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Posts Tagged ‘emerson’

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When we lived in Minneapolis in the late 1990s, we would tell friends back in Massachusetts that we thought the Twin Cities theater scene was the best anywhere. They would say, “You mean the Guthrie?”

No, actually. We meant the many small, more-experimental theater groups that popped up everywhere.

Friday we were introduced to new one, TigerLion, which performed an outdoor “walking” play about Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson at the Old Manse. Above you see one of several stages and the warm-up team performing before the show. (Note also that the audience’s path to the next stage set is lined with apples.)

The highly physical acting style kept everyone from toddlers to adults entertained as did the whacky sound effects, wild locomotive and cabin-in-the-woods creations, and energetic choruses.

When the Royal Shakespeare Theater decided in the late 1970s that the best way to convey the uniqueness of Dickens was to recite chunks of his narration (as in their production of Nicholas Nickleby), I think they changed theater forever. The inventive TigerLion expands on the use of a chorus, at one point having it speak the conversation of the pantomiming protagonists — even the crunching of the apples they eat. (Really funny.)

The troupe wants audiences to delight in nature and save the planet from unchecked exploitation. From the website: “We celebrate human wisdom and the spirit of nature through creative works that awaken, inform, and delight. …

TigerLion Arts presents Nature, the mythic telling of Emerson and Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world.  …

“A professional ensemble of actors takes the audience on a journey through the natural environment as scenes unfold around them. Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums and rich choral arrangements are intricately woven into the experience. …

“This original work is collaboratively created with writer/actor Tyson Forbes, a direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“In today’s world, we are so estranged from our natural environment, and at TigerLion Arts, we feel that humankind must reconnect with nature in order to survive.  As oil spills into our oceans, as we race through our lives, as we look further and further outside ourselves for the answers, it is our hope that Nature can be a catalyst for our collective healing.”

More.

Photo: TigerLion
Energetic Minneapolis theater group recreating the interactions of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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If you can get to the N.C. Wyeth exhibit at the Concord Museum by September 18, I think it will be worth your while.

You’re familiar with the family of painters, the Wyeths, right? Best known are Nathaniel C., his son Andrew, and Andrew’s son, Jamie. Perhaps you have been to the Brandywine Museum in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, which got its start with generations of Wyeth art.

N.C. fell in love with Henry D. Thoreau‘s writing in 1909, made several pilgrimages to Concord, and eventually conceived of a book that he would illustrate , calling it Men of Concord: And Some Others as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau.

The Concord Museum and the Concord Library are each hosting exhibits related to the book, but if you like N.C.’s art, the museum exhibit is the one to see. It’s small but informative and lovely to look at.

N.C. was known for heroic illustrations of classics like Treasure Island, and his characters’ facial expressions and body postures always tell a story. That might be too literal for some art lovers, but I like it. I like the looks on the faces of three men Thoreau described in his journal as “slimy.” I like the watchful, coiled bodies of the muskrat hunters on the river, and the youthful innocence of N.C.’s Thoreau — a quality I have never associated with the writer.

One fanciful painting with bluebirds in a bubble of light like angels over Thoreau’s head seems like hagiography. It’s not my favorite work here, but it’s an intriguing summary of the writer’s interests. And people do make a religion out of Thoreau and Transcendentalism, so maybe it’s not surprising. The whole Concord gang — including Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson — is in the show, minus most of the brilliant women, of course.

One thing I learned was that N.C. had his pencil sketches converted into glass slides, and then he projected them onto the Renaissance board he favored so he could work directly on the enlarged sketch.

More on the museum website.

The hut is a replica of the cabin Thoreau stayed in at Walden Pond and is located on the grounds of the museum.

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We had to cut down a sick sugar maple near our house. The arborist counted the rings: 170.

170 years ago Thoreau walked around this neighborhood. Maybe he walked under the tree’s branches. Maybe at this time of year, he kicked up its fallen leaves. The abolitionist John Brown visited a house on this street, too.

Come to think of it, 170 years ago was roughly the period that Concord’s “genius cluster” hung out together, as author Susan Cheever describes the Concord writers in her book American Bloomsbury.

Somehow looking at the rings on a tree that you more or less took for granted makes you think about historical characters that always seemed in the distant past. You imagine that you might have had a nodding acquaintance with Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and various Alcotts if they hadn’t unfortunately died a few years before you came to town.

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Even people who think they know all about Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, Alcott and other Concord worthies often seem not to know Margaret Fuller. She was a key member of the “genius cluster” that author Susan Cheever has called the “American Bloomsbury.”

Although Fuller has passed from public awareness, in Concord it is different. Which is why a reading at the Concord Bookshop on January 29 was standing room only. Fuller’s latest biographer, John Matteson, was there to read about her “many lives” and engage in discussion about such abstruse topics as what Fuller thought of Emerson’s second wife. (Answer: Not much.)

It’s always amusing to attend a reading of a book about one of the Concord greats, as participants have such passionate feelings. Especially the Bronson Alcott fan base, who cannot bear to hear a word said against Louisa May
Alcott’s innovative but impractical father. I have been to a couple readings of books in which Louisa appears, and you can see Bronson’s partisans stiffening their spines, baring their fangs, and rising to the bait.

But who was Margaret Fuller? She was a first in many realms, including first female editor of the highly regarded 19th century literary magazine The Dial and the first overseas war correspondent. Matteson bemoaned the fact that she was probably best known, however, for the way she died, having perished in 1850 at age 40 in a shipwreck off Point o’ Woods, Fire Island.

That fact touches a nerve in me, I admit, since I spent all my childhood summers on Fire Island, and it is still a mystery why many of the ship’s passengers were saved while Margaret Fuller, her husband, and her baby drowned. Fortunately, interest in her life has been renewed, with Matteson’s book only one of several in which she plays a significant role.

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