Many books, movies, and plays have a writer who sometimes provides an additional perspective. This is often called a narrator. But in Our Town, it is called the Stage Management. Thornton Wilder’s epic play, The Stage Manager, acts as a narrator. Because of the vast amount of information he offers to the audience, he is the most important role in the play. It helps viewers to understand and put the play in perspective.
The Stage Manager introduces Grover’s Corners as a small New Hampshire town at the start of the play. The main reason this character is so important is that he introduces its setting. The actor explains to the audience that “The First Act” is a story about a day in a small town. It is now May 7, 1901. It is just past dawn. The sky is starting lighten up behind our mount’in, in the East. The audience wouldn’t be able understand the scenes if they didn’t have a Stage Manager to guide them. The introductions to each scene provide vital information to the audience so that they can understand Our Town and have a clear mental picture. The second scene gives an audience a visual representation of Gover’s Corners. It’s 1904. It’s morning, but it’s still raining. It’s been thundering and pouring. Mrs. Gibbs’ garden and Mrs. Webb are both flooded. All those beans poles and peavines: drenched. Yesterday, it looked like rain was blowing over Main Street” (Wilder 47). The Stage Manager is the most important character, especially for the audience. The Stage manager’s descriptions of the scene transitions would make it difficult for the scenes to change. The Stage Manager is a prominent character because he foreshadows events throughout the play. In the first scene, Joe Crowell Junior is delivering papers. The Stage Manager then has a conversation. Joe later confesses that he was going to be an engineer and how smart he was. “Mrs. Gibbs died in France” was also shared by the Stage manager. Gibbs actually died long ago. She’s there in the cemetery now -in the company of a whole bunch of Gibbses, Herseys,” preparing the audience for her final act with Emily Wilder 7.
The Stage Manager, in addition to foreshadowing the story, is a valuable resource for the audience. He speaks about people and things that are not directly relevant to the main characters. However, this helps build a sense of community and a history. In the first scene, he discusses Doc Gibbs’ case. “The only lights in town are in a cottage by the tracks where an Polish mother’s just given twins.” This shows his knowledge of the entire town. The Stage Manager introduces Professor Willard from Our Town University and Grover’s Corner Sentential Editor, Mr. Webb to inform the audience about the towns history. The audience is briefed by Mr. Webb about the general breakdown of the town. He explains that all males can vote at twenty-one. Women vote indirect. We are lower middle-class: there is a small number of professionals and ten percent of illiterate workers. We’re eighty-six% Republicans; six percent Democrats; four percent Socialists; the rest are indifferent. We are eighty-five percent Protestants, twelve percent Catholics, and rest, indifferent. The Stage manager acknowledges his town knowledge and explains that “in our town we like facts about everybody” (Wilder7). Once again, the Stage Manager’s extensive background information is a testament to his importance. It gives the audience a valuable insight into the town.
One final reason why the Stage Manager is so important in this play, it’s because he draws the audience into his play and helps them to understand the deeper messages of Our Town. The play’s main message is that people tend to take life as a given while they live, and then when they die they realize how much they have wasted their lives sulking about the trivialities of life. Emily is the main character, and she is assisted by the Stage Manager. The Stage Manager tells Emily that she can go back in time and relive her best memories. You see what they don’t know. The future is yours. You can see the future” (Wilder 99).
Due to his helpful information provided to the audience throughout production, the Stage manager proves to be the most significant character in Our Town. He provides a history and foreshadowing of future events, as well as general support to the audience. This is a great example of how important the Stage Manager’s role is. The Stage Manager would have made the play difficult to understand for the audience.