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"Our Town" Plot Summary: Act One

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Written by Thorton Wilder, Our Town explores the lives of people living in a small, quintessentially American town. It was first produced in 1938 and received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

The play is divided into three aspects of the human experience:

ACT ONE: Daily Life

ACT TWO: Love / Marriage

ACT THREE: Death / Loss

Act One:
The Stage Manager, serving as the play’s narrator, introduces the audience to Grover’s Corners, a small town in New Hampshire. The year is 1901. In the early morning only a few folks are about. The paperboy delivers papers. The milkman strolls by. Dr. Gibbs has just returned from delivering twins.

Note: There are very few props in Our Town. Most of the objects are pantomimed.

The Stage Manager arranges a few (real) chairs and tables. Two families enter and begin pantomiming breakfast.

The Gibbs Family:

  • Dr. Gibbs: Hardworking, soft-spoken, disciplined.
  • Mrs. Gibbs: The Doctor’s wife. She believes her husband is overworked and should take a vacation.
  • George: Their son. Energetic, friendly, sincere.
  • Rebecca: George’s little sister.

The Webb Family:

  • Mr. Webb: Runs the town’s newspaper.
  • Mrs. Webb: Strict but loving to her children.
  • Emily Webb: Their daughter. Bright, hopeful and idealistic.
  • Wally Webb: Her younger brother.

Throughout the morning and the rest of the day, the townspeople of Grover’s Corner eat breakfast, work in town, do household chores, garden, gossip, go to school, attend choir practice, and admire the moonlight.

Here are some of Act One’s more compelling moments:

Dr. Gibbs calmly chastises his son for forgetting to chop firewood. When George has tears in his eyes, he hands him a handkerchief and the matter is resolved.

Simon Stimson, the church organist, leads the church choir while intoxicated. He staggers home drunk and deeply troubled. The constable and Mr. Webb try to assist him, but Stimson wanders away. Webb wonders how the man’s sorry situation will end, but decided there is nothing to be done about it.

Emily Webb and George Gibbs sit at their windows (according to the stage directions, they are perched on ladders). They talk about algebra and the moonlight. Their words are mundane, perhaps, but their fondness for each other is obvious.

Rebecca tells her brother a funny story about a letter Jane Crofut received from a minister. It was addressed:

Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.

Act One ends with the Stage Manager tell the audience: “That’s the end of the First Act, friends. You can go and smoke now, those that smoke.

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