Our Town

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Stage Manager Character Analysis

The stage manager begins and concludes the play, and coordinates it throughout all three acts. He is both part of the world of Grover’s Corners and outside of it: he describes himself as a resident of the town and acts as various townspeople such as Mr. Morgan and the minister at Emily and George’s wedding, but he is also conscious of Our Town as a play. This odd combination of perspectives is especially notable when he decides to include a copy of Our Town in the town’s time capsule, as he refers to the very play in which he himself is a character. The stage manager is the main device through which Thornton Wilder breaks the fourth wall in the play, as he often speaks directly to the audience. From his perspective outside the world of Grover’s Corners, the stage manager can also communicate with deceased characters in Act Three, and he is the one who takes Emily back in time to relive her twelfth birthday.

Stage Manager Quotes in Our Town

The Our Town quotes below are all either spoken by Stage Manager or refer to Stage Manager. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Theater Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Perennial edition of Our Town published in 2003.
Act 1 Quotes

This play is called “Our Town.” It was written by Thornton Wilder; produced and directed by A. ... In it you will see Miss C. ...; Miss D. ...; Miss E. ...; and Mr. F. ...; Mr. G. ...; Mr. H. ...; and many others.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

With these opening lines, the Stage Manager immediately knocks down the "fourth wall" by addressing the audience directly: although we come to see that he is also embedded in the world of Grover's Corners as a character, here, he is introducing the play Our Town as a piece of fictional art, as something created rather than plainly real, and he references here not the characters in the play but the names of the director and actors who are performing it. (Although the actual director and actors in the play are not, of course, named "A." or "Miss D.", etc., thus adding an even a further playful layer to the idea of theater and what is and isn't "real.")

Furthermore, the ellipses that follow the names of each of the actor's names in this introduction suggest a sense of universality regarding the story that is to come: one gets the sense that any names can be inserted here; as much as the events of Our Town are unique experiences of the characters involved, they are also, on some level, shared human experiences.

The Stage Manager is, in fact, inviting us to identify with and insert ourselves into this narrative. It is, after all, our narrative. This explains perhaps why the play so often breaks the fourth wall -- there is no need for the fourth wall in a play that is asserting that the experiences relayed in fiction and art are no different than that of reality.  

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There’s some scenery for those who think they have to have scenery.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Not only does the set-up of the play's stage arrangements happen explicitly in front of audience members—in another act of breaking down the fourth wall—but the setup itself is purposefully minimal. With only a few furnishings to represent the Gibbs' and Webb's respective houses on an otherwise bare set, the actors must rely largely on pantomime.

In these lines, the Stage Manager acknowledges this minimalism in a way that suggests that any scenery whatsoever is nonessential, and the inclusion of these pieces is done as a favor to audiences who mistakenly "think they have to have scenery." On the one hand, the lack of scenery adds a layer of hyper-reality to the play. The bare stage creates intimacy between the audience and art, giving viewers the sense that there is nothing that defines our lives as distinct from lives unfolding on the stage. In other words, truth doesn't need a backdrop of extensive props and setting. Rather, it stands alone.

However, in addition and in contrast to this hyper-reality, the lack of scenery also reassures the viewers that what they’re seeing is, on some level, still fictional. This is particularly true in the actors’ pantomiming: we are, after all, watching them pretend the contents of Grover’s Corners are tangible and real. The blurred sense of fiction and reality is a common thread throughout the play.  

Nice town, y’know what I mean? Nobody very remarkable ever come out of it, s’far as we know.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

The Stage Manager's assessment of Grover's Corners as a "nice town" populated with unremarkable people adds to the play's emphasis on the everyday and the ordinary. The fact that Grover's Corners has not produced any notable or extraordinary people does not function here as a critique of the community, and instead suggests that this is a town that values the little things, so to speak, a place that doesn't need anything overtly sensational to be a pleasant place to live.

On another level, the embracing of the town's apparent ordinariness also hints at the cyclical nature of life here. In the Stage Manager's assertion that the place has not given rise to any remarkable people "s'far as we know" is the sense that the town produces the same kind of people over and over again. There is a set norm, one traditional type of people, and no one outside of that. While it is positive that the town values the ordinary (after all, so much of life falls into the ordinary category) their stagnation and contentedness also highlights the negative elements of tradition and tightly-knit community. 

In our town we like to know the facts about everybody.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

In the insular community that is Grover’s Corners, the Stage Manager’s statement works to reinforce the intimacy between the people who live here. As in any small town, curiosity over the lives of others reigns strong, and privacy is nearly impossible.

And yet, despite all the neighborly curiosity, Grover’s Corners is not to be misunderstood as gossipy—far from it. The people here, the stage manager insists, are keen on the truth, desiring to know only “the facts about everybody.”

In a community where legacy and history are held in high esteem, this desire for facts and truth is unsurprising, and gives the characters a sense of legitimacy and reliability when they relay memories about the town and its past.

Want to tell you something about that boy Joe Crowell there. Joe was awful bright—graduated from high school here, head of his class. So he got a scholarship to Massachusetts Tech. Graduated head of his class there, too. It was all wrote up in the Boston paper at the time. Goin’ to be a great engineer, Joe was. But the war broke out and he died in France.—All that education for nothing.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker), Joe Crowell
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

From the Stage Manager’s brief account, it is evident that the late Joe Crowell was both an anomaly and a hero to Grover’s Corners. In a town of ordinariness, sameness, and tradition, Joe’s intelligence distinguished him from the rest—he was, in short, remarkable, in the way that almost no other residents are perceived.

Despite Joe’s bright future as an engineer, the Stage Manager’s blunt explanation of his untimely death during the war suggests that, although glamorous at face value, being remarkable and distinguishing oneself from the pack is ultimately a futile pursuit.

We all arrive at the same end—death—and because we are all eventually equalized this way, our lifelong efforts to stand out or achieve something different from the norm (for example, all of Joe’s efforts to become educated) are all “for nothing.” To feel fulfilled, it may as well be more valuable for us to be ordinary, and moreover, content with our ordinariness, than to grasp beyond. 

Y’know—Babylon once had two million people in it, and all we know about ’em is the names of the kings and some copies of wheat contracts... and contracts for the sale of slaves. Yet every night all those families sat down to supper, and the father came home from his work, and the smoke went up the chimney,—same as here. And even in Greece and Rome, all we know about the real life of the people is what we can piece together out of the joking poems and the comedies they wrote for the theatre back then.

So I’m going to have a copy of this play put in the cornerstone and the people a thousand years from now’ll know a few simple facts about us.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Time Capsule
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

In one of the play's most direct instances of breaking down the fourth wall, the Stage Manager declares he will put a copy of Our Town itself into the time capsule Grover's Corners is making, which is also set to contain newspapers and a copy of the Bible, among other things.

The time capsule is the product of the town's strong desire for continuity and preservation -- for its present to live on into the future -- and the Stage Manager justifies the choice to represent Grover's Corners with commonplace artifacts by critiquing the ancient civilizations of Babylon, Greece, and Rome: while all three of these ancient cities are unparalleled in fame and importance, our knowledge of how most of their population lived is scant and based entirely on inferences made from sources on other subjects. By including everyday artifacts, the Stage Manager insists upon the importance of the everyday and of the people who live everyday lives (as opposed to the idea that only the lives of the rich, famous, or powerful are worth preserving). 

However, his acknowledgement that the lives of the people he is documenting are in fact, elements of a play -- the play of Our Town -- blurs the line between fiction and reality. On the one hand, we might question if there's truth to what is being left behind for future generations if that "truth" is in a made-up play. On the other hand, the Stage Manager seems to be asserting that Art and Theater do contain deep truths, perhaps the deepest truths, in the way they can capture and present real feelings, real emotions, and real lives, even if those things are embodied in fictional characters.

Act 2 Quotes

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 married.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

The importance of marriage features strongly in Grover's Corners. Just as "almost everybody" in the broader world gets married, almost everybody n Grover's Corners does too. Marriage is the rule to which there are "hardly any exceptions." 

Conformity to marriage is one of the many examples of the significance of tradition within the community, On the one hand, the image of climbing into graves in married pairs may seem like sheep-like and negative in its conformity, but in fact, it also represents the genuine desire for companionship present in us all. No one wants to go through life alone, and the image of everyone climbing into their graves together insists upon the old adage that no one wants to die alone, either.  

The First Act was called the Daily Life. This act is called Love and Marriage. There’s another act coming after this: I reckon you can guess what that’s about.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

At the top of the Act II, the Stage Manager once again dissolves the fourth wall in a moment of bleak transparency with the audience: his outline of the play—from Daily Life, to Love and Marriage, to his dark, rhetorical hint that Death is slated to follow—effectively gives away the plot of the play and, arguably, peels back some of the narrative suspense.

Though the direct communication between the Stage Manager and audience highlights the fact that the play is fiction, his summary of the acts also intimates at reality. After all, our own lives might easily be summarized along the same, inevitable phases the Stage Manager is outlining here. In this sense, retaining narrative suspense or giving away the plot are moot points. Our own lives, despite being as finitely plotted as the characters of Grover’s Corners, are no less moving, devastating, or even surprising for all their innate predictability.

Here comes Howie Newsome delivering the milk. And there’s Si Cromwell delivering the papers like his brother before him.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker), Howie Newsome, Si Crowell
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

The Stage Manager's narration of routine milk and newspaper deliveries color, at the surface, the nature of everyday life in Grover's Corners. The faces and respective services of Howie and Si add to the sense of comforting predictability within the town; like every community, they are the staples so commonplace to us that we take them for granted.

Beneath the surface, however, the Stage Manager's observations also serve to convey the unbroken cycle of tradition in a town like Grover's Corners. Just as Howie and Si are always associated with the services they provide, the entire community is stagnant in their roles, status, and traditions. This is particularly true of his assessment of Si Cromwell, who delivers papers "like his brother before him." The sense of repetition -- one Cromwell newsboy followed by another -- might be easy and predictable, but it's also edged with a suffocating lack of change and mobility posed by such a long-established system. 

And now they’re bringing in these auto-mo-biles, the best thing to do is to just stay home. Why, I can remember when a dog could go to sleep all day in the middle of Main Street and nothing come along to disturb him.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker)
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

With his observation about the community turning more and more to "auto-mo-biles", the Stage Manager is once again cynical about the gradual urbanization of Grover's Corners. He suggests that the increase of cars make Grover's Corners a less desireable place to live.

Contrary to the notion that cars and transportation help connect people to each other, the Stage Manager disagrees. The cars and technology are, to him, nothing beyond disruptive (as with the example of the dog who used to peacefully be able to sleep on Main Street) and thus encourage people to stay at home—weakening community rather than building it.

While cars do, without doubt, change the lifestyle of Grover's Corners' residents, these changes go hand-in-hand with the changing times. That the Stage Manager looks down upon modernization is an example of the more negative and stubborn effects of being traditional. There must also be a level of adaptability, of openness to change, to both move forward and simultaneously honor the old way. 

Act 3 Quotes

This time nine years have gone by, friends—summer 1913.
Gradual changes in Grover’s Corners. Horses are getting rarer.
Farmers coming into town in Fords.
Everybody locks their house doors at night. Ain’t been any burglars in town yet, but everybody’s heard about ’em.
You’d be surprised, though—on the whole, things don’t change much around here.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker)
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

In his preface to the final act of the play, the Stage Manager makes note of gradual but notable changes that have occurred in Grover's Corners. We can tell from observations like more automobiles—even among farmers—and fewer old-fashioned means of transportation, like horses, that this reflects the increasing urbanization of the small town. 

The other gradual and yet significant change can be seen with the town's changing behavior with security. As opposed to the previous feel of Grover's Corners as a town of no privacy, where everyone knows about everything about everyone, the locked doors betray a lack of openness, and the fear motivating this change—an unconfirmed fear of burglars—suggests that residents trust each other less these days, perhaps because they know less about one another. 

Though the Stage Manager concludes reflecting on how much has ultimately stayed the same in Grover's Corners, he understates the two seeds of change that are in fact, potentially drastic: urbanization and privacy. 

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Stage Manager Character Timeline in Our Town

The timeline below shows where the character Stage Manager appears in Our Town. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
The Theater Theme Icon
As the audience enters the theater, the stage manager places some tables and chairs on an otherwise empty stage, as well as a bench.... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
The Everyday and the Ordinary Theme Icon
The stage manager shows the audience the layout of the city on the stage—almost none of which is... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
...give birth to twins. Mrs. Gibbs walks into her kitchen and begins preparing breakfast. The stage manager tells the audience that Dr. Gibbs died in 1930, long after Mrs. Gibbs had died... (full context)
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
The stage manager tells the audience that Joe graduated high school at the top of his class and... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
The stage manager interrupts the women’s conversation and announces that he wants to give more information about Grover’s... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
The Everyday and the Ordinary Theme Icon
The stage manager then invites Mr. Webb onto the stage to give the “political and social report” on... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
The Everyday and the Ordinary Theme Icon
The stage manager asks if anyone in the audience has any questions. A woman in the balcony of... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
The stage manager says that they will now return to the play. It is early afternoon, kids have... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
...she is “pretty enough for all normal purposes,” but dismisses the question as silly. The stage manager interrupts their conversation, telling them that he wants to offer the audience some more information... (full context)
The Everyday and the Ordinary Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
The stage manager explains some recent developments in Grover’s Corners. A new bank is being built and they’ve... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
As the stage manager finishes his speech, a choir partially off-stage has begun to sing a song called “Blessed... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
The Everyday and the Ordinary Theme Icon
...America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.” The stage manager announces that the first act of the play is now over. (full context)
Act 2
Community Theme Icon
The Everyday and the Ordinary Theme Icon
Marriage and the Family Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
The stage manager announces that three years have passed since act one. He says that the first act... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
Mrs. Webb returns and tells George to leave so Emily can come eat breakfast. The stage manager then interrupts and tells the audience that he wants to show them how George and... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
Emily and George enter the local drugstore, where the stage manager plays Mr. Morgan, the owner of the store. He notices that Emily looks upset and... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
...embarrassingly doesn’t have any money on him to pay for the ice cream sodas. The stage manager (still “Mr. Morgan”) trusts George to go get money from home and bring it back.... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
Marriage and the Family Theme Icon
The stage manager says that he will play the minister at the wedding. He speaks about the importance... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
The Everyday and the Ordinary Theme Icon
The stage manager says that he’s performed hundreds of marriages, and that “once in a thousand times it’s... (full context)
Act 3
The Theater Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
...Stimson, Mrs. Soames, and Wally Webb, all dead, go on-stage before the act begins. The stage manager finally begins the act, announcing that nine years have gone by since act two. (full context)
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
The stage manager describes some of the changes coming to Grover’s Corners. Cars are replacing horses on the... (full context)
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
The stage manager talks about the cemetery and points out the older gravestones from the 17th century, as... (full context)
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
...and relive her life. Mrs. Gibbs says she can, but advises her not to. The stage manager tells her that it is painful because if she relives her life, she will watch... (full context)
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
Emily tells the stage manager that she can’t go on reliving her life, because “it goes so fast. We don’t... (full context)