Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

No cherry picking for me as I miss out on The Cherry Orchard Project July 18, 2012

The Cherry Orchard Project promo photo.

I TRIED LAST WEEK to get two tickets to a production of Anton Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” in the historic Gunderson House in neighboring Kenyon. But, alas, I could not secure a pair for a weekend performance, much to my dismay.

If only I’d known prior to last Thursday about the unique, touring theatrical group which is sweeping into historic homes in five southern Minnesota communities this summer. I embrace the concept of professional actors from the Guthrie, Ten Thousand Things, the Jungle Theatre and Theatre de la Jeue Lune performing in rural Minnesota, because, frankly, I’m not one to venture into The Cities for theater, or much of anything. Just being honest here. The metro traffic and general busyness simply don’t suit me.

The Cherry Orchard Project, which presents Chekov’s play of an aristocratic Russian family about to lose their home and cherry orchard through foreclosure, seems an ideal way to extend performance art to Minnesotans like me. It also gives outstate actors/actresses an opportunity to work with pros. Each site-based production includes local performers working with those professionals.

This type of theater, staged in an historic home, presents an intimate venue for both performers and audience members, which also appeals to me.

Here’s a description of The Cherry Orchard Project from Brown Paper Tickets, the online ticket source for The Cherry Orchard Project:

Audiences move in and around the house to the strains of local musicians, experiencing the characters cooking, dancing, debating and attempting to indulge in their unrequited passions. It’s a rare opportunity to step inside the world of Chekhov’s eccentric and comedic characters, living the drama with them.

Now if that sounds like the type of close-up theater you might enjoy, consider purchasing your tickets immediately for an upcoming performance in one of the following communities:

Little Falls at the 1898 Musser Mansion, July 18 – 22
Taylors Falls at The Historic Folsom House, July 25 – 29
Worthington at the Historic Dayton House, August 1 – 5
Blue Earth, James B. Wakefield House, August 8 – 12, audience limit of 25

Do not wait until the last minute, like I did (because I was unaware), or you will not get tickets. Audiences at the performances I wanted to attend in Kenyon were limited to 30 – 40.

And, if your local community newspaper runs an online poll with this question, “Would you like to see more live local theater in our small towns?”, I hope you will respond favorably, unlike many who answered that exact question posed by The Kenyon Leader.

According to results posted on Tuesday afternoon, 57 percent of the 35 respondents to The Leader survey said they have little interest in live theater. Thirty-four percent said they would watch live local theater in small towns. The rest, nine percent, were interested in attending and/or participating.

Those poll results disappoint me. But then I suppose I can’t make anyone appreciate theater anymore than anyone can make me value sports. Plus, given the low survey response rate, I would question whether the results accurately reflect the overall consensus of Kenyon residents. The Cherry Orchard Project Facebook page reports a sell-out crowd and warm reception in Kenyon.

If only I’d been among those in the audience. Perhaps next year…

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling