December 7, 2012

Pioneer production prepares to take stage

by Amie Sites

— Lights dimmed as Dan McDonald, co-director of Pioneer’s production of “Our Town,” said he wanted the Tuesday night dress rehearsal to run as if it were a performance and he didn’t want people to miss cues.

“Normally I am nervous at this point in the process of production, but you all are ready,” McDonald said to students on stage.

Pioneer High School prepares to present “Our Town,” which was written 75 years ago by Thornton Wilder, who received a Pulitzer Prize for this drama.

“Some of the direct references in the play are somewhat dated,” McDonald said. “But the themes are timeless.”  

“Our Town” is introduced and narrated by the Stage Manager, who welcome the audience to the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, McDonald said. The audience will witness through the Gibbs and Webb families the full spectrum of human existence, from birth to marriage to parenthood to death, McDonald said. This play, directed by McDonald and Carolyn Davis, includes students from eighth grade through seniors and three adults.

Chandler Swartzell, a junior playing Stage Manager, has been involved with Pioneer theater since he was a seventh grader and he wants to major in business and theater.

“I am basically the story teller of the show,” Swartzell said of his character.

Eighth grader Matt Williams is the youngest student performing in the play on Saturday and Sunday. Williams said this will be his first play at Pioneer High School, but he has had a lot of experience acting which makes him not become nervous.

“I like the rapport in acting,” Williams said. “In this specific play my character is a normal kid who grows up and gets married. My wife dies and the audience gets to see how I my character reacts.”

McDonald said “Our Town” is reported to be the most produced play in the United States. He said the play addresses life’s issues including the drive for companionship, the transience of human life, natural cycles and the inevitable advance of time.

Emilio Garelli, a foreign exchange student playing Howie Newsom, said even though he has never acted before he doesn’t get nervous.

“I wanted to meet people and try something new,” Garelli said. “It has been fun.”

Junior Ashley Galbreath, playing Emily Webb, agreed the experience is fun.

“All the people involved are a family,” Galbreath said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better director and cast.”

McDonald said the play is very difficult because it’s different from anything the students have done before.

McDonald said there are barely any props and it’s a different set they are used to.

“This has been an incredible group of kids,” McDonald. “They’ve been working really hard and they’re ready to go.”

McDonald, who has been involved with theater at Pioneer for 10 years, said they are also using three adults in the play. McDonald will be playing the role of Constable Warren and two alumni, Ben Colsten and Eric Calloway, agreed to step in to the roles of Frank Gibbs and Simon Stimson.

McDonald are also involved. Colsten has helped direct the play.

McDonald said because of the students’ hard work and preparedness, they have had the opportunity to talk about what’s going on in the storyline of the play and why Wilder did what he did.

“These kids make my life sane,” McDonald said. “It’s been an absolute joy to work with them.”

Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or


Stage Manager: Chandler Swartzell

Emily Webb: Ashley Galbreath

George Gibbs: Matt Williams

Frank Gibbs: Ben Colsen (Adult)

Julia Gibbs: Kristen Breedlove

Charles Webb: Josh Roller

Myrtle Webb: Sarah Lassiter

Simon Stimson: Eric Calloway (Adult)

Howie Newsom: Emilio Garelli

Rebecca Gibbs: Jessica Lawrance

Wally WEbb: Coen Nies

Professor Willard: Gabbie Dunlap

Mrs. Soames: Kelly McKaig

Constable Warren: Dan McDonald (Adult)

Samantha (Sam) Craig: Jessica Lawrance

Want to go?

Who: Pioneer High School

What: production of “Our Town”

Where: Pioneer High School auditorium

When: Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Why: Join the cast and crew at Pioneer High School auditorium for the nostalgic trip through small town America.