Wilder directors: ‘God is in the details’

Directors from all over the world attended the “Directing Wilder” portion of the Thornton Wilder conference to discuss directing Thornton Wilder’s plays, including “Matchmaker” and “Our Town.”

A. Tappan Wilder, Thornton Wilder’s nephew and a panelist in the discussion, said, “‘Our Town’ is an international address, not just an American town.”

Directors Carl Forsman (Keen Company, New York), Irene Lewis (CENTERSTAGE, Baltimore) and Emily Mann (McCarter Theatre, Princeton, N.J.), discussed directing Wilder’s plays, from finding the right actors for the complex characters to interpreting his work on the stage.

“Matchmaker,” for example, was difficult because the delivery of lines could have the audience laughing or crying, depending on how the actors and audience experience the situation.

“God is in the details,” Forsman said.

Done the way Wilder intended, the plays come off as neither overly sentimental nor humorous, but the right mix of both. “Our Town” in particular has been difficult to produce because it requires a large number of actors. Still, many directors look forward to facing the challenge.

“I have to direct ‘Our Town’ before I die,” Mann said.

Mann, who was invited back to speak at the College about Wilder for a second time, said, “It was wonderful to get reconnected to Wilder.”

Tappan Wilder was also pleased with the Wilder Conference.

“It was an extraordinary experience,” he said.

Kristin Sowden, junior English secondary education major, agreed with the scholars.

She said, “It was a wonderful opportunity for the College.”