As the curtain opens on Cherry Hill High School East's production of

Our Town

this weekend, the audience will not see an elaborate set or intricate props.

"There's no set because, as a line in the play goes, 'You know this town, don't you?' " director and drama teacher Thomas Weaver said.

Weaver and the cast of 75 students hope that the production, while set in a fictitious New Hampshire town, will have the audience appreciating what the real-life town of Cherry Hill has to offer.

The beloved, Pulitzer Prize-winning Thornton Wilder play, being staged by East's Thespian Society, tackles issues such as love and death - and gratitude for one's hometown.

"A lot of people take Cherry Hill for granted," said senior Lior Algrably, who plays Mrs. Gibbs in the show and is also Thespian Society president. "We're really lucky to have teachers that really care about us."

A solid educational system was just one of the things about Cherry Hill that were emphasized Tuesday by Mayor Chuck Cahn when he met with the cast and crew.

"It's a tremendous town in all its diversity and what it has to offer," Cahn said. "We have so much in ways of culture - I mean, look at what you're doing here."

Our Town will be staged on Thursday and Friday, and Dec. 12 and 13, in the Cherry Hill East auditorium. The show, set in the early 1900s, centers on a young couple. After her death, she wishes that she could live another day and truly cherish every moment life has to offer.

Cahn said he hoped that shows like this would help bring Cherry Hill together. "It's one town," he said, referring to the perceived east-west divide in the township and between its high schools, East and West, which recently put on a production of The Breakfast Club.

Our Town cast member Jacob deBlecourt, 16, a junior, asked Cahn what they could do as a drama department to be more connected with the community.

"I love it when we have thousands of people at an event like this," Cahn answered, referring to the forthcoming shows. "Take your passion to the community and promote cultural events like this."

Within the club, a strong sense of community has already been established, according to cast member Andrew Zaleski, 17.

"We're always ready to help one another when we're rehearsing. If someone forgets their line, there is always someone out in the audience ready to help them out," he said. "Helping and caring for one another carries out to [life in] Cherry Hill."

Tickets are available each night an hour prior to the show. They are $10 for adults and seniors, $8 for students, and free for senior citizens who present the township's gold discount card.

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