Monday, January 9, 2017

The NATURE of Things

Last October, we  brought the Walking Play, "Nature," to Squash Blossom Farm for  five performances.  This was the most extravagant and ambitious event we have undertaken so far, and  absolutely magical.
Through the Tigerlion Arts company, a cast of astounding actors and musicians  came together to tell the story of the  friendship of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and their mutual love of nature.  The play was staged in several sites on our farm, with the cast and audience moving from scene to scene.
We had met with the directors many months in advance to plan the sites and walking paths, and had been given instructions for mowing, pruning, planting. The time of day, time of year, angle of the sun and shadows were considered for lighting for each scene.  Landscapes of our farm that we normally take for granted as our back yard, pasture, and prairie, became magical sets.

The play was true to history. Most of the dialogue came directly from the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, and it was brought vividly to life through the passion and talent of the cast.
Far from being a stodgy period piece, the story was filed with comedy,
 - even some hilarious clowning!
The musicians (violin percussion, guitar and bagpipes) were extraordinary.
Together with a chorus comprised of local singers,  the play was accompanied by a rich musical score.
Alexa Skye Buntrock, a young local actor, was perfect as Emerson's daughter Ellie.
The natural features of our farm became an integral part of the production. When a rooster crowed or a wayward butterfly fluttered through the scene, it became part of the story.
The bean field scene was especially evocative, with chorus members singing and dancing as field workers, transforming long poles into scythes, rakes and pitchforks in the tall grass.
We had received an unusual amount of rain all summer and fall, and the  greatest challenge for the cast was probably pushing the huge, heavy, belching Machine of Progress on its thin iron wheels through the soft, soggy prairie earth and up the hill!

The actors kept the audience moving from scene to scene.
Tyson Forbes, who co-wrote and co-created the play, performed as Emerson and is a direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson!
The audience got to meet the cast and director for a post-show discussion.  Markell Kieffer (center, in the straw hat) is the play's Director.
We are so grateful to Tigerlion Arts for sharing their talent and this  wonderful production with  us.

Thank you also to the many community members who made this event a success by singing in the chorus, providing housing for the cast and crew, attending the performances, and volunteering in other ways.

If there is any way we can manage it, we would  love to bring this production back to Squash Blossom Farm again!

This activity was made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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