I will begin by admitting I didn't know what to expect when I was told I was to see an outdoor play at the Iowa Lakeside Lab on Sunday afternoon.
"Nature: A Walking Play" was an extremely well written, planned and choreographed story about life back in the mid 1850s. The Lakeside Lab, on the west side of West Lake Okoboji provided the perfect setting and a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about the simpler life back when nature was in vast abundance and the lifestyle much less stressful.
Kudos to the entire company of authors, composers, musicians, costume designers and special effects people who created this tale about the friendship between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The setting is New England but the grounds at the Lakeside Lab were a magnificent substitute; forming a perfect background for the outdoor play.
Tyson Forbes, the great-great-great-grandson of Emerson, portrayed his famous ancestor. Tall and lanky, his face was easy to view from a distance and his body language completed his portrayal. His acting and singing skills were very evident in the performance. He was most compelling.
Jason Rojas played Thoreau. He stole our hearts from the beginning. He is a very good actor and singer. Tears filled my eyes as we walked his funeral procession. We all felt like we had lost a true friend of nature.
Emerson and Thoreau were among the original Transcendentalists in our country. They loved nature and, although a couple of decades apart in age, seemed to be on the same page as far as lifestyle goes. They were appalled when construction began on the railroad. They were very opposed to slavery. Both of those subjects were handled in scenes as we strolled from one scenic stop to another through the beautiful Lakeside Lab grounds.
Emerson embarked on a lengthy (two years) absence from his wife and family to do a lecture tour in Europe. He invited his friend Thoreau to stay in his home to help his wife, Lidian, care for the youngsters. The deep friendship between Thoreau and Lidian, was also portrayed in the play. Thallis Santesteban played Lidian and was very good in that role.
I really enjoyed Norah Long. The woman with the beautiful singing voice, pretty red hair and great skill with a violin was a joy to watch and hear.
There were eight more in the cast that travel with this touring company. They were singers, musicians, dancers and actors; all very good at what they do.
The company also added some local talent to the show. I loved Ebba Bjornstad as she played Emerson's daughter Elly. She was adorable.
Other locals in the cast included: Anne Sexe, Carol Anderson, Allison Antoine, Emily Bertrand, Ann Ditsworth, Matthew Harder, Carl Klein and Julie Steinle.
We learned so much about the need to preserve nature and learning to live respectfully with our fellow man in the two-hour long show. "Nature: A Walking Play" was fascinating from beginning to end and an exciting adventure!
I thank the Friends of the Lakeside Lab for bringing this wonderful experience to us. I also appreciated the golf carts provided for the elderly and physically impaired in the audience who would not have been able to walk the show's path. I hope that sometime in the future something similarly educational and wholly enjoyable will come to us again at the beautifully preserved and well-maintained Iowa Lakeside Lab.