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A community production: Musical opening this weekend to feature Bemidji talent, relevant story

Suzanne Warmanen, right, who will play Dr. Stockman in "An Enemy of the People," sings a song from the opening act with other members of the Sod House Theater during a rehearsal on Tuesday near Lake Irving. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- A Twin Cities-based production company is teaming with local talent to present a play in Bemidji this weekend, fittingly about a city that relies on water for tourism.

The play, called “An Enemy of the People,” was written by Henrik Ibsen and adapted by the Sod House Theater, which will present the musical at the Rail River Folk School on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The play examines how a community responds when a local doctor threatens to expose that the water it relies on for tourism is being poisoned.

“The town then discusses whether or not they should cover it up and fix it behind the scenes or if they should reveal it,” said Darcey Engen, a member of the Sod House Theater. “It’s a bluegrass musical and there are a lot of songs that are weaved throughout the play. The original also wasn’t very funny, but we’ve added some comedy. It does, however, have some very high stakes and important issues as the play continues.”

Bemidji was one of four cities where Sod House Theater staff will join local actors in putting on the production. Other stops on their tour will be Granite Falls, Battle Lake and Fergus Falls.

“Bemidji was chosen because it, like the town in the story, is a tourist city. You’ve got a big lake and other gorgeous lakes surrounding it,” Engen said. “So, that was part of it. For this play we chose cities which use water as a tourist attraction or have big decisions to make about water.”

Also part of the selection process, which starts about 14 to 16 months ahead of time, is finding cities with strong theater communities. When the plays are performed, Engen said it’s roughly a 50/50 mix of Sod House Theater staff and local talent.

“We were here in June for a week and gave three workshops,” Engen said. “During that time, people come and participate and we ask if they’d be willing to get involved with the play. Those who are performing in the play got the script about a month ago.”

The five-act play, which runs about an hour and 15 minutes, will be performed at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

“We can’t wait to get to meet the community as an audience, too,” said Suzanne Warmanen, a member of Sod House and performer in the play. “They become our community in the play. When the audience comes, we don’t pull anyone out to have them participate directly, but some of us do mix in with the audience, so it does feel like you’re at a town meeting, for example.”

“That way, it doesn’t feel like you’re separated, that’s not how these shows work,” Engen said. “This is also a site-specific production, so part of it will happen outside and another will be inside.”

Tickets for the play are $15 for adults and $10 for children, students and seniors. Tickets are available online at or at Iverson Corner Drug, located at 408 Minnesota Ave. NW. The Rail River Folk School is located at 303 Railroad St. SW.

If you go

What: “Enemy of the People,” musical play featuring a Minneapolis-based production company Sog House Theater and local actors.

When: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Where: The Rail River Folk School, at 303 Railroad St. SW in Bemidji.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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