Paddling Theatre: From Granite Falls to Yellow Medicine, May 18, 2013

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On May 18th  2013 as a part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Minnesota Waterways, and in collaboration with the Clean Up the River Environment, The Minnesota DNR and Wilderness Inquiry, PlaceBase Productions staged a live-action radio drama on an 8-mile stretch of the Minnesota River reaching from Granite Falls to the Upper Sioux Agency State Park. From their canoes, the audience engaged in stories, songs and characters from local river lore, presented both as live theatre and radio drama.

The audience joined the plot when river ruffians from Granite Falls rounded up a posse of paddlers to help steal the county seat from Yellow Medicine City. Along the way they encountered vibrant scenes of river life, including a famous old paddleboat with its saucy crew, two star-crossed harvesters of river mussels, and a cantankerous pair of politicians from the rival town of Minnesota Falls. Other famous river personalities on the river that day included Jacques the Voyageur, Joseph Hennepin, and G.W. Featherstonehaugh. Audiences signed up to be a part of this epic theatrical voyage on the Minnesota River by signing up for a spot in a Wilderness Inquiry Canoe or by bringing their own canoe or kayak.

We began this project with a series of community workshops and interviews in Granite Falls in March. After holding auditions in early April our rehearsals continued with over sixty people involved from cities across Western Minnesota. As always, Granite Falls and CURE were outstanding hosts for the event. The energy and excitement continue to build in the aftermath of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

PlaceBase Research Trip


Check out the MinnesotaRiverProject Blog following our process for this project.





Some Scenes and Characters from Paddling Theatre

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Dallas and T. P.

Incredible! Amazing to see people come together for art and learn about an incredible piece of MN history. Well directed and written.                    – Audience Survey Response






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I feel the Paddling Theater did two major things for the community: 1) The play energized and rejuvenated ties and emotional bonds among community members; 2) The play educated locals and non-locals about the history of the region, showcased local talent, and gave community members great opportunities for involvement.                   – Local Actor at Evaluation Session


THANK YOU! This was amazing — a great way to connect to the history and stories of a place I’m only visiting for the 2nd time. Makes me want to learn a lot more about this area and come back.      – Audience Survey Response




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I think that people were just absolutely delighted, almost overwhelmed. People who had no experience, people who had some experience, people who had a lot of experience all crossed the void. Very creative, very interesting, very fun. All of the theater stuff is really, really well done. Being on the river was really fun. It was a nice day — that helped.              –Audience Survey Response








Two Eagles


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I think that it was very community-centered. There was a real anticipation as to what was coming up around the corner. And it seemed like each experience was building off the one before. The weather was fantastic, couldn’t have had a better day. The sense of community in the canoes was really important, something that I don’t think I would have gotten if I had paddled in my own canoe or a kayak.–Audience Survey Response



The Meander and River Play have really brought theatre and music and art interest to Granite Falls. The K.K. Berge in downtown is now a focal point for arts. –Audience Survey Response





The Mussel Man and the Mussel Naturalist


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Like many other participants, I feel much more closely connected to the region after participating in the play. I’m more optimistic about the region too. I met a lot of great people through the play I would not have otherwise connected with. –Local Actor at Evaluation Session 








Sheriff Fortier Defends the Yellow Medicine County Courthouse


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Today was magical, I loved it. What I really loved about it was the community that floated down the river together, six canoes filled with people. It was fun. I’m tired. It was super fun and I really enjoyed the surprises of the people on the water and on the bank. Everything fell together. We live on a River, we live close to the St. Croix so I’ve kayaked up and down that by myself and with friends. So, it makes my appreciation for that river, too, thinking about river as highways. Somebody was talking about that for the last couple hundreds of years, people traveled down these rivers. I hadn’t really thought about it like that. So here we were, traveling down as a large group. Lots of different things came together. –Audience Survey Response 

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Lena Nelson

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I particularly liked the participation of people from other towns and children included –Audience Feedback





A Young River Settler Who Also Dances the Cotillion!

Some Songs from Paddling Theatre

Granite Falls

Minnesota Falls

The Mussel Song

Yellow Medicine City

Videos of Paddling Theatre

A Documentary about Paddling Theatre

A Full Video of Paddling Theatre

Scholarship about Paddling Theatre

Reviews and Discussions of Paddling Theatre

Pre-Press For Paddling Theatre: