This weekend, a solid number of Granite Falls residents enjoyed “An Enemy of the People,” performed at Rice Park and the Legion.
The play, originally written in the 1800s, was adapted by Darcy Engen, Luverne Seifert, Ashley Hanson, and Brian Laidlaw. Laidlaw and Hanson also composed original bluegrass music to incorporate with the performance.
Sod House Theatre is the brainchild of Engen and Seifert. Their style of performance is called “site specific immersive theatre.” It’s easier to understand with an example.
Seven years ago, Engen wanted to perform a play called “The Cherry Orchard,” which is about a woman losing her estate. Engen wanted to perform the play in a mansion, having the set be within the house, for a more immersive audience experience. The mansions in the Minneapolis area were too expensive to rent, so she went to New Ulm, Seifert’s home town, to put on the show. They used a combination of professionals from Minneapolis, as well as artists and actors from the New Ulm community. They ended up falling in love with the formula, and are now in their seventh season of this type of performance.
Another important aspect is the plays they adapt have some kind of relevance or resonance to our contemporary culture. The Cherry Orchard reflected the house and farm foreclosures that were widespread . This year’s play is about a town with a poisoned water source, and how the community decides to respond. The big contemporary example is Flint, Michigan, but Southwest Minnesota has water issues of its own. Engen and Seifert were shocked to learn that 50% of southwest MN’s lakes and streams are unswimable.
Engen hopes that her work will have an impact. This year’s show featured a water conservation expert for Q & A after the performance.
The play is funded by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. The performances will be in Bemiji, Granite Falls, Fergus Falls, and Battle Lake.
Learn more about the Sod House theatre company at http://www.sodhousetheater.org/