A gentle ebbing away: ART Presents ‘The Outgoing Tide’

Actors Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Outgoing Tide” tells the story of Gunner, a pragmatic man facing a terrible future in late life.

Actors in a play.
The performers in Actors Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Outgoing Tide” are Barb McColgan, left, Brian Rhett and Patrick Spradlin.
Contributed / John Erickson

BRAINERD — In the second production of Actors Repertory Theatre’s work, Bruce Graham’s “The Outgoing Tide” will perform March 8-11 in the Dryden Theatre on the campus of Central Lakes College. All performances will be at 7 p.m.

The production marks the first in a newly-minted partnership between Actors Repertory Theatre and the Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center. Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center provides facilities and logistical support for the work of Actors Repertory Theatre, with future productions slated for early summer, mid-autumn and a Christmas show.

“The Outgoing Tide” tells the story of Gunner, a pragmatic man facing a terrible future in late life. He has developed a plan to secure the needs of his family — Peg, his lifelong love; and son Jack, whose relationship with Gunner has been anything but ideal. When Gunner reveals his plans to his family he’s met with strong resistance, who have plans of their own.

A poster for a play showing a man facing the ocean.
A poster for the Actors Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Outgoing Tide.”

“While the word ‘Alzheimer’s’ is never mentioned, it’s clear that this is the health challenge facing Gunner,” Director Beth Selinger said of the play in a news release. “Graham’s play presents a family coming to grips with a disease that devastates not only the patient, but all those who know and love him.”

The play is told with a good deal of humor and compassion. “(It)..brings sensitive observation and minor-key humor to painful situations that many of us will recognize from our own families,” according to a New York Times review.


“Superb…tightly focused drama…Graham zeroes in on recognizable truths,” a Chicago Tribune review noted.

“The characters are well-drawn, the dialogue is pungent…may well flood your emotions with its emotional truth,” BackStage magazine noted in its review of the production.

Playing Gunner is Patrick Spradlin, one of the founding members of Actors Repertory Theatre and recently-retired instructor/director at Central Lakes College. Playing his family are two Actors Repertory Theatre newcomers: Barb McColgan, known to local audiences for her roles in plays such as “Nunsense,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Scotland Road,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “The Crucible”; and Brian Rhett, seen on local stages in productions such as “Wait Until Dark,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Elf,” and “A Christmas Carol.”

Spradlin said the role of Gunner is not a comedic role, even though the character will generate a good deal of laughter.

“He’s a man who has a wry sense of humor, and uses that sense to help him through what he’s facing,” Spradlin said. “The play in no way makes fun of dementia patients, even though there are plenty of laughs. It’s a poignant play, as one might expect, told with real heart. I have a tough time beating back my own tears, which says a lot, especially if you know me.”

McColgan said she has found this experience has challenged her abilities, as she’s more comfortable playing comedic roles.

“It’s been thought-provoking. My mother had Alzheimers, and I’m now of the age the character Peg is in the play. I’m very aware of the reality of the play; it hits home,” McColgan said. “It’s also provided conversation between my husband and me as to what each of us would want were we to find ourselves in that situation.”

Rhett said the work with Actors Repertory Theatre and this play has been a great learning opportunity.


“For me, it’s a great opportunity to learn a lot from the company members, and to widen my acting range,” Rhett said. “It’s been a big adjustment for me to alter some of my acting idiosyncrasies to fit the play. And the subject of the play makes you focus on subject matter and realities that you know are real, but that you’d really rather ignore.”

The set for the play was designed by Tim Leagjeld. Heidi Eckwall designed the lighting. Curtis Jendro provided sound effects. Steve Anderson and Isabelle Corrigan will provide live music as segues and underscoring.

Actors Repertory Theatre was founded by Spradlin and Selinger, along with technical coordinator Curtis Jendro. The company’s focus is on the work of the actor. They choose productions that will challenge actor and audience alike, presenting works that are unlikely to be seen at any other local theaters.

In addition to their commitment to actors, the Actors Repertory Theatre is dedicated to giving back to the community. For the production of “The Outgoing Tide” Karole Wagner, a registered nurse, will be conducting talk-back sessions following each performance. Wagner works primarily with geriatric and memory care patients and has herself lost a parent to Alzheimer’s.

The company will also be contributing to local chapters of The Walk to End Alzheimer’s and will have volunteer walkers from local groups present at all performances to answer questions and distribute informational literature. A donation bucket will be available each night, and the Actors Repertory Theatre encourages contributions from the audience.

For tickets to “The Outgoing Tide” go to the Actors Repertory website, . Donations to The Walk to End Alzheimer’s can also be made there. Those wishing more information on the production or the company can call 218-833-2350.

This production is made possible in part 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.

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