The Mouse River Players present "West," a sequel to T.M. Sell's "Prairie Heart," premiering this weekend in the Arlene Theater.
Seattle-based playwright Sell and his wife, Nancy Warren, who wrote the songs for the show, expect to be present in Minot for the production just as they were when the troupe staged "Prairie Heart" two years ago. In doing so, Sell will be returning to the area where his great-grandparents homesteaded from Norway in the early years of the 20th century.
The basic premise of the show is biographical, following the track of an immigrant family loosely patterned after his own.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - From left, JonCarlo Franchi as Harald, Karen Anderson as Ingrid, David Iversen as Ole, Nash Smith as young George and Susan Thom as young Glenda present a scene in the Mouse River Players production of Seattle playwright T.M. Sell’s “West,” a freshly-penned sequel to his original production “Prairie Heart,”?which the troupe presented in 2010.
"This follows the relation of the children from the first show," said co-director Ken Haarstad. "It's a love story, really. It tells a powerful story of life on the prairie, with its hardships, good things happening and the story of a family."
Haarstad's co-director, Lin Knickerbocker, explained why they chose to double-cast the show, which opens in 1914 and runs through the Great War and the Great Depression until 1931.
"We needed youth and innocence for the first act, and depth and maturity for the second," she said. "We have high school students Nash Smith and Susan Thom as the young George and Glenda, then C.J. Leigh and Brittany Knickerbocker for the older, when they're in their 30s."
It was the "Golden Age of Farming" when the play opens, just as the couple meet. George is the son of a banker, played by JonCarlo Franchi, working for Glenda's parents, played by David Iversen and Karen Anderson.
"The Roaring '20s don't touch these people," Lin Knickerbocker said. "They were doing well, but then after the war, prices for grains dropped precipitously, and this causes (emotions of) the play to become a roller coaster in Act 2, with alcoholism, infidelity and suicide as topics."
Also in the cast are Mouse River Players newcomer Lyndon Johnson as the radio station owner and Amanda Lindstrom as his assistant.
"This is one of the hardest-working casts I've ever worked with," Haarstad said. "They're also singing in the show to recorded music. We're using some of the instrumentals that Nancy (Warren) sent us, so it's exciting that she'll be here to hear it."
It is a drama. As Knickerbocker said, "they dig themselves some pretty deep holes," with Haarstad adding, "Everyone goes through the same kind of problems keeping it together."
Even so, he said, "It has a reasonably happy ending -- a more positive outcome than you might expect."
The show is at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10 at the door or by season ticket, still available at $45. Reservations can be made by calling (866) 667-1977.
The directors suggest this show carries a PG-13 rating because of some language and adult themes.