A very human “Nature”

The outdoor “walking play” documents the lives of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the kept wilderness of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Nature lead Tyson Forbes (left) and director Makell Kiefer (right) discuss their upcoming production Friday at Intermedia Arts in South Minneapolis.  The play is derived in part from the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, of whom Forbes is a direct descendant.

Nature lead Tyson Forbes (left) and director Makell Kiefer (right) discuss their upcoming production Friday at Intermedia Arts in South Minneapolis. The play is derived in part from the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, of whom Forbes is a direct descendant.

Mark Brenden

NatureâÄù A walking play. The mythic telling of Emerson and ThoreauâÄôs mutual love affair with the natural world. When: Aug. 19 âÄì Sept. 5; Thursday/Friday 6 p.m., Sat./Sun. 3 and 6 p.m. Where: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, MN Starring: Tyson Forbes, with Markell Kiefer and Sam Elmore. Music by Dick Hensold Price: Free with admission to the Arboretum Being the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, co-godfather of the Green Revolutio n, certainly has its perks. Not only do you have an ever-flowing fountain of party introductions, but you are the recipient of some of the hardiest, most American genes conceivable. The vast majority of us do not have said genes. But Tyson Forbes , executive artistic producer of TigerLion arts, does, and heâÄôs chosen to do something a little different with them. Instead of wearing a hat that says, âÄúI am the worthy descendant of RWEâÄù (which I think is what most of us would do), Forbes is choosing to honor his great, great, great grandfather with a play about his life, and heâÄôs setting it not in the storied fields of New England , but in our own lake-scattered slab oâÄô land. âÄúWeâÄôre taking the audience through an experience of how we personally connect to nature,âÄù he said. âÄúBecause I think thatâÄôs a lot of what Emerson and [Henry David] Thoreau were about: whatâÄôs your personal connection to nature? ThereâÄôs a lot of just our passion for nature in the show.âÄù Forbes, who plays the part of his eminent granddad, said the point of the play was to not only channel nature through the literary giants, but also to dispel certain myths surrounding the two men. He said Emerson and Thoreau were not so much these proverbial Batman and Robin of literature so much as they were flesh-and-blood, truly compassionate human beings. âÄúI think the general stereotype is that Thoreau was this wild man who lived in the woods, undisciplined. And Emerson is more of the tamed mind, man of the world, and theyâÄôre always grouped together.âÄù Set in the rugged (albeit designed) wilderness of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum , Forbes said that the natural atmosphere takes on more of a role in the play than just a pretty milieu. âÄúWe really see it as the third character is nature, so weâÄôre trying to play with that character as much as possible âĦ And thereâÄôs so much to play with,âÄù Forbes said. With the format being a âÄúwalking playâÄù âÄî wherein the audience follows the actors to several destinations in the story âÄî the play is able to reflect the sojourn-filled lives of its subjects. The idea is the players are part tour guide, part actor. âÄúThe story weâÄôve chosen has a sense of journey in it,âÄù creative producer/director Markell Kiefer said. âÄúSo as the audience is moving, the story is also moving.âÄù Kiefer said the format is conducive to the viewing pleasures of all ages, particularly the young rapscallions pounding sugar snacks in the crowd and getting all fidgety. âÄúPart of it is about bringing people outdoors and getting them connected to nature, and part of it is about getting them engaged with each other,âÄù Kiefer said. âÄúThereâÄôs something about groups of people moving and walking in the same direction that makes them happy.âÄù But beyond making people happy, âÄúNatureâÄù is supposed to make people think. And the words of Emerson and Thoreau, and their indissoluble bond with the natural world resonate stronger than ever in our obligatorily environmental culture. âÄúIf you go back to their readings, they are so relevant today. ItâÄôs just screaming out. They must have had some incredible foresight, because their world was pretty together, but they clearly saw where this trend was going,âÄù Forbes said. âÄú âĦ I think theyâÄôd be pretty shocked if they saw how far it had gone.âÄù