AAA North Dakota - AAA Living Magazine - Outdoor Drama Current I ssue Mem bers' Exchange Rear View Tow & Tell Key I ssues Events Calendar Past I ssues Advertiser Information Writers Guidelines Request Information Join AAA Contact AAA Living Outdoor Dram a July/ August 2007 by Candi Helseth Each sum m er, North Dakota 9 s perform ing arts scene expands w hen actors take their place on open-air stages. But it 9 s the natural backdrop that steals the show . The state 9 s popular summer show, the Medora Musical, includes the Badlands as part of the production.
As the curtain goes up, winter-weary North Dakotans settle down for an evening of glorious summer theater right where they want to be 4 outside. The vivid setting sun, laughing children playing on grassy knolls and fragrant flowers mingling with the aroma of buttered popcorn outdo other forms of pre-show entertainment. And when the surrounding hills come alive with the sound of orchestra music, the natural acoustics and dramatic backdrop command center stage.
MEDORA MUSI CAL Outdoor theater has magical appeal, agree AAA members Bob and Mary Prouty of Harvey. Like many North Dakota residents, the Proutys have made the Medora ... more. less.
Musical a family outing at least once each summer for the past 10 years. Opened in 1958 in a bowl surrounded by fire-colored buttes, Burning Hills Amphitheater, renovated in 1991, welcomes more than 2,800 people to each of its 94 musical performances.<br><br> c You sit in this gorgeous setting, and everywhere you look, the Badlands are all around you, d Mary says. The landscape figures prominently in the show as a set (elk graze on the hills behind the performers), stage and backstage (hidden in the hills, actors on horseback thunder in a cavalry charge toward the audience). These production mainstays 4 along with comedy, music and an annual tribute to Teddy Roosevelt 4 are packaged in a Western-themed script that changes each year.<br><br> c At the end, d Mary says, c the fireworks display illuminates the night, and you see the hills once more. It 9 s just spectacular. d http://www.autoclubgroup.com/nodak/travel/aaaliving/article.aspx?articleId=1449&articleTypeId=1 (1 of 3) [8/14/2007 8:39:38 AM] Enter keyword(s) AAA North Dakota - AAA Living Magazine - Outdoor Drama Big sets amid tall trees welcome the audience to Trollwood Performing Arts School 9 s open-air performances.<br><br> FROST FI RE The state 9 s only privately owned outdoor performing arts venue, Frost Fire Theatre, stands in the heart of the hilly, wooded Pembina River Gorge in northeast North Dakota. Using the natural lay of the land, theater owners Judith and Richard Johnson built the amphitheater into a hill. Its gradual incline provides perfect seating, while the foliage on both sides subtly focuses attention toward the stage.<br><br> After dining on Judith 9 s beer-battered smoked salmon at Frost Fire Grill, ticket holders take their seats in this rural setting seven miles from Walhalla. The only sounds before the show starts: the birds chirping as they flit among the red and yellow wildflowers. It makes a gorgeous platform from which to watch North Dakota 9 s college theater majors perform under the direction of professional directors and choreographers.<br><br> SLEEPY HOLLOW SUMMER THEATER Even in an urban setting, outdoor theater finds its place. Sleepy Hollow Summer Theater started in 1990 when community organizers found their ideal location in a draw at Sleepy Hollow Park on Bismarck 9 s east side. Today, young people ages 6 to 24 perform Broadway productions under the artistic direction of Job Christenson, a North Dakota native with experience on Broadway.<br><br> Families often arrive early, picnicking and playing games before staking their spot with blankets, a rented chair or their own portable seat in what co-founder and director Susan Lundberg terms a c family-friendly, extended seating policy, d meaning 4 as many as will fit. Embraced by massive oak trees, many more than a century old, the stage sits in the hollow of a sloping hill. c Surrounded by natural prairie grass, sitting in this wooded hollow, I enjoy nature at the same time I enjoy exceptionally good theater, d says former North Dakota Gov.<br><br> Art Link, a regular at the Sleepy Hollow shows. c It 9 s a wonderful combination. d TROLLWOOD PERFORMI NG ARTS SCHOOL The Red River cradles 4 and occasionally threatens 4 a similar program in Fargo.<br><br> Trollwood Performing Arts School (TPAS) employs professionals to train cast members ages 13 to 18. Their performances reinforce Fargo 9 s reputation for c big d in North Dakota with large casts, full orchestras and enormous sets as high as three stories. Again, Broadway musicals reign.<br><br> But, as TPAS representatives attest, outdoor theater poses unique challenges. Sets must be sturdier. Lighting and sound systems encounter damaging sun rays and wind, and changing weather patterns can threaten the venues.<br><br> Indeed, because of recurring flooding, TPAS will move to a new amphitheater in 2009. Still, says TPAS Executive Director Vicki Chepulis, c There has always been agreement that outdoor theater fills a unique need, and we must continue to hold our productions outdoors. d The grassy, slightly sloped hill accommodates upward of 2,500 people who spill beyond the plastic seats that fill with early comers.<br><br> Later arrivals bring their own chairs or spread blankets on the grass. c The productions are very professional, really top-notch, and the outdoor setting is fantastic, d says AAA member Larry Holmstrom, who drives 55 miles from Wyndmere to support each of TPAS 9 events. c You 9 re not cooped up inside, and it 9 s just a cozy atmosphere, d he says.<br><br> c There 9 s something about being out in the elements that makes it even more enjoyable. d http://www.autoclubgroup.com/nodak/travel/aaaliving/article.aspx?articleId=1449&articleTypeId=1 (2 of 3) [8/14/2007 8:39:38 AM] AAA North Dakota - AAA Living Magazine - Outdoor Drama MI NOT STATE UNI VERSI TY Opened on the Minot State University campus in 1971, the MSU amphitheater is known for two things 4 its talented local performers (college students and community members) and slurping (attendees have turned root beer floats served during intermission into a theater tradition). Slurping is allowed, even encouraged.<br><br> Despite its location on the bustling campus, the amphitheater retains its feeling of privacy thanks to being tucked into the side of a hill. c The setting makes all the difference in outdoor theater, d says the theater 9 s director, Kevin Neuharth. c Watching the sunset, the soft breezes, the night sky with stars 4 all those things add dimension.<br><br> d When we move rehearsals from indoors to the amphitheater, the cast 9 s energy changes, d he adds. c They can no longer rely on subtleties, they have to use their whole bodies and beings ... Moving outdoors ignites new energy and brings out the best in the cast.<br><br> The audience feels the same way. They 9 d rather sit in the rain than move inside. d Judging from the popularity of the state 9 s out-door stages, North Dakotans certainly agree.<br><br> All North Dakota 9 s A Stage FROST FI RE 701-549-3600 All Shook Up, through Aug. 5, Saturdays, 6 p.m.; Sundays and Wednesdays, 2 p. m.<br><br> MEDORA MUSI CAL Burning Hills Amphitheater, 800-MEDORA (633-6721), June 1 3 Sept. 2, nightly at 8:30 p.m. MI NOT STATE UNI VERSI TY amphitheater, 701-858-3228 Clue, The Musical ,July 10 3 14, 8:30 p.m.; Into the Woods , July 21 3 22, 24-28, 8:30 p.m.<br><br> SLEEPY HOLLOW SUMMER THEATRE Sleepy Hollow Arts Park, 701-258-6343 Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat , July 11 3 21, 8:30 p.m. nightly; Leader of the Pack , July 24 3 28, 8:30 p.m., nightly. TROLLWOOD PERFORMI NG ARTS SCHOOL Trollwood Park, 701-241-6041, Thoroughly Modern Millie , July 12 3 14, July 18 3 22, July 25 3 29, 8:15 p.m.<br><br> For more theater performance listings, check the events calendar on page 6. For hotel reservations, click on AAA.com . Candi Helseth plans summer outings with friends and family to enjoy the state 9 s productions.<br><br> PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY WADE WESTIN; NORTH DAKOTA TOURISM/BRUCE WENDT. http://www.autoclubgroup.com/nodak/travel/aaaliving/article.aspx?articleId=1449&articleTypeId=1 (3 of 3) [8/14/2007 8:39:38 AM]