Lesson Plan

Thornton Wilder's Our Town: The Reader as Writer

Portrait of Thornton Wilder
Photo caption

Portrait of Thornton Wilder, as Mr. Antrobus in "The Skin of Your Teeth," by Carl Van Vechten (August 18, 1948).

"I'm grown up. I love you all, everything.—I can't look at everything hard enough."

—Emily, Act III, Our Town

When we ask students to read plays, we should also be reminding them that the words on the page are only a part of the whole. A play is also its use of stage space: its set and props, its bodies on the stage, and the drama of those bodies interacting physically and emotionally. Letting students stage a production foregrounds all those extra-literary components. Similarly, this project can reinforce the full experience of a play by having students create their own play, or a few scenes of their own, out of theatrical elements of their device. Students pause at various intervals in their study of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, to develop their own settings, characters, and conflicts.

Guiding Questions

How can writing drama while reading drama enrich both experiences?

Learning Objectives

Examine how theatrical elements contribute to a play's meanings and effects.

Analyze the differences between the theatrical genre and fiction and poetry.

Apply theatrical elements to the creation of an original scene or playwriting.