|The famous bells and steeples towering
On Wednesday night, I went to see a performance of Our Town in the Green-Wood Cemetery. Yes, I understand how strange that might sound to those who’ve never been.
Green-Wood Cemetery is 478 acres and home to ponds, meandering paths, cherry blossom trees, and a final resting place for many prominent New York City residents. Now a National Historic Landmark, the park was first established in 1838 and was one of the first rural cemeteries in New York. It’s reputation for beauty attracted visitors by the thousands, and in the early 1860’s it was the second most popular vacation destination after Niagara Falls.
It also happens to be a historic site of the Revolutionary War and home to the Battle of Long Island. It is the highest elevation in Brooklyn, and if you look just the right way, you can spot the Statue of Liberty across the river.
It was a surprisingly appropriate venue for Our Town, a three act play by Thornton Wilder. Set in New Hampshire at the turn of the twentieth century, the play follows it’s characters throughout their lives, marriages, and eventually, deaths.
|A Brooklyn version of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town.|
In the final scene, one of the recently deceased characters ponders the choice of reliving one day in her life, but she has to relive it with the knowledge she now has. She chooses to go back to her twelfth birthday, and the scene that unfolds before her is very different from the memory she cherished.
I read Our Town in high school. I was bored by the residents of Grover’s Corners and the daily trials of minutia, but on Wednesday night I felt differently. The Green-Wood Cemetery added a looming element to the play’s heavy ending. As we watched the characters realize how fleeting life is, how once a moment passes it can never be recovered, the cemetery reiterated the message.
As we followed the candlelit path from the performance to the exit and listened to bells tolling in slow and steady rhythm, we felt incredibly haunted by all the moments that have already passed and very much alive.
Performances of Our Town will continue for the rest of June, with evening performances and even a few midnight showings.