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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

In Tinmouth, Wilder's 'Our Town' Is A Family Affair

Some of the cast of "Our Town," including: Bruce Bouchard, Melissa Chesnut-Tangerman, Glenn Tarbell, Wheaton Squier, Marshall Squier, and front left to right, Megan Bouchard and Rainbow Squier.
Nina Keck
Some of the cast of "Our Town," including: Bruce Bouchard, Melissa Chesnut-Tangerman, Glenn Tarbell, Wheaton Squier, Marshall Squier, and front left to right, Megan Bouchard and Rainbow Squier.

Bruce Bouchard, Executive Director of the Paramount Theatre in Rutland is usually seen on that venue’s grand stage introducing the next act. But this Sunday and next weekend, Bouchard, his wife Kate and daughter Megan will be on a smaller stage with several other local acting families to put on a special workshop performance of “Our Town.”

All proceeds from the shows will benefit Theater in the Woods Vermont, a children’s theater camp based in Middletown Springs.

Bruce Bouchard and his wife Kate are both New York City theater veterans.

Kate is now the senior artist in residence at Skidmore College in Saratoga, New York. 

Before coming to the Paramount, Bruce Bouchard was the founder and former artistic director of the Capital Repertory Theater in Albany.

The Bouchards haven’t acted together in decades. But Bruce says having an opportunity to work with his wife, be directed by his daughter Megan and do it with Thorton Wilder’s classic play was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss.

“It’s my favorite play by far and away,” says Bouchard, adding, “It’s the finest philosophical tract ever written in American letters in my opinion.”

Thornton Wilder wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning play in 1938 about life in fictional Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire.

Bouchard says he was stunned to learn when one of his castmates brought in a first edition of the play, that it was dedicated to "Alexander Woollcott of Castleton Township, Rutland County, Vermont."

“I had an out of body experience when I saw that,” says Bouchard laughing, “I nearly fainted.”

Woollcott was a famous New York City theater critic in the early 1900s who spent the latter part of his life in a house on Neshobe Island in Lake Bomoseen, and who hobnobbed with friends like Dorothy Parker and the Marx Brothers.

Bouchard says it’s just one more reason to love Wilder’s play.

"It's birth, death and marriage and everything in between." — Bruce Bouchard, Director of the Paramount Theatre

“The cleanliness and the compression of his guts and his heart in this play it’s just astonishing. And he takes you all the way there!” adds Bouchard nodding.

“The first act, everyday life. The second act, love and marriage. And the third act?  Well I guess you can suppose what that’s about,” said Bouchard. “It’s birth, death, marriage and everything in between.”

As the play opens, Glenn Tarbell, who plays the stage manager, provides a simple introduction:

“The name of the town is Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire, just across the Massachusetts line. Latitude 42 degrees 40 minutes. Longitude 70 degrees, 30 minutes. The first act shows a day in our town. The day is May 7, 1901, the time just before dawn.”

Marshall Squier explains, “Its actually the life in a small town, not just the façade, not just the people walking out of church on Sunday. But this goes into their lives, what they do, they’re getting married and they’re courting and then people are dying and you’re going to funerals and it’s super intense.”

Squier lives in Tinmouth, a town of 600 people that he says is very much like Grover’s Corners.

"I think the lesson in this play is to slow down and pay attention to the people that we rely so heavily on and go beyond just swapping howdies." — Rainbow Squier, cast member of "Our Town"

He and his daughter, Rainbow Squier, play father and daughter in the play, which he says adds a sweet intensity to their scenes.

“The other night in practice, I couldn’t finish my lines, that’s how good she is,” he added proudly.

Rainbow Squier admits doing death scenes with her dad was hard, but she says they help underscore the poignant yet powerful message of “Our Town” that life is fleeting. 

“I think the lesson in this play is to slow down and pay attention to the people that we rely so heavily on and go beyond just swapping howdies,”

Director Megan Bouchard says that while she considers Thornton Wilder’s play timeless, she’s often felt like productions she’s seen of it have been too stylized and dated. So, she set out to change that.

“What Thorton Wilder wanted to do was create a piece of experimental, revolutionary theater so people walked into a Broadway stage and there was not a set and that had never happened so it’s antithetical to his vision that it gets trapped in this stylized form,” she explained.

“So I might get dragged across the coals for what I’ve done, which is stripping it down and having it very real and raw, but I feel I want to honor what he wanted to do.”

Bouchard says there’ll be no costumes, and their first show this Sunday will be at Tinmouth’s tiny old fire station.

Next weekend they’ll perform at the Federated Church of Castleton at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 21 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 22.

Megan Bouchard admits it’s been both wonderful and terrifying directing her parents. But she says having them in the play along with others she’s grown close to since moving to Vermont last year has been incredible.

“Oh, you have constant material,” she said, adding, “if you need to get in touch with your heart you just look across the room.”

Correction 8:55 a.m. 04/14/18 The audio version and an earlier web version of this report incorrectly identified the church where performance will be held.  Correct location is the Federated Church of Castleton.

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