary Chromy. One of Chromy’s biggest challenges was a three-to-five-page monologue he had to memorize.  

“The narrator, or stage manager, played by Zachary Chromy, does a fantastic job,” Ruth said. “We knew that whoever was going to do that would have to be charming. The narrator has to be able to connect with the audience.”  

In addition to the narrator’s challenges, an overall challenge for the cast was doing a lot of prep work to figure out who their characters were. Ruth said that finding more psychologically realistic aspects of the characters is sometimes a difficult process. 

Courtney Ullarich, the technical stage manager for the production, oversees helping with line keys, blocking, calling cues and more. Her perspective of “Our Town” is similar to Ruth’s in that it takes viewers on an emotional journey and puts life into perspective.  

Ullarich said the production of “Our Town” is similar to the board game “the Game of Life” in a way that it goes through all of the stages of life: the happy moments and the sad moments, not just one or the other.  

“I’m excited just to see people’s reactions,” Ullarich said. “It takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, starting off very happy, and by the third act, most of the actors are crying. And they’ve read it multiple times.”  

After being involved in the backstage work of putting the play together, Ullarich has found her favorite parts about theater and this production specifically.  

“There’s always something different. That’s what I love about theater,” Ullarich said. “Every new position or role I take on is a refreshing start.”  

Ullarich loves the feeling of accomplishing something and being able to do that again and again. The other students in theater that she works with makes it even more enjoyable.  

Ullarich and Ruth are both passionate about theater and encourage other students to join if they’ve been wanting to try theater specifically, or just something new. From his nearly four years of teaching theater at WSC, Ruth has come up with advice for students thinking about joining theater or auditioning for a play.  

“Just get yourself out there. When you’re in college, it’s the time to try anything,” Ruth said. “We welcome anybody and we make it painless.”  

Ruth said it’s a very inviting group and if anything, feels more like a small, close family overall.