It's "Our Town" in our town tonight
Laura Nation-Atchison/The Daily Home

Carter Hadley, left is George Gibbs and Grace Byrd, right, is his girlfriend, Emily Webb, in the local production of “Our Town,” with performances at 7 p.m. tonight  and Friday. Tickets are $3 for students and $5 for adults.
Tonight and Friday night bring a special opportunity to those who attend the production of “Our Town” at Talladega’s Ritz Theatre.

Not only will audiences familiarize themselves with the people of Grover’s Corners, N.H. in Thornton Wilder’s classic play.

Students from Talladega High School and Middle School are set to deliver the Pulitzer Prize winning play with performances will beginning at 7 p.m.

But this isn’t just any group of student actors, this is a group who has also worked to raise money to put on the show.

“They raised about $600 on their own,” said Georrge Culver, executive director for The Ritz Theatre and its governing body, Antique Talladega.

The students held a “Bake Sale and Jazz on the Square” event to help raise the money.

The Jemison-Carnegie Foundation of Talladega also provided funding for the production.

Culver said the play has great appeal to audiences of all ages.

“Our Town” is set in 1901 in a small town on New Hampshire. The plot revolves around two families – the Webbs and the Gibbs.

The romance between Emily Webb and George Gibbs results in a wedding and forever intertwines the two families. Grace Byrd and Carter Hadley star in the roles of Emily Webb and George Gibbs.

The play also uses an all-knowing stage manager to narrate the lives of the citizens of Grovers Corners played by Luke Smith.

Directing the play is 21-year-old Cody Carlton. Carlton is currently in his fifth season as CharACTers Theatre’s Artistic Director and President in Gadsden. Carlton was brought in by Culver to direct the production of “Our Town.”

Carlton says that he has truly enjoyed the experience.

“Working with these students has been truly fulfilling,” he said. “Watching them grow and learn from their first rehearsal has been the best part of this for me.”

Carlton is no newcomer to directing.

He began directing at the young age of 15 with his first show, Disney’s “The Jungle Book,” which received rave reviews and had a completely sold out run.

At 16, Carlton formed CharACTers Theatre in Gadsden. Over the past six years, he has directed more than 25 productions.

Some of his most recent directing credits include “Titanic the Musical,” “Ragtime,” and “Hairspray.”

“The true message behind this show is that life is something to savor,” Carlton said. “Enjoy your life and appreciate each person, thing, and experience that you are so fortunate to have. The play tells a story that everyone can feel a connection with because it is genuine. No games or gimmicks, just a real human experience.

“The stage manager puts it best when he says, ‘This is the way we were, in our growing up, and in our marrying, and in our living, and in our dying,’” Carlton said.

Tickets for “Our Town” will be available at The Ritz on the evenings of the two performances. Ticket prices are $5 for adults and $3 for students.

“Our Town” was originally performed in 1938, and has been the focus of countless productions since then. The play is known for its minimalist sets which help to draw the focus of the audience to the actors and their performances.

The cast of the Ritz production of “Our Town” is comprised entirely of students. Cast members include Luke Smith as the stage manager, Grace Byrd as Emily Webb, Carter Hadley as George Gibbs, Benjamin McKay as Mr. Webb, Cate Rasco as Mrs. Webb, Michael McKay as Wally Webb, Johnathan Matson as Dr. Gibbs, Noel Williamson as Mrs. Gibbs, Elizabeth Byrd as Rebecca Gibbs, Robert Byron as Professor Willard and the constable, William Shelby Layfield as Howie Newsome, Lexie Rasco as Mrs. Soames, Jordan Hallman as Joe Crowell, Brad Word as Simon Stimson, and Jesse Stackdale as the man in the audience.

The production would not be possible without the generous support of members of the Antique Talladega and the Historic Ritz Theatre, Carlton said.

Carlton began performing in community theatre at the age of 12 with his first role as The Artful Dodger in Lionel Bart’s “Oliver” and he has been hooked ever since.

He is currently in his fifth season as CharACTers Theatre’s Artistic Director and President.

He has performed in well over 50 productions playing such roles as Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet,” Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast,” and Emmett in “Legally Blonde the Musical.”

Carlton is also a full time college student and is majoring in English language arts with a focus in theatre.

He is engaged to Santana McKinney who currently serves as the director of the CharACTers Children’s Theatre.

Carlton and McKinney work as a production duo on many productions with Carlton as the director and McKinney as the choreographer.

Carlton would like to say a special “thank you” to all of the wonderful people of Talladega for supporting them in this huge endeavor.

His final comment to the group of young thespians is “break a leg!”

© 2012