A poignant play about personal reflection, solitude and communing with nature
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 was 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.
Thoreau was at the forefront of environmentalism and was a proponent of feminism long before either one was top-of-mind. Emerson was a lecturer as well as an essayist who was a champion of individualism which advocated for independence and self-reliance.
So in the play, the self-imposed exile of Thoreau gives both these men an avenue for lively dialogue that Johnathon brilliantly weaves into the play along with actual words that each of them penned. It’s, in my humble opinion, an incredible piece of historical drama and well worth the time to see it.
Quench your thirst and save a prince
November 8, 2017 | By KATHY HUBBARD, POAC Board Member
For thirty years, Pend Oreille Arts Council has ushered in the holiday season with a presentation of Eugene Ballet’s Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s famous music combined with 22 professional ballet dancers and over 30 local dance students has filled all our dreams with sugar plums fairies and handsome princes and princesses.
But, it’s expensive to bring here. Close to $10,000. So, POAC is asking for your help by joining us for a very fun night of beer drinking, camaraderie and great music with a portion of sales going to help defray the costs of this program.
On Wednesday, November 15 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Idaho Pour Authority will feature a tap takeover by Deschutes Brewery and you’re all invited to attend. The live music will be provided by everyone’s favorites Marty Perron and Doug Bond.
A raffle (all proceeds towards preserving Nutcracker) will give you the opportunity to win a ton of Deschutes swag, POAC performance tickets – including coveted Nutcracker tix – and lots of other local goodies.
You won’t want to miss this fun and the opportunity to make sure that the Nutcracker continues to be the holiday tradition that it has been for three decades.
STUDENTS GIVE VISION TO HUMAN RIGHTS
Allison Kinard, a senior at Sandpoint High School, stands next to her painting of a woman of color dancing. The painting is on display at the Student Art for Human Rights show at the Pend Oreille Arts Council gallery in Sandpoint. (Photo by MARY MALONE)
Local students gave voice to a powerful vision of human rights through artwork, which is currently displayed in the Pend Oreille Arts Council gallery.
The works were done in many different mediums, but the message was the same — that all humans should be treated equal and given the rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights document.
Allison Kinard, a junior at Sandpoint High School, used watercolor and a hint of Sharpie detail to depict a woman of color dancing with an array of colors streaming around her. During the opening reception for the Student Art for Human Rights event Monday evening, Kinard said the message is to show that the word “colored” is not a negative term.
“It’s something beautiful, it’s a cultural identity and there is so many beautiful things about it,” Kinard said.
For 12 years, the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force and Pend Oreille Arts Council have partnered in the student art event to bring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the attention of students in the area.
Formulated by Eleanor Roosevelt as she was the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission at the time, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948. The document consists of 30 articles meant to guarantee the rights of all people.
“It is an important thing to be aware of,” said Brenda Hammond, BCHRTF secretary, as she flipped through the small booklet containing the articles. “Like Article 25. ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.’ The fact that that is considered a human right is really significant.”
Art students at Sandpoint High School, Forrest M. Bird Charter School and Sandpoint Middle School were instructed to choose an article and represent it artistically. Therefore, the representations were of equality, the right to marriage and family, the right to own property and the right to education. Many of the other articles were represented as well.
“It’s amazing to see what they drew,” Hammond said. “As someone who has worked in human rights for a number of years, every year I am re-inspired and re-committed and encouraged by seeing what the young people are able to do and the depth of engagement with these ideas.”
Sandpoint High School art instructors Ezra Stafford and Heather Guthrie attended the event to see their students’ artwork displayed in the gallery. Stafford said while it was a spur of the moment assignment for his students, they were able to use what they have learned throughout the semester and integrate it into their own personal style using the article as an influence for the work.
Guthrie said the students seem to have a “really amazing grasp at this age” of politics and a global society. She said it may be because of social media, but they seem more “in tune” with what is happening in the world than kids were when she was their age.
“And I guess with this (presidential) election being such a high profile one, too, they understand what human rights are, what they mean,” Guthrie said. “They did a really good job with the show.”
Seventh- and eighth-grade art teacher for Sandpoint Middle School, Linda Navarre, also attended the reception. Navarre said her favorite part of the project is seeing the kids choose the Article they intend to artistically create. Navarre said she does “a little front-loading” on Eleanor Roosevelt and how the articles came to be, and let’s the kids do the rest.
Local artist Whitney Palmer graduated from SHS in 2002, and growing up in the district had Navarre as a teacher in middle school. As Palmer conversed with Navarre at the event, she recalled the teacher’s attention to human rights dating back to when she took her class.
“She was amazing about informing us as students, in seventh-grade, about human rights issues,” Palmer said. “… It’s great to have that influence at a younger age and that awareness. It really influenced me and I became more involved in human rights issues.”
REVIEW OF 2016 ANNUAL STUDENT ART SHOW
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
I found the show to be provocative in many ways. What I appreciated more than anything was the raw energy and lack of inhibition, a freedom from the fear of making a mistake. Maybe some of the artists were more able to know which mistakes to keep than others, but I didn’t feel that was as important as the simple act of expressing themselves, putting the process before the results.
This made it difficult for me to decide which pieces I liked “best,” even though there were some stellar standouts, especially among the portraits in the back room. Yet, who wouldn’t love the cute elephant and puppy showing in the front room, the colorful,, large-scale selfies, the mosaics and ceramics?
Again, the show’s overwhelming feeling of innocent freshness is what I came away with most. As I walked up Cedar Street later that night, I saw another rather fitting quote on a sign in a shop window:
“It is not our abilities that show who we truly are… it is our choices.”