Nature is the story of the friendship between Ralph Waldo Emerson, the prominent 19th century essayist, and Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, and their shared belief that nature is a source of spiritual respite and renewal. The dramatic elements of their relationship, including a falling apart, are recreated in scenes that transport the audience into the rural landscape of the 1800s.
The play was written by a direct descendant of Emerson, actor Tyson Forbes, who states, “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.”
Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums, and rich choral arrangements are intricately woven into the script providing an outdoor experience like no other, which the Minneapolis Star-Tribune named “The Best in Twin Cities Theater.” Nature has been performed to great acclaim at over 20 parks and arboretums nationwide and will be going onto the estate of The Old Manse in Concord, MA following its performances in Ely.
Nature features professional actors and musicians from the Minneapolis area, some of whom are Guthrie performers. They are 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. The local performers practice under the direction of Michael Rouse, an award-winning choral director well known for his founding of the Boundary Waters Choral Festival held in Ely each spring. The week before the Nature performances, the Ely performers and the Twin Cities-based actors will rehearse together to be ready for the August 22nd opening.
Called “Guthrie-quality theater in a natural setting,” Nature’s scenes will be set in four locations among the forest and fields at Hidden Valley, just east of the City of Ely. The action unfolds around audience members as they follow the ensemble through the natural beauty of the north woods landscape. Performances will be held at 6 pm on August 22nd, 23rd, and 24th and 1 pm on August 24th and 25th. The show is performed in any weather (except life-threatening conditions), and audiences in the past have truly enjoyed even rainy productions. In the event of rain, ticket holders may come back for any subsequent performance if they prefer not to attend. Run time is approximately 90 minutes without intermission.
Guests of all ages are encouraged to come as the show has something for everyone. The lively music, dice games, and outdoors setting mixed with the adventure of moving from site to site keep kids entertained and engaged. Guests should dress for the weather, wear comfortable shoes, and bring sun protection as needed. During the play, the audience will walk short distances between four different locations. Portable lawn chairs or blankets are recommended for seating as there are a limited number of chairs, which will be reserved for those who need them most. A golf cart and driver will be available to assist those with limited mobility.
The five performances are preceded by pre-show entertainment with bagpipe playing, choral music, and refreshments for purchase, so ticket-holders will want to arrive at least half an hour early and those who need to purchase tickets even a bit earlier. Following the Saturday afternoon performance there will be an opportunity for the audience to talk to cast members about the show’s themes and the experience of performing it in a variety of venues.
A family workshop entitled “I Went for a Walk Today” will be offered at Ely Arts & Heritage Center on Friday afternoon, August 23rd, at 1 pm. Professional actors will connect family members to nature through walks, theatrical play, and reflective journaling. Each workshop attendee will receive a Nature field journal to take home. The workshop is designed for adults and families with children age 6 and up. It lasts about 90 minutes. A free-will donation will be collected to cover the costs of providing this experience. Please sign up here. Participation is limited to 30 people—first-come, first-served.