We've been having auditions for our fall show, OUR TOWN. I've seen lots of terrific people who'd like to live in Grovers Corners for awhile, including one young man I have in mind for George Gibbs. He's one of the best young actors I've seen here in thirty years. He's a bonfide natural. I watched him read the famous soda fountain scene with many promising Emilys, and all the while part of me was thinking I love him but maybe he's going too fast; he's too pretty, too cute, too adorable, he doesn't look like farmer, or a ballplayer even if I could see him as president of his high shool class. Even so I left the theater on Sunday afternoon feeling pretty well satisfied about the ways things were going. I know this actor can give the part what it needs---but it would help if I had a clue or two. I was going to get one.
When I walked outside the sky had clouded up and it had started to rain. There was that sharp and dangerous looking lightning zapping overhead. I ran for my van, and pulled out of the parking lot. I saw I young man I did not recognize walking all by himself up the sidewalk that runs along the steep hill, and thinking this was, as Shakespeare's fool says, "a naughty night to swim in", I offered him a ride. Turns out he had just gotten into town for a two week workshop at the university and he was finding his way to the dorms way across campus, so we had a short little ride together, just long enough for me to notice how alert he was but also slower of speech, noo hurry anywhere. Very fresh but not a glamour boy; and he looked like he'd spent a little time in the outfield. A very clear eye, very open and appreciative (he called me "sir" which hardly even happens). In almost no time I realized I was riding with the real George Gibbs. He was a high school teacher now, from Murfreesboro--- the Grover's Corners of Arkansas (and also, I gather, the home of a diamond mine).
He liked the place well enough. Three minutes later he was out of the car. I didn't learn his name. But that's all right, because I knew what he really was was a manifestation from Thornton Wilder and the place beyond showing me George Gibbs. I knew if I hadn't stopped to help him out of the rain (you'll remember it's raining in the cemetary in Gover's Corners, whre we last see George), I would have missed this moment, which I would not have missed for the world. So I felt good about that; I felt good about the whole thing. The show might be the better for it, too.