The Stage Manager is a man of many roles. Usually a stage manager is part of the non-acting staff and in complete charge of the bodily aspects of the production. In Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, the Stage Manager goes well beyond his usual function in a play and undertakes a large role as a performer. In Our Town the Stage Manager is a narrator, moderator, philosopher, and an actor. Through these roles the Stage Manager is able to communicate the theme of universality in the play. The main role of the Stage Manager is that of narrator and moderator.
He keeps the play moving by capsule summations and ubtle hints about the future. I’ve married over two-hundred couples in my day. Do I believe in it? I don’t know? M. marries N. millions of them. The cottage, the go-cart, the Sunday-afternoon drives in the Ford, the first rheumatism, the grandchildren, the second rheumatism, the deathbed, the reading of the will-once in a thousand times it’s interesting”(699). Here the Stage Manager is giving insight about George and Emily’s future. He is hinting about their life and fate to come. “Goin’ to be a great engineer, Joe was. But the war broke out and he died in France. All hat education for nothing” (673).
The incidents discussed about are great events in George, Emily, and Joe’s lives. The Stage Manage emphasizes that the short things in these people’s lives are overlooked. There isn’t realization that it is the small parts of their lives that make a difference. His role as narrator differs from most narration. The Stage Manager’s narration shows casualness. The casualness connects the Stage Manager to the audience. “Presently the STAGE MANAGER, hat on and pipe in mouthhe has finished setting the stage and leaning against the right proscenium pillar atches the late arrivals in the audience. (671) The informality is evident since he smokes a pipe, wears a hat, and leans formally against the proscenium pillar. He also greets and dismisses the audience at the beginning and end of each act. The stage manager interrupts daily conversation on the street. The Stage Manager enters and leaves the dialog at will. He is also giving the foresight of death in the play. His informality in dress, manners, and speech, connects the theme, universality, of the production to the audience. His actions make the audience feel that he is a part of the audience.
It is as though he is “one of the guys” or one with the audience. Philosophy was also another of the Stage Managers avocations. His philosophies are about daily life, love and marriage and death. “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -every, every minute? (708) Every, every detail in one’s life has an impact. It effects life from that moment forward. Each detail impacts the whole universe. “Only this one is straining away, straining away all the time to make something of itself. The strain’s so bad that every sixteen hours everybody lies down and gets a rest”(709).
This philosophy on daily life is that every single detail matters and the living overlook the small things. People strain over the big things in life and do not take the time to enjoy the ordinary “small” events in life. “Almost everybody in the world gets married-you know what I mean? In our town there aren’t hardly any exceptions. Most everybody in the world climbs into their graves marriedPeople were made to live two by two” (696). His philosophy on love and marriage is traditional. He represents the feelings of a large population that do not want to live the single life.
This philosophy on love and marriage is universal, pertaining to many people. The Stage Manager takes this universal theory and relates it to one couple, in one place, in one period of time. “Now there is some things we all know, but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the starseverybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beingsYou know as well as I do that the dead don’t stay interested in us living people or very long.
Gradually, gradually, they lose hold of the earthand the ambitions they hadand the pleasures they hadand the things they sufferedand the people they loved” (701). The Stage Manager’s philosophy on death is unique. It is more of a philosophy on life than of death because the dead feel sorry for the living who cannot fully appreciate life. The living cannot see that every detail matters. Every detail has a universal effect. Our Town is based upon the Stage Manager’s philosophies. The Stage Manager is part of the community itself. He is an actor. He plays several minor roles throughout the play.
The significance of the Stage Manager taking on these roles is that anyone, any insignificant person who one meets on the street is important. In Act I, he plays a woman in the street whom George has accidentally bumped into while chasing a baseball. As Mrs. Forest, The Stage Manager says, “Go out and play in the fields, young man. You got no business playing baseball on Main Street”(679). Although it is the Stage Manager playing Mrs. Forest the character still has an impact over George’s actions. In Act II, he lays Mr. Morgan, the druggist and soda jerk. Mr. Morgan serves George and Emily while George proposes to Emily.
Such a small role has a large impact. The Stage Manager plays this part demonstrating that an insignificant person is involved in a large event. The Stage Manager also assumes the part of the minister who performs the marriage ceremony. In Act III he is Emily’s contact between the living and the dead. He presents the theme. The most minor person or episode makes an impression. The Stage Manager shows that the scope of Our Town is wider han just the daily events of several ordinary people in a small New Hampshire town in the early 1900’s. The name of the town is Grover’s Corner’s, New Hampshire-just across the Massachusetts line: latitude 42 degrees 40 minutes; longitude 70 degrees 37 minutes”(671).
The play begins in a particular place on a particular day at a precise moment. “There are the stars-doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky”(709) The play ends in space. Not a particular place. Not a particular moment. “we want to know how all this began-this wedding, this plan to spend a lifetime together. I’m awfully interested in how big things like that begin”(961). I’ve married over two-hundred couples in my day. Do I believe in it? I don’t know? M. marries N. millions of them”(699). The Stage Manager makes a general statement about an aspect of human nature and here can relate it to George and Emily. He presides at George and Emily’s wedding with the initial comment about the whole question of marriage. He discusses other aspects of weddings and refers to wedding customs in Rome. His remarks transcend to a particular place, Grover’s Corners, of the particular couple, George and Emily.
The Stage Manager puts Grover’s Corners in perspective with the rest of the world and ultimately the universe itself. The Stage Manager communicates the theme of universality through his narration, moderation, philosophies, and acting. The implication here is that there are many Grover’s Corners and countless characters like those in the play, who have, are, and will continue the cycles of daily life, love marriage, procreation, and eventually death. The name of the play itself is indicative of its universality; it is indeed our town and the human predicament which is its purpose.