“When I reread it, I remembered that it says something incredibly profound about the things we all share,” Ms. Frankcom explained. “It speaks about the things – little things and big things – that everybody encounters in life.”
Her production, which began performances in mid-September, combines a professional cast with a community chorus of local residents – teenagers, parents and pensioners. It’s an attempt to put the city itself onstage, inviting Mancunians to see their town in “Our Town.”
On the surface, Wilder’s play might seem an odd choice. Though it’s a syllabus staple in American high schools, a Pulitzer Prize winner regularly staged by amateur drama clubs, “Our Town” isn’t particularly well-known in Britain. Moreover, the lives it depicts feel a long way away – historically, geographically and, indeed, culturally – from modern-day Manchester.
For Ms. Frankcom, however, the distance serves to highlight the similarities. Wilder himself was writing about a way of life 30 years earlier. “He described it as looking into a microscope through a telescope,’’ she explained. “The further away the telescope is, while still picking up detail and specificity, the more it allows you to see some beautiful, truthful things about how we all live.”
To that end, Ms. Frankcom is leaving the connection unspoken, and the text will remain unchanged. However, with British company members retaining their native accents, Ms. Frankcom hopes audience members will see the two towns as one: a Grover’s Corners populated with Mancunians.
And the casting is deliberately diverse, with the Stage Manager – our guide to the town – played by Youssef Kerkour, a British-Moroccan actor of Muslim faith, who moved to New York at 18.
Mr. Kerkour welcomes the responsibility: “Islam’s in the news in a negative way all the time. The discourse around it has been hijacked on both sides — by those committing atrocities and…