Our Town Act 1 part 1 Summary

     This play by Thornton Wilder is different than most other plays. It requires a great deal of pantomime due to the limited scenery and complete lack of props. The actors must take great care to pretend that they have the objects that they are carrying or using in the performance. The use of sound effects adds to the realism of missing items, such as animals. The play also employs a narrator, called the Stage Manager, who often speaks directly to the audience filling in background information about the play, but sometimes he steps in and plays the role of a character in the action briefly too. This character is also either from the future or can see the future because he often knows about events that haven't happened yet. The play is set up to appear true as if the play is describing an actual American town in the early 20th century.

     The play follows two families, the Gibbs and the Webbs, who live next door to one another. The Stage Manager starts the show by introducing the play itself and the actors who will be playing various roles. The name of the town is Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. The day of the first act is May 7, 1901. He points out the highlights of the town, such as the railroad, the churches, post office, and cemetery. Then he points out the house of Doctor Gibbs and his neighbor Editor Webb. The time is around 5:45 in the morning, and Dr. Gibbs is walking down Main Street, coming home from having delivered a baby. At this point the Stage Manager reveals that Doc Gibbs died in 1930. His wife actually died before him when she went to visit her daughter Rebecca and her husband in Ohio and caught pneumonia.

     Joe Crowell, Jr. comes walking down the street delivering Mr. Webb's newspaper, the Sentinel. Joe and Dr. Gibbs exchange pleasantries, and Joe tells the doctor that he's upset that his schoolteacher Miss Foster is getting married and leaving her job. The Stage Manager steps in and explains that Joe someday gets a scholarship to Massachusetts Tech where he graduated the head of his class, but then the war broke out, and he died in France.

     Next, Howie Newsome, the milkman, talks with Dr. Gibbs where Doc reveals that he just delivered twins for Mrs. Goruslawski. Then Mrs. Gibbs pokes her head out and says hello to Howie before she calls to her children to wake up for school. Mrs. Gibbs complains to her husband about how he doesn't get enough sleep before the scene jumps to the Webb house. Mrs. Webb is also calling to wake her two children, Emily and Wally, then it returns to Mrs. Gibbs who complains about how their son George thinks too much about baseball. George and Emily are both sixteen, while their younger siblings Wally and Rebecca are eleven. Mrs. Webb insists that her children not bring books to the table as it's more important to her that they are healthy than bright. The children can hear the school bell from their house, so they hurry to grab their things and leave.

     With their children gone, Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb both step outside to feed their chickens and string some beans. They chat while they work. Mrs. Webb mentions that her throat hurts, so she doesn't know if she'll be attending choir practice that evening. Mrs. Gibbs reveals that a secondhand furniture salesman came to the door and offered her three hundred and fifty dollars for her highboy. Myrtle Webb thinks Julia should take the money. Julia Gibbs would consider it if she thought her husband would take time off to go with her on a vacation to someplace like Paris. Instead they just visit Civil War battle sites every year. Eventually, the Stage Manager steps in and thanks the ladies and excuses them from the stage.

Related Links:

Our Town Act 1 part 1 Quiz
Our Town Act 1 part 2 Summary
Our Town Act 2 part 1 Summary
Our Town Summary
Our Town Quotes
Our Town Important Characters
Our Town Quiz
Literature Summaries

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