Spoon River

You can see Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology February 22 – 26, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Burtness Lab Theatre on the University of North Dakota campus in Grand Forks.

Spoon River is a dramatic adaptation of Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 anthology of poems about life in the fictional small town of Spoon River. The book features over 200 characters reflecting from beyond the grave about their lives, and the play uses 60 of those epitaphs as the foundation for monologues and original songs.  Masters published Spoon River Anthology to great acclaim and controversy in 1915. The 244 free-verse poems tore through the semblance of civility that covered small-town America and exposed the raw passions that controlled the lives of its citizens.

Set in a cemetery of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois, the monologues are delivered by the souls of the deceased, who voice the secrets they guarded during their days on earth. Speaking frankly of crushed dreams and concealed pleasures, the citizens are made equal by the great leveler death and no longer hide behind the courtesy and restraint that had so often repressed them in life.  Masters gives voice to the struggle for a meaningful life.

Spoon River was adapted for the stage by Charles Aidman and ran on Broadway in 1963. Combining the folksiness of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town and the unearthliness of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, the stage adaptation of Spoon River has the ability to move an audience to tears as well as drive them to laughter. In the hands of skilled actors, this classic is a powerhouse.

The UND production is directed by graduate student Larisa Netterlund and features Kyra Finlinson, Philip Muehe, Abby Shoenborn, Therese Borkenhagen, William PanKratz, Nick McConnel and Kjerstine Trooien.  Netterlund is utilizing the theatrical method Viewpoints in her direction of the show.  Viewpoints is an acting approach made famous by world-renown director Anne Bogart.  Bogart did not invent the nine Viewpoints (tempo, duration, kinesthetic response, repetition, spatial relationship, gesture, shape, topography, and architecture) but rather “borrowed” them from a dance instructor as a way to help actors think about creating in time and space. Viewpoints helps the actors and director create a physical language to work in while simultaneously building ensemble.  The actors learn to create by responding physically to each other in this intuitive and ensemble-driven method.

For more information, or  an interview with the director, please contact Larisa Netterlund (larisa.netterlund@und.edu, 701-777-3026.