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Granite Falls Advocate Tribune - Granite Falls, MN
  • Paddling Theater looks back, Place Base planning next production

  • A sold out crowd, rave reviews and media coverage from the likes of Minnesota Public Radio, the Pioneer Press, StarTribune and even CNN. Yes, by most all accounts PlaceBase Production's "With the Future on the Line: Paddling Theater from Granite Falls to Yellow Medicine" was a resounding success––but if ther...
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  • A sold out crowd, rave reviews and media coverage from the likes of Minnesota Public Radio, the Pioneer Press, StarTribune and even CNN. Yes, by most all accounts PlaceBase Production's "With the Future on the Line: Paddling Theater from Granite Falls to Yellow Medicine" was a resounding success––but if there was a sticking point, it was that almost nobody locally saw it.
    This past Sunday, participants of the Paddling Theater gathered at the K.K. Berge building to watch a video of the production, discuss the event's pros and cons and, finally, to brainstorm ideas to use for future events as well as other ways to bolster the community's sense of place.
    Sunday served to mark almost one year to the day that PlaceBase Productions, comprised of Director Ashley Hanson and Playwright Andrew Gaylord, descended upon Granite Falls. At the time, Hanson was handing out flyers during the 2012 Western Fest parade promoting what was to be the theater company's first production, "Granite Falls: A Meandering River Walk."
    Since then it's been a whirlwind for the pair, as the success of the two productions held in conjunction with last fall's Meander art crawl and this summer's CURE's Minnesota River History Weekend and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources State Water Trails 50th Anniversary event, garnered attention statewide and then some.
    Hanson began by sharing the results of 194 surveys returned by show-goers. Of note was that it was the first time that 54 percent, or over 100 of the participants, had been on the Minnesota River and that 72 zip codes, 46 cities and five different states were represented across a full spectrum of ages from under 18 to over 60.
    From a tourism angle it was hard to paint a rosier picture, but from the standpoint of local spectators, those involved were left wanting given that of the roughly 200 theater goers less than 20 were reported to be from Granite Falls––meaning that there was a little more than double the number of locals involved in the production than actually saw it.
    As to the "whys?," Hanson said that she heard a number of different reasons. Most predominantly it seemed that uniqueness of the event left many people unsure of what the paddling theater "actually was" while others just seemed to be scared off by the idea of having to get on the river.
    Hanson held reunion potlucks for both events, but this Sunday's follow up brainstorm session was noticeably different for the director.
    "The one thing that really stuck out to me was how different the discussions were," she said. "The first time the comments were all about what we could for the next production, and while there were those ideas as well, it seemed that everybody took it to the next level and asked what do these events really mean for us and how can we use it to improve the community."
    Page 2 of 2 - So instead of talking about the possibilities of a horseback theater or a production centered around a particular era like prohibition, community members seemed to spend the majority of time discussing ideas like picnic tables along the river walkway and signage at the conjunction of Highway 212 and 23 that might direct travelers to the "historic downtown" and "shopping district."
    "My favorite response was that 'we're more than just corn and beans out here.' And for the community itself to recognize what all it has to offer and how that can be enhanced is exactly what PlaceBase Productions is all about: helping to create a sense of place for the community to come together around."
    Hanson says that PlaceBase productions has every intention of developing another project to accompany this year's Meander Kick-Off in Granite Falls but still needs to raise the funds that will allow for it to happen. The first performances were grant facilitated. It has yet to be revealed how the two will gain funding for the third.
    Assuming the necessary dollars are acquired, she says that she and Gaylord are leaning toward a theatrical project expressing what Granite Falls was like Saturday nights during the 50s. Her hope is that this go-round PlaceBase is able draw the entirety of main street businesses into the act so as to manifest a truly community production.
    "The bigger things that we have been aiming for are starting to appear on the horizon," Hanson said. "We see the energy and momentum that is building and anything we can do to support that and to help the community along, we want to do that. There is the leadership and the know how here. And it's like Barb Benson said, "Now we know we can do it."

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