Towards the end of Art I (right after Emily asks her mother whether she is pretty and they have a conversation about that subject) the Stage Manager tells the audience that "the Cartwright interests" have just started building a new bank in Grover's Corners. The date of the first act is May 7, 1901. They have asked a friend of the Stage Manager for suggestions about what they should put in the cornerstone of the new building. Evidently the intention is to put these artifacts in a metal time capsule and encase it in a block of concrete. They have already decided to put in a copy of the New York Times and a copy of the local newspaper, The Sentinel. They are putting in a Bible, the Constitution of the United States, and a book of William Shakespeare's plays. They are thinking the cornerstone might not be dug up by archaeologists for a thousand years and that people would be interested in what life was like a thousand years earlier.
The Stage Manager tells the audience that he is going to have a copy of the play they are presently performing, i.e., Our Town, placed in the cornerstone so that people a thousand years from now--around the year 2901--will know some simple facts about the people of his town. This seems to be the playwright Thornton Wilder's intention in writing this very simple but very moving play. It is a sort of tribute to small-town America. The slow pace of the play mimics the slow pace of small-town life in a place like Grover's Corners in New Hampshire (Population 2,642). Wilder does a very good job of capturing the spirit of a typical small New England town with its humdrum daily routines and occasional tragedies. The Stage Manager expresses the author's intention when he says:
This is the way we were in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying.
The three acts of the play are largely concerned with those three things--marrying, living, and dying.