A student perspective on Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin Of Our Teeth” and the rehearsal process
The energy for this show is fantastic, and I certainly have grown to love this play tremendously from when I first read it. The ensemble plays a very important role in setting the stage for wherever the Antrobuses find themselves next. As a student, this play is a great opportunity to explore new and different thoughts and ideas.
Unlike many of the plays that I have participated in in the past, The Skin of Our Teeth is unique in its ability to both amuse and confuse as it makes little to no sense upon first glance. The play exists in every single time ( all at once!), introducing biblical and historical figures such as Adam and Eve, Cain, Homer, and Moses, with their corresponding stories (Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark/The Great Flood, etc.). The play exists in a “time loop.” The characters reconstruct their world after each new disaster, continuing on in their lives as before, never altering from the most essential parts of their beings. As if that weren’t enough, it is a “play within a play,” with several of the characters on stage breaking character in response to a multitude of variables (getting yelled at by the stage manager, for one!).
We came together as an ensemble as we worked our way through intricate staging and discovering who these people are, what they mean to the play, and: why-on-earth-did-Thornton-Wilder-feel-the-need-to-include-mammoths-and-Homer-in-the-same-scene? We did a lot of great group exercises to strengthen our feeling of unity as a whole and give us the perspective of our characters as they work their way through the ice age, flood, and war.
While often difficult to understand, we teased through each issue that was brought up during rehearsal. We often asked strange questions in order to better understand the varied meanings behind each scene. I can honestly say that I’ve never before wondered how Moses knows Jingle Bells, or how dinosaurs feel about it being cold outside. But that’s just the beauty of this play. This show is weird and funny, but in the end, it is a beautiful narrative of the (often hilarious) aspects of human nature that we might not always recognize. According to Wilder’s character Lily Sabina, we are “Always beginning again! Over and over again.”
I think I speak for the rest of the actors, crew members, and various important people to the process when I say that we hope you’re as delightedly confused as we were when we first read the script! (A good sense of humor is also welcome.)
The Skin Of Our Teeth will be performed in Franklin Theater on April 26, 27, and 28 at 7:00 p.m. Entry is free. The play is appropriate for middle-school-aged children and older. There is one intermission.
Poster artwork by Eliza Goodwin: