Jarzynski directing Gowanda Thespian Society for last time

Submitted Photos John Jarzynski, the English Language Arts department chair at Gowanda High notorious for his always-entertaining annual staff photograph, really hopes the community comes out to support the production of “Our Town.” It will be Jarzynski’s final stint as play director and a fond farewell is planned.

Special to the OBSERVER

GOWANDA — When the cast of “Our Town” takes the stage at Gowanda High School at the end of January, it will be the last time the Thespian Society members do so under the direction of John Jarzynski, longtime English teacher. Mr. Jarzynski is retiring at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year and selected Thornton Wilder’s classic, three-act play — the most popular play in American high schools — as his swan song.

“I have been so lucky to work with such enthusiastic young people over the past 30 years,” says Jarzynski, who notes that 2004 was the last time he directed “Our Town.”

“Even though I’ve directed this play twice before, I knew that as my last play here at GHS, I wished to share this message with a great cast of kids and the wonderful community.”

“Our Town,” which was first performed in New Jersey in 1938, became a Broadway success and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Members of Gowanda High School’s Thespian Society are looking forward to entertaining the community during the production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Tickets will be sold at the door for this all-ages show, which is the final play to be staged at GHS under the direction of longtime English teacher John Jarzynski. Front: Arley Sommers, Olivia Latimore and Zanthia Luciano. Second row (in chairs): Logan Lukonaitis, Christian Cook, Zach Nash, Andie Baco, Emagin Warrior and Miranda Kaminski. Third row (standing): Emma Christopher, Grace Wakefield and Nick Christopher. On ladders: Rowan Mentley-Peters and Kayla Forthman.

It is set in the actual theater where it is being performed. The main character is the stage manager of the theater, who breaks the “fourth wall” — the imagined wall separating actors from audiences — by directly addressing and fielding questions from the audience while also filling in by playing some of the roles. “Our Town” is staged on a mostly bare set with minimal props.

“While most focus on the existentialism that is its center, there must also be the attention paid to the relationships and lives that pass by us all too fleetingly,” says Jarzynski. “It is imperative in this day of selfies to appreciate the simple pleasures of an everyday existence even as we come to understand how brief our existence is in the face of the vast universe and the infinity of time.”

Rehearsals for “Our Town” have been underway since late fall. Mr. Jarzynski noted that at a recent rehearsal, held just after the new year, a lead actor began to cry as she recited her lines.

“Why are you crying?” asked Mr. Jarzynski.

“Because it’s so sad and beautiful,” the cast member replied.

“And our job is to share that message with the audience,” said Mr. Jarzynski.

The Thespian Society cast and crew are eagerly anticipating sharing the universal theme of appreciating the simple joys of life in “Our Town.” They know its poignant and thoughtful lessons will resonate with residents of Gowanda and beyond.

“This group is my last, but they won’t soon be forgotten,” says Jarzynski. “And it has been my pleasure to work with all of them. They never stop amazing me with their potential for greatness.”


The players: Grace Wakefield as Stage Manager; Christian Cook as Dr. Gibbs; Zanthia Luciano as Joe Crowell; Tia Moppert as Honey Newsome; Paige Gabel as Mrs. Gibbs; Emma Christopher as Mrs. Webb; Arley Sommers as Rebecca Gibbs; Alex Salzman as Wally Webb; Kayla Forthman as Emily Webb; Nick Christopher as Professor Willard/Baseball Player; Zach Nash as Mr. Webb; Olivia Latimore as Woman in Balcony/Joan Stoddard; Emagin Warrior as Lady in the Box; Andie Baco as Mrs. Soames; Logan Lukonaitis as Constable Warren/Baseball Player; Miranda Kaminski as Si Crowell; Michele Jackson as Sally Craig; Rowan Mentley-Peters as George Gibbs; and Will Sylvia as Simon Stimson.

Behind the scenes: Olivia Pawlak is Assistant Director; Paige Szalay is Stage Manager; Madison Dubiel and Kathryn Budziszewski comprise Stage Crew while Kyle Eastland and Rebekah Austin comprise Audio Tech. Kyra Delano is the Producer, Bonnie Ferry is the Costumer, Bob Ross is Set Designer and Bill Peglowski is in charge of Lights.


“Our Town” is appropriate for all ages. It will be staged Friday, Jan. 31 and Saturday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. with a special free preview for seniors Thursday, Jan. 30 at 1 p.m. Tickets, which cost $5 for general admission and $3 for senior citizens and students, will be sold at the door. The community is warmly encouraged to support this production.