By Frankie Kujawa
Actor and Baltimore-native Lance Coadie Williams returns to Charm City in “Our Town” running through Sunday, October 9th at Baltimore Center Stage. In celebration of their 60th anniversary, Center Stage kicks off it’s 2022-2023 season with the beloved Thornton Wilder classic – along with a Baltimore twist! Williams, who plays the role of stage manager in the production, is thrilled to be performing for the first time in the theater that years earlier once nourished his creative drive as a youth in The Baltimore School for the Arts.
Frankie Kujawa: What can audiences expect from the upcoming performance of “Our Town”?
Lance Coadie Williams: I think there’s an authenticity. We’re setting [the play] in Baltimore and we’re making it a little bit more modern even though we haven’t changed the text. We’re using the classical, original text from Thornton Wilder and setting it in Baltimore, as well. There’s a lot of things that parallel with [Wilder's] time-period and our time, too. One thing that I think [audiences] will take away from our version is there is an authenticity and connection to the language that we’re really channeling. We spent a lot of time on the relationships and the everyday life of these characters, as well as the feeling of community. Stevie [Walker-Webb, Director] asked all of us to personalize it in a special way. As an artist that is really beautiful; when you can find ways to parallel your life with the character. So, there’s a little bit of me in there! (Laughs) There’s a little bit of all of us in there! It’s a ‘say what you mean, mean what you say’ type of production. And, that’s how Baltimore is!
Frankie Kujawa: Tell us a little about your role as Stage Manager in this production?
Lance Coadie Williams: In this production, I guide the audience along through the relationships, through the language and through the meaning of the play. I’m like a guide through spirituality, as well. I try to get people in touch with their spirituality. At first we played on [my character] being this ominous force, but I go in between being apart of the play and then being outside of the play with the audience, as well. I think the reason I’m not a narrator is because of the relationship I have with the rest of the world of the play.
Frankie Kujawa: In your opinion, what is it about the play “Our Town” that allows it to stay relevant for audiences today?
Lance Coadie Williams: It’s the humanity. It’s the meaning of the play which makes you question the meaning of your life and your existence. Thornton Wilder’s language is so beautiful that it seems like the relationships and the language can be used in this time-period. I think that’s why the play has been done so often because of the meaning of the play and the theme. The relationships are just so beautiful and the ending, of course. When I saw [the ending] it made me walk away questioning the meaning of life. I think that any play that makes you think and makes you feel is something that can stand the test of time.
Frankie Kujawa: As a Baltimore-native who graduated from The Baltimore School for the Arts, and participated in the understudy program at Baltimore Center Stage, how does it feel to be performing here in this production?
Lance Coadie Williams: It feels so right at this moment and stage in my life. It’s been thirty years, to this day almost. It’s nostalgic because that’s where I started! I started in the back, in those rehearsal studios, as a kid from The School for the Arts in the 9th grade. Watching the professionals do what they do. So, that seed was planted at a very young age on what I wanted to do. To still be [performing], to be still sharing my gift after thirty years, to come back to where it all started - and they’re going to pay me for this? I mean, this is a treat! This is a gift! It’s such a blessing to be back here in Baltimore, in my hometown. It’s so weird how life happens that way - like a full circle.
Frankie Kujawa: Baltimore CenterStage is celebrating it’s 60th year. How does it feel to have this production kick-off that celebration?
Lance Coadie Williams: I think it’s perfect! To start this celebration off with both community and a play about life and love. A play about that everyday ritual about finding the beauty in the simple moments. As well as the fact that we’re here in Baltimore and in this community. A lot of people who do or don’t usually experience theater will be able to sit around together in this community. They don’t have to travel to Broadway, or New York or to DC. That we still have theater - sixty years later - theater still going on strong right here in our town – Charm City. That’s something to be very proud of – that we’re creating art with so many local artists. You know, you hear narratives that are so negative about Baltimore. But we do good things here in Baltimore. We don’t just do good things; we do amazing things here!
For more information on the upcoming performance, please visit: www.centerstage.org/plays-and-events/our-town/