‘Our Town’ presents challenges, opportunities for production crew

BRIA GRANVILLE | Staff Photographer
Jenny Kennedy is the stage production manager of Chautauqua Theater Company.

Jenny Kennedy is the stage production manager of Chautauqua Theater Company.

“When the auditorium is in complete darkness, he speaks.”

These are among the first set of instructions playwright Thornton Wilder provides for the stage manager in Our Town. In the Chautauqua Theater Company production of the play, which opens at 2:15 p.m. Saturday in Bratton Theater, they’re directions for Manu Narayan.

“When we think of stage manager, I think, we think of stage management, which is the real hero of our production,” Narayan said. “The behind-the-scenes, the ones who organize everything, make every cue, every light that you see, every sound cue that you hear and every set piece that you are managing — they get them on and off stage.”

While Narayan only plays the onstage role of the stage manager, Jenny Kennedy is CTC’s actual production stage manager. This is Kennedy’s ninth summer with CTC, and she is handling Our Town and Henry V.

Kennedy started off as a stage management intern, moved her way up the ladder to the assistant stage management position, and finally to the production stage manager.

Like most of the Our Town team, Kennedy had a different experience working on the play.

Our Town is work like I have never done, in a theater like I have never worked in,” Kennedy said. “I have been working in [Bratton] for years, and I walk in and it never fails to surprise me.”

Having never read the play or worked on a production of it before, Kennedy was all set to put her best foot forward when it came to keeping track of all the costumes props, documenting movement and doing everything necessary to keep everybody on the same page.

“My elevator speech about stage management is that they are the communication hub of the production,” Kennedy said.

While Kennedy manages the movement of actors and props alike, Lee Savage brings the space to life with his set design.

This is Savage’s eighth season with the CTC, and he has done more than a dozen shows, including Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest last year.

Our Town came with its challenges for Savage.

“It’s a play with minimal scenery and everything is conjured by the stage manager to be in the audience’s imagination,” Savage said. “As a set designer, being asked to design a show with no scenery was the biggest obstacle.”

But that was also the fun part, he said: to do something he has never done before, in a space that is familiar to him. He has long admired the interior and architecture of the building and was always keen on planting the action right in the middle of it.

“We have completely changed the configuration of the theater,” Savage said. “Our Town was written for a proscenium theater, but we felt like this production and the Bratton Theater could be really exciting if we made it feel more like one room, like a community experience for the audience.”