Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Appreciating Paradise in Faribault, Minnesota February 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:37 PM

HAVING GROWN UP, as my three kids would say, “in the middle of nowhere,” I appreciate the opportunities available to me as an adult.

But before I get into that, I just want to clarify that, yes, while my hometown of Vesta lies quite some distance from any major city, the people living there today certainly are not isolated. They are a fine bunch who simply must drive out of town to enjoy cultural amenities. I’m proud to call that spot on the southwestern Minnesota prairie my hometown. Very proud.

However, as a child, I had limited opportunities. Part of that was the time—the 1960s and 1970s—and, yes, part of it was the location. We had no bowling alley, no movie theater, no roller rink, no, not even a library in Vesta. And we most definitely did not have live theatrical performances. Sure, we could drive to Redwood Falls or Marshall for entertainment, but, in all honesty, my poor farm family simply didn’t have the extra monies for such pleasures.

My culture experiences were limited to high school concerts and high school plays, or a visiting missionary speaking at the Lutheran church.

So today, whenever The Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault, where I now live, features a performance by either The Merlin Players or the Paradise Community Theater, I typically attend. Perhaps subconsciously, I am making up for all those years when I was culturally-deprived. But rather, I would like to think that I enjoy good community and professional theatre.

The Paradise Center for the Arts theatre setting for "South Pacific," performed this past summer.

I simply feel incredibly blessed to live in a community that has both a theatre AND a library.

But it’s theatre that I wish to address in this blog post. Last night my husband and I attended two one-act comedies at The Paradise. Bob’s Date and And the Winner Is not only provided us with much-needed laughter during this long, long winter, but also thought-provoking material to contemplate.

As much as I enjoyed the acting and the story lines in these productions, I was disappointed. That disappointment comes not from the stage, but from the audience, or lack thereof. I doubt even half the chairs in this 300-plus seat auditorium were filled.

I am embarrassed, downright embarrassed, that in this city of about 22,000, we cannot fill every single seat.

If this had occurred only once, I might consider this a fluke. But I have been to other shows with similar low attendance. I cannot attribute this to the plays or the performers. I have enjoyed only outstanding shows in The Paradise. In all fairness to the topic, there have been sold-out performances at this theatre.

Yet, in a community this size, every show should be a sell-out. Tickets, at $12 for an adult, are reasonable. I mean, honestly, can you go to a movie for $12?

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling