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OUTDOOR THEATER

‘Nature’ is theme of unique performance in Ely

Keith Vandervort
Posted 8/29/19

The story of the friendship between Ralph Waldo Emerson, the prominent 19th century essayist, and Henry David Thoreau, author of “Walden,” played out in dramatic fashion here last weekend as …

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SUPPORTING THE ARTS

OUTDOOR THEATER

‘Nature’ is theme of unique performance in Ely

Actors portraying Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau headlined “Nature” at Hidden Valley last weekend.
Actors portraying Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau headlined “Nature” at Hidden Valley last weekend.
all photos by K. Vandervort
Posted

The story of the friendship between Ralph Waldo Emerson, the prominent 19th century essayist, and Henry David Thoreau, author of “Walden,” played out in dramatic fashion here last weekend as part of a unique presentation on the grounds of Hidden Valley.

Professional actors, along with local musicians and singers, combined their talents to offer five performances of “Nature, a Walking Play,” written by actor Tyson Forbes, a direct descendant of Emerson.

“Nature” has been performed to great acclaim at over 20 parks and arboretums nationwide. The 2019 tour features nine venues, that began in Rochester and continued in several other Minnesota locations, as well as Iowa and South Dakota. It will be performed at The Old Manse estate in Concord, Mass., after the Ely stop-over.

“Nature” focuses on the shared belief that nature is a source of spiritual respite and renewal.  The dramatic elements of Emerson and Thoreau’s relationship, including a falling apart, were recreated in scenes that transported the audience, as they made their way along the grounds of Hidden Valley, into the rural landscape of the 1800s.

Forbes believes their views are as valuable today as ever. “Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were authors, friends, and radicals of their time, calling on their peers to think for themselves, live more deeply, and be agents of change. I believe their words and ideas are as relevant and necessary now as they were then, and I am thrilled to be able to share this story of their friendship and history,” he stated.

Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums, and rich choral arrangements, featuring many local singers, were woven into the script providing for a unique outdoor experience for hundreds of audience members. The scenes were set in four locations among the forest trails and fields at Hidden Valley.  The action unfolded around audience members as they followed the ensemble through the natural beauty of the north woods landscape.

“Nature” featured professional actors and musicians from the Minneapolis area, some of whoM are Guthrie performers. They were joined by a community chorus of Ely area singers, and Mattie Lindsay, a young actor from Ely taking the role of Emerson’s daughter, Elly.

Ely-area performers practiced under the direction of music director Mike Rouse, chorus manager Billie Rouse, local production manager Johnnie Hyde, and local workshop hostess Sandy Brandly. The week before the Nature performances, the Ely performers and the Twin Cities-based actors rehearsed together to prepare for the opening last Thursday.

The chorus included Duane Bieber, Linda Ganister, Jean Gendreau, Kahsha Hyde, Dan Johnson, Tatiana Riabokin, Andrea Strom, Todd Crego, Barbara Garza, Cal Herrala, Beverly Johnson, Vaughn Knapp, Wendy Lindsay, Sara Skelton, and David Wigdahl. Young singers included Payton Erzar-Tyndall, Tuuli Koivisto, Neva Levens, Sova Meyer and Sylvia Shock.

The Ely “Nature” performances were sponsored by the Northern Lakes Arts Association, Ely Folk School, Raven Words Press and the Ely Arts and Heritage Center.

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