Author to speak virtually on mystery novel

Author Allen Eskens will speak about his latest mystery novel “Nothing More Dangerous” from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, July 13, in a live virtual event as part of the Brown Bag Lunch program through the Brainerd Public Library.

The event will be streamed on the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library Facebook page at www.facebook.com/brainerdpubliclibrary.

In this mystery novel, a high school boy growing up in the Ozark hills rethinks his understanding of the world, race and class when he befriends a black family who moves in across the street. Eskens is the USA Today-bestselling author of “The Life We Bury,” “The Guise of Another” and “The Heavens May Fall.” His debut novel, “The Life We Bury,” has been published in 26 languages and is being developed for a feature film. He lives in outstate Minnesota where he has been a practicing criminal defense attorney for 25 years.

Author Allen Eskens
Author Allen Eskens

This presentation is sponsored by the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library through their volunteer and fundraising efforts.

The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library are celebrating the 21st season of the Brown Bag Lunch Author Series with a lineup of award-winning and acclaimed Minnesota writers.

For more information, contact the library at 218-829-5574.

Author Allen Eskens will speak about his latest mystery novel “Nothing More Dangerous” from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, July 13, in a live virtual event as part of the Brown Bag Lunch program through the Brainerd Public Library. Submitted Photo
Author Allen Eskens will speak about his latest mystery novel “Nothing More Dangerous” from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, July 13, in a live virtual event as part of the Brown Bag Lunch program through the Brainerd Public Library. Submitted Photo

BookEnds to feature Alex Messenger

WADENA — BookEnds Online Edition will feature the true life story of Alex Messenger, who survived a grizzly bear attack during a 600-mile canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness, at age 17.

Messenger, the author of "The Twenty-Ninth Day," will speak about his book at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, July 11, through the Zoom program hosted by the Wadena County Historical Society. To receive an invitation to this event email 603wchs@arvig.net.

This true-life wilderness survival epic recounts Alex Messenger’s near-lethal encounter with a grizzly bear during a canoe trip in the Canadian tundra. The story follows Alex and his five companions as they paddle north through harrowing rapids and stunning terrain. Twenty-nine days into the trip, while out hiking alone, Alex is attacked by a barren-ground grizzly. Left for dead, he wakes to find that his summer adventure has become a struggle to stay alive. Over the next hours and days, Alex and his companions tend his wounds and use their resilience, ingenuity and dogged perseverance to reach help at a remote village a thousand miles north of the U.S.-Canadian border.

Alex Messenger
Alex Messenger

BookEnds is a monthly literary event connecting readers and writers. Now in its fourth season, it is currently being hosted through Zoom on the second Saturday of the month at 11:30 a.m. Recordings of BookEnds programs are available on the website at www.WadenaCountyHistory.org.

The event is hosted by the Wadena County Historical Society and Travelin’ Storyseller in collaboration with the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. BookEnds 2020 authors include Christopher Lehman, Laura Hansen, Allen Woodrow, Anne Dunn, Margi Preus, Ann Lewis, Alex Messenger, J. Ryan Stradal, Gretchen Anthony, Freya Manfred, Lorna Landvik and Barton Sutter.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Five Wings Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Poems sought

WADENA — Minnesota poets are invited to submit original poems for a new local project led by Lina Belar to create a collection of poems of hope and reassurance to help sustain people through the current pandemic.

Poems will be distributed to the public through printed cards, Facebook and Instagram posts, and public signage including the poetry walk at Green Island in Wadena.

“Poetry is often used as a tool of challenge, to point out a need for improvement. The poetry that is needed for this emergency is one that shows what is right and what can be nurtured if we have the words,” Project Leader Lina Belar stated in an email release. “Our communities will survive if we band together in spirit even as we stay apart in space. Poetry can be a way to bind us together.”

Submitted poems can be on any topic. Poems could be for a neighbor or the business down the street, or on anyone, anywhere, who is affected by coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Send submissions through the submit a poem page at www.LinaBelar.com.

This project is supported in part through the Community Emergency Relief Fund, a partnership between Emergency Arts and Springboard for the Arts to support creative leadership to address urgent community needs. Find out more about the Community Emergency Relief Fund at http://www.springboardforthearts.org/cerf and more about Emergency Arts at https://emergencyarts.net/.

Poems by Belar will be displayed on the Poetry Walk at Green Island, now through July 31. Her work will be followed by poems of hope and reassurance from other regional poets.

Green Island is located on the edge of Wadena, where owner Kent Scheer has created a natural destination for contemplation, meditation and relaxation by repurposing his childhood home and family farm, a news release stated. There are trails adorned with art, experimental orchards, wildflowers, and a Kuti -- a special hut dedicated to meditation. Scheer and his wife Vicki Chepulis share this cultural landmark with the greater community.

Theatre company brings ‘Godspell’ to drive-in

LONG PRAIRIE — The team that brought summer musical theater back to Little Falls in 2019 has partnered with the Long Drive-In Theater in Long Prairie to host a series of three performances of the popular Broadway musical “Godspell.”

The 2012 revised version of the musical will be performed Aug. 4, 5 and 8.

The not-for-profit Little Falls Summer Musical theater company reached across Minnesota to assemble experienced talent for the “Godspell” cast, orchestra and production team. Auditions and rehearsals used online technologies and followed public health guidelines to keep the “Godspell” team safe. The show will be performed outdoors with ample room for social distancing at the Long Drive-In Theater. The company’s decision last fall to select “Godspell” for the summer 2020 show turned out to be fortuitous, Producer Michael Burr stated in a news release.

“If we’d selected any other musical, we might’ve had to cancel,” Burr stated. “But Godspell is the most freeform show imaginable. It has only minimal stage requirements, which means we have a lot of freedom in staging and props. And the 1979 movie version was filmed outdoors, which makes it an ideal show for an outdoor production.”

This new version of “Godspell,” however, is somewhat different from the classic film version or the original play. A mega-hit on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and around the world, “Godspell” was revised in 2012 by its composer, Stephen Schwartz, with new musical arrangements and updated contemporary references.

A clever retelling of the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, “Godspell” takes its audience on a high-energy romp through the Gospel of Saint Matthew. The cast and orchestra deliver an eclectic blend of songs, ranging in style from pop to vaudeville. With the action dissolving hauntingly into the last supper and the crucifixion, Jesus’s messages of kindness, tolerance, and love resonate to the harmonies of the “Godspell” inspired score.

“Godspell” was the first major musical theater offering from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz of “Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Children of Eden” and it took the world by storm after it opened Off-Broadway in 1971. Led by the international hit, “Day by Day,” Godspell features a parade of beloved songs, including “Prepare Ye,” “Beautiful City,” “All for the Best,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “All Good Gifts,” “Turn Back, O Man” and “By My Side.”

The Little Falls Summer Musical Godspell team features returning performers who are natives of Little Falls, Pierz and Royalton, plus new participants from St. Cloud, Albany, and Moorhead. The “Godspell” cast features Ryan Stangl as Jesus of Nazareth; Jesse Kretsinger as John the Baptist/Judas Iscariot; and ensemble members Emma Ahlin, Corinna Brose, Mia Hoffman, Nate Moga, Luke Rentschler, Angela Wright and Madeline Wright. The creative and technical crew includes Lucas Burr and Michael Kalpakoff as co-directors; Rachael Buckallew as stage manager; AnnMarie Jacobson as costume designer; Stephanita ZumBerge as choreographer; and Robert Jarvis as lighting designer; with production assistants Corinna Brose, Kylie Pohlman and Alex Thoms-Warzecha. Orchestra Director Cary Armagost leads a band that features himself on drums; Lucas Burr on keyboard; Max Jorgensen on guitar; Hannah Killmer on guitar; Brogan Ludwig on guitar; and Joey Blair on electric bass. Michael Burr serves as set designer, and Greg Jorgensen as audio technician.

Pandemic protections

Even as the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of performing arts events around the country, the same team that produced the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee last August returned with a combined sense of hope and caution about producing “Godspell” this summer.

“We take COVID-19 very seriously, and we are carefully following all public health requirements,” Kalpakoff stated. “We’ve kept moving forward only because our creative team was willing to adapt the production process for the changing situation.”

Open auditions began in late May, when invited prospective cast members submitted brief videos of their singing and acting. They were also asked to submit a video demonstrating

their ability to learn and perform a short routine from instructional videos created by the choreographer. Performers selected for callbacks met with the directors and choreographer using online videoconferencing to further show their range of abilities. During the process, members of the creative team routinely met online, exchanging design ideas and sketches.

“Online tools allowed us to keep moving forward safely even at the height of the quarantine,” Burr stated. “It’s been a valuable experience for everyone to figure out how to collaborate remotely on a project as complex as a full-length musical.”

In mid-June, the cast began rehearsing together outdoors, in socially distanced seating, to learn lines and vocal parts for the musical’s 17 songs. When the weather became too rainy or too hot, rehearsals moved indoors, with the cast wearing masks and maintaining social distance in the Charles D. Martin Auditorium at Little Falls Community High School.

The not-for-profit Little Falls Summer Musical is asking for additional donations and sponsorships to help cover production costs. Tax-exempt donations are accepted online via the Give MN nonprofit fundraising site at www.givemn.org/LFSMgodspell. Donors and sponsors may also go to www.lfsummermusical.com or its Facebook page.

Donations also may be mailed to Little Falls Summer Musical c/o U.S. Bank, 1101 Second Ave. NE, Little Falls, 56345-2943, or in person to any U.S. Bank branch, including at Coborn’s Marketplace in Little Falls.

This Little Falls Summer Musical Student project is made possible with support from Sourcewell.

The musical production is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

If you would like your event listed in the entertainment guide, contact Jennifer at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com, 218-855-5851 or mail to Jennifer Kraus, Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 974, Brainerd, MN 56401. Please include time, date, place, admission price and contact information. Deadline is 11 a.m. Monday for Wednesday publication.