Panel Discussion: Is “Our Town” Our Town?

Thornton Wilder wrote his first play 100 years ago while a student at Thacher School.Free public event: Thornton Wilder at Thacher

Dec. 15 at 2 p.m.

The very talented Mark Lewis made the compelling case in the Summer OQ that Thornton Wilder’s inspiration for “Our Town” was based on his experiences as a Thacher  School student in 1913, and very real people he knew in what was then called Nordhoff.  Here’s the description of a panel discussion about that very intriguing concept:

Thornton Wilder’s classic play “Our Town” is set in a fictional New England village called Grover’s Corners, which Wilder based on the real-life town of Peterborough, N.H. But a case can be made that the original model for Grover’s Corners was not Peterborough but Ojai – or rather, Nordhoff. That was our town’s name back in 1913 when Wilder made his theatrical debut in the Outdoor Theater at The Thacher School, where he was a student that year. One hundred years later, Thacher will host a panel discussion in that same theater on Dec. 15 from 2 to 3 p.m., to explore the historic connections between our town and “Our Town.” The public is invited to this free event.

Mark Lewis, an Ojai Quarterly contributing editor, will moderate the discussion. Lewis traced Wilder’s Ojai roots for OQ readers in his Summer 2013 article “Our Town Revisited.” (The article can be read here: http://ojaihistory.com/our-town-revisited-an-extravaganza-in-three-acts/.)

Other panelists will include:

*The distinguished actress (and Ojai resident) Kitty Winn, who won the best actress award at Cannes in 1971 for “The Panic in Needle Park.” Kitty played Emily in an all-star 1968 production of “Our Town” with Henry Fonda as the Stage Manager. (See the current issue of the OQ for Lewis’s profile of Winn.)

*John Slade, who recently retired as the head of Nordhoff High School’s Drama Department. John has directed “Our Town” at the Ojai Art Center and acted in the play at Libbey Bowl. (See Slade’s comments in the current OQ about how “Our Town” transformed his view of the world when he first encountered the play in the ninth grade.)

*Jake Jacobsen, the head of Thacher’s English Department, who directed the school’s recent production of Wilder’s play.

*Craig Walker, noted expert on Ojai history, who serves on the Ojai Valley Museum board.

Event date: Sunday, Dec. 15.

Time: 2 to 3 p.m.

Location: The Outdoor Theater at The Thacher School, 5025 Thacher Road, Ojai. (If the weather is inclement, we’ll move the event inside to the Study Hall in Thacher’s historic “Old Main” building, near the library.)





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