BEMIDJI -- Take a walk or watch a play? How about both at the same time?
Area theater goers can enjoy a unique experience next weekend when TigerLion Arts of Minneapolis teams up with Belle Thalia Creative Arts Space in rural Puposky to present “Nature,” a walking play that tells of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s and Henry David Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world.
It will take place on the 40-acre property of Al and Cate Belleveau, located on State Highway 89, about 15 miles north of U.S. Highway 2. Shows are scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. A pre-show concert by members of a community chorus will take place 30 minutes before each of the show.
“Nature” has been performed outdoors for the past nine years, and is in the middle of a nine-stop tour of the Midwest. Exploring the story of the friendship between Emerson and Thoreau, a professional ensemble of actors takes the audience on a journey through the natural environment. Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums and choral songs are woven into the experience. The audience moves through the property alongside the actors and musicians.
Tyson Forbes and his wife, Markell Kieffer, visited the Belleveau property and found it to be an ideal setting for the play they co-wrote. Forbes, the great great great grandson of Ralph Waldo Emerson, created the play with Kieffer.
“They walked our 40 acres of meadows and they were just thrilled because there was so much space for them there,” Cate Belleveau said. “Al has done these winding labyrinth trails through the meadows and they set up Thoreau’s cabin, they set up a stage, and set up all these areas that bring the story out. The actors, bagpipers, ancient flutes, chorus, they walk with the audience to the next location where the reveal the next portion of the play. So he felt like our acreage was perfect for it because they’re trying to build up in people an appreciation for the history of these two men at a time in our country where conservation was kind of a newer concept.”
In addition to TigerLion’s company actors and musicians, a local community chorus will perform under the direction of Melanie Hanson, and 8-year-old Natalie Corcoran of Shevlin has been cast as Emerson’s daughter. Corcoran auditioned and is rehearsing for the part via Skype and has been watching videos of past performances to nail down her role. She is becoming well known in the area as a singer, but this is her first acting gig.
“Natalie’s a real nature girl,” said her mother, Leah Corcoran, “so it’s a great role for her. She’s been very studious about the whole process. It’s a fairly intellectual production, but that doesn’t seem to have thwarted her interest at all. She’s interested in who Emerson and Thoreau are and what they’re all about.”
Cate Belleveau, who has operated Mask and Rose Women’s Theater in the Bemidji area for many years, said the “Nature” production will be a new experience for patrons.
“It’s different from us shuffling onto a stage setting,” she said. “We’ve all done that in Bemidji, but this is actors and musicians interfacing with the audience and the natural environment.”
If you go:
What: “Nature,” a walking play
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Community chorus pre-shows 30 minutes before each performance.
Where: Belle Thalia Creative Arts Space, 24011 Highway 89, Puposky (15 miles north of U.S. Highway 2)
Tickets: $18 for adults 18-64, $12 for seniors 65 and over, free for children under 18. Available at the gate or online at brownpapertickets.com/event/4262477
Suggestions: Bring blanket, lawn chairs, umbrella, bug spray, picnic lunch or dinner if you prefer. A 6-person golf cart is available at all shows for people with mobility issues. To reserve a spot, email email@example.com.