Oak Park version of Our Town coming to theaters near you

OP thespian Kevin Bry spent a year bringing local historical figures to life in a play that celebrates diversity and openness.

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By DREW CARTER

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Well if not, in Oak Park they can at least go see the
play.

Oak Parker Kevin Bry has written Our Village?#34;a take-off on Thorton Wilder's Our Town?#34;that relates the history of Oak Park from early settlers through integration.

"History is not a real easy thing to market because people see it as a dry subject," said Bry, who is also producing and acting in the play. "What we're doing is anything but dry."

Bry said he's worked on the script over the past year.

The one-act play runs about an hour and features a narrator (like Our Town) overseeing a series of scenes. Minor costuming helps bring the audience into the era of each scene, acted by an ensemble cast. Most of the cast is onstage for most scenes, Bry said.

The cast is composed of professional actors, community members and students. "It's a real collective effort," Bry said.

Bry said the play has two themes, dealing with the "experiment" of integration in Oak Park and how people deal with each other when they come together. It "takes pride in our efforts at openness," while celebrating "our interesting and fun and fascinating history as a community," he said.

Characters will occasionally "break the fourth wall" and speak directly to the audience, Bry said.

Bry used Our Town as a "muse," calling the piece the "most lyrical play in American theater." He said Our Village will be adaptable for community group readings, or to be added to as history happens.

The play will premiere in abridged performances at both Oak Park middle schools on Jan. 13 and 14, before opening at Oak Park and River Forest High School's Studio Theatre for public performances Jan. 21 through 23. Net proceeds from the performances will go to the Oak Park Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau, the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, and a scholarship at OPRF.

Frank Lipo helped with historical accuracy, BRAVO! director Sue Lindberg helped with the schools adaptation, while director Annie Slivinski "really helped it come to life," Bry said.

Each show will feature a post-show discussion.

"It's been a fun project. I truly believe people will learn more about Oak Park history than they ever thought they could," Bry said, adding that the play would be equally enjoyable for those who already know Oak Park history, as they'll get to see the characters come to life. But Bry guarantees that everyone will learn something new.

? Our Village performances will run the weekend of Jan. 21 through 23, with discussions of the play to follow each night. For tickets and show times call 383-7400.

Contact: dcarter@wjinc.com

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