The year is 1847. The setting is an isolated cabin inhabited by one of the play’s four characters. Two of the four actors portray real-life activists, men who believed strongly in what were considered then non-conformist ideas. These seemingly mainstream, conservative, white men were on the cusp of radical changes in cultural beliefs, not unlike the politics of today while two fictional characters try to understand the concepts of progressiveness.
On two evenings, November 17 and November 18 at 7 p.m. at Heartwood Center, Pend Oreille Arts Council partnering with Unknown Locals Productions presents Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau. This play written by Michael Johnathon depicts the last 48 hours of the two years, two months and two days that Henry David Thoreau spent near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts and a visit from benefactor, mentor and fellow author Ralph Waldo Emerson. The cast is made up of local actors and directed by Madeline Elliott.
Before you chalk this up to perhaps being a little dull, let me assure you that the discussion between the actors in the play is anything but. Of the four characters, Thoreau and Emerson reflect the intelligentsia while Joshua Barnett represents the common man and Rachel Stuers adds the feminine point-of-view.
POAC Arts Administrator, Hannah Combs agrees with me that the play is anything but boring, “The play is far funnier than the director, cast, or I expected before we read the script. For all the high-minded words and ideas being volleyed around by Thoreau, one of the central struggles follows Emerson trying to convince Thoreau to trade in his rustic lifestyle and find a nice young woman to marry.”
Each character brings an insight into how conclusions are drawn and values are challenged. These subjects continue to be pertinent in today’s political and environmental spectrum. This isn’t a biography of Thoreau, but rather a glimpse into his growth as a commentator on life and, perhaps more importantly about friendship, respect, keeping a journal and raising vegetables.
If you weren’t tasked with reading works by Thoreau and Emerson when you were in school, we should take a moment to explain who they were. Thoreau, our protagonist, is renowned for being a voracious essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor and historian.
Best known for writing Civil Disobedience, an essay that argues in favor of just that and for penning the novel Walden which is the culmination of the time we’ll see in the play, Thoreau is typically described as a transcendentalist as was Emerson. So, you might ask, what’s that?
Dictionary.com explains that transcendentalism calls on people “to view the objects in the world as small versions of the whole universe and to trust their individual intuitions.” In other words, not to just accept dogmas (authoritative points of view) but to come to one’s own conclusions about things such as spirituality and relationship to nature.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children 18 and under. They can be purchased at Eichardt’s Pub, Eve’s Leaves, Winter Ridge, at the POAC Office or online at artinsandpoint.org as well as at the door at 6:30 p.m. each evening.
Information: POAC, 208-263-6139