In My Humble Opinion

I had a dream

Posted 12/31/69

At least I think it was a dream. At times it felt a little nightmarish, and it wasn’t my dream to begin with, but that of Farm Arts Collective’s artistic director Tannis Kowalchuk.

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In My Humble Opinion

I had a dream


At least I think it was a dream. At times it felt a little nightmarish, and it wasn’t my dream to begin with, but that of Farm Arts Collective’s artistic director Tannis Kowalchuk.

“Dream on the Farm: The More Things Change” (TMTC) is the brainchild of Kowalchuk, and serves as the fourth installment of “a decade of climate change plays” presented by the Farm Arts Collective, in residence at Willow Wisp Organic Farm.

While the concept of “Dream on the Farm” (DOTF) is based on a 10-play cycle, I’m sure it’s intentional that each can stand alone, for while Tannis and Co. have a legion of devotees, it’s unlikely that we will all see them all. Point in fact: I missed last year’s “Tavern at the Edge of the World,” so unsure how it fits in with the others.

What I do know is that TMTC is a theatrical experience unlike anything that the Upper Delaware River region has seen before.

Described as a “tale of a multi-generational farm family who is offered a large sum of money to sell their organic farm land to a group of [theme park] developers,” DOTF is “told in a series of memories by a family member who lives as a hermit in the nearby woods” and leads the audience across the farm to witness scenes and vignettes featuring the various family members.

Prior to participating, audience members were advised to wear sensible shoes and bring water, as we were about to cross muddy terrain, literally traversing the land while watching the drama unfold against the backdrop of a real honest-to-goodness working farm.

Joining approximately 75 other intrepid adventurers, I set off on foot and was instantly transported into Kowalchuk’s dream world, peopled by a wildly diverse cast of memorable characters, each intent on having their ghostly voices heard through the misty water-colored memories of the last family member standing—Joseph, the aforementioned hermit.
I was momentarily reminded of another “experience” I had in mid-‘80s Los Angeles, where small pods of audience members were also invited to walk their way through the world of playwright John Krizanc’s “Tamara.” That story unfolded in the rooms, corridors and staircases of “Il Vittoriale,” a transformed American Legion building in Hollywood CA—but that’s where the similarity ends.

Although conceived and directed by Kowalchuk, she describes TMTC as “created collectively—combining original music, spectacle and a poetry of performance working in a unique harmony with the landscape” of the farm, and in my experience, it was all that and more.

I’m unsure how Tannis’ process works, but the end result is (IMHO) a gripping, really well written original story, performed with such creative gusto and flair that the audience can’t help but be swept up in the emotional family saga.

“Make no mistake about it,” I said to a friend following my dreamy walkabout on the farm. “This is an ensemble piece, where each cog helps drive a wheel, and yet—there are individual performances that stand out.”

Among them is troubadour (and TMTC composer) Doug Rogers, who leaves his accordion at home in this chapter of “Dream.” He emerges as a full-fledged actor with his moving interpretation of Joseph, the tour guide who leads us down the family’s haunting memory lane.

Leading the fictitious family are seasoned actors John Roth and Kowalchuk (as Theron and Nora Wilder)—two skilled performers who know how to effectively deliver a scene. Ginny Hack’s portrayal of Aunt Linda was touching and fun, while newcomer Jonah Watwood provided a fresh-faced naivete that was engaging.

Supported by an incredibly colorful army of musicians, chorus members, cast and crew, Jess Beveridge, Beau Brennon Brazfield and Michael Chojnicki breathed life into the intrepid farmer, the flamboyant dreamer and the heartbreaking grandpa GiGi, respectively.

As one, the audience collectively sighed, gasped, wept and laughed, as the demonic gallows humor of characters Justin Darling (Hudson Williams-Eynon) and Candace Two Feathers (Lexee McEntee) swept over the crowd. Again, it’s an ensemble piece, but Williams-Eynon and McEntee kinda, sorta, stole the show with their over-the-top characterizations of evil personified. As the P.T. Barnum and his flying monkey of “Eco-Land”—the so-called “bio-diversity” theme park—the pair made us roar, laugh, hiss and boo, just as intended. A hearty “hat’s off” to the writers.

“The More Things Change” succeeds on lots of levels, and elevates “Dream on the Farm” with its stylistic, cinematic interpretation of one family’s emotionally charged journey. As if they theatrically walked amongst the characters in a film, the audience observes this sucker-punch to the ecology without interacting, almost as if in a dream. Hmmm.

“Maybe we’re the real ghosts,” I wondered as I left the farm behind with more questions than answers swimming in my head. It’s a thought-provoking tale that’s laced with humor, pathos, drama and retribution. I liked it; I really, really did—and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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IMHO, Farm Arts Collective, Tannis Kowalchuk, Dream on the Farm, The More Things Change, theatre


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