Four of us sit in a hot, damp garage. The door is shut to keep out the millions of mosquitoes that the Minnesota lakes inevitably draw in hordes. The sweat drips in sheets. There is one lamp lit in the corner. We sit: separate yoga mats spread out, legs crossed, music humming in the distance, pens in front of us, perched like soldiers. One of us speaks. The rest listen.
We cling to each other’s words. We wait behind bated breath to share parts of our lives with each other. We use poems to create a dialogue, a monologue, a path for our voices to follow through space and time. We use our bodies to create music. We are writing “Letters,” which will be featured in the Minnesota Fringe Festival. We’ll have an audience for all six performances. We will touch at least one person every night with the stories we create.
I was barely six when I saw my first real play. It was a high school production of Charlotte’s Web. Three of the actors leapt off the stage, ran into the audience, and pursued a chase scene. My father sat next to me. After the performance he nudged me, and asked if I’d ever get up onstage and do that. I never thought I’d have the courage.
I am now 23 years old, and I’ve co-written a show. I directed my first play as a college senior, earned a degree in Theatre Art, and acted in two short films and one feature. All took place in the North.
I remember being nineteen and confused. I wanted to act but didn’t know the right way to do it. I thought I had to be a certain archetype of human. I thought I had to be in a certain place. I turned down my acceptance from Chapman University in Orange, California to move to Moorhead, Minnesota. My gut told me, stay. My gut told me, be patient. I thought I wanted to study philosophy, but I found my way back to the stage. And I waited some more.
Maybe it’s the pride of surviving brutally humid summers and harsh winters while we chase our dreams. Maybe it’s the foliage, the pine trees, the maple syrup, the hidden dive bars – our special holes in the walls. Maybe it’s the way everyone else loves Prince just as much as I do.
Maybe it’s the music festivals in the backyard of Surly Brewing, or the way the Lowry bridge looks at night in the summertime with mosquitoes whirring past your eardrums. Maybe it’s finding a quiet place to write, like Urban Bean or Avant Garden or the steps of the Basilica of St. Mary with a pen tucked behind my ear. Maybe it’s the knowledge that my grandparents still live only an hour away.
Or maybe it’s just the fact that I can afford to live and be an artist.
The North is a theatre destination. I now drive past three theatres on my way to work every single day. I open the Star Tribune in the back kitchen to find a raving review about a new theatre experience showing at the Walker, just fifteen minutes from where I live. I browse Minnesota Playlist and find a slew of upcoming auditions I could attend. I get a text from a friend asking if I know anybody who would be a good writer for a show they have stewing in their brain, a show that’s yet to be written.
I’m standing in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel, also known as The Depot. I’m wearing all black, a sleek pencil skirt, and my hair is tied back and my nails are trimmed. I work as a cocktail waitress to support myself but in my bag, hidden behind the bar, are two books. My copy of David Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” and one book titled “How to be a Working Actor,” smeared with highlighter and foundation-heavy fingerprints. I pile three Manhattans onto my tray and take it to my third table of the night. Where are they headed? The Guthrie.
It’s everywhere. All the North’s a stage.