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Wilder Memories

As a special treat this month on Front Page Friday, we have a guest blogger: Diane Mountford, Director, Actor, and close friend of Girl Friday writing her memories of the works of Thornton Wilder. We open The Matchmaker at the Park Square Boss Stage on Friday, July 10th. Enjoy!

The First Encounter

The first time I saw The Matchmaker, I needed to take a week-long trip, involving interstate travel. It was totally worth it, and I'd do it again, but am happy the only border I'll need to cross in July is that between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The summer before my Junior year in High School, I attended a week-long educational program at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Our small group of students from all across the Western U.S., saw all the shows currently in production, watched the amazing set changeover crew in action, attended acting class and generally had a great time. We also got treated to a lot of information about the ins and outs of the life of the festival. One of my favorite sessions was with OSF designer extraordinaire Bill Bloodgood, who gave us a tour of the design process, using as his point of discussion the set he was working on for the following season's production of The Matchmaker. I don't recall if I had read the play before the session, but I remember thinking that I needed to see that show.

So the following spring break, I hopped a train from L.A. and traveled to Ashland, where I booked Paul Barnes' couch (Paul was educational coordinator of OSF at the time, and had put together the program from my previous summer ... long before he came to Minnesota to help found the Great River Shakespeare Festival), and went to see the finished version of Bill's set ... peopled by many of my favorite actors from the shows I'd seen the summer before. It was a wonderful production ... well worth the "pudding" of my trip.

***Side Note: if you are unfamiliar with my use of "pudding" in this context, it's a sure sign you need to see this play.

Wilder Revisted

The summer after that spring break, I went to the Cherubs program at Northwestern University, where I was cast as Ma Kirby (no relation to Kirby Bennett, that I know of) in Thornton Wilder's one act The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden. The insightful direction of that show gave me an appreciation for how Wilder can open up an entire idea in a single line, and show us the true heart of humanity in the midst of the seemingly mundane. I've been a devotee ever since.

Amazingly, Girl Friday's will be the first production of The Matchmaker I will have had a chance to see since High School (which was a good, long time ago). I consider him this country's most under-produced playwright, and am incredibly grateful for Girl Friday and their continued efforts to bring his great plays to glorious life. ~

Diane Mountford has directed and acted for many theaters across the Twin Cities, including Theatre in the Round, Workhouse Theatre and Minnesota Shakespeare Project. She moved to Minnesota from Los Angeles in 1997, and has since acquired a few blue ribbons from the State Fair for her knitting, developed a really great rhubarb pie recipe, is turning her inclination to live in a fantasy world into a novel, and long ago morphed into an honorary Scandinavian.

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