Saturday, August 14, 2010

Little House on the Prairie Expedition

Last summer, after driving a full day to Palo Duro Canyon in Texas to see an outdoor drama, I got to feeling guilty that I had not taken advantage of the opportunity to see an outdoor dramatic presentation that has been going on nearly as long (this is its twentieth year!) and is only a little over an hour from my house. I am speaking of the production called "Laura's Memories" that is held in the small south central Missouri town of Mansfield. The musical is staged in recognition of Mansfield's most famous citizen---Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867 - 1957). On a previous visit to the town, I had toured the Wilder home (called Rocky Ridge Farm) that is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, along with the adjacent museum ( It was during that tour that I learned that various area citizens put on a musical each summer that is based on the true stories that Laura wrote about her life. Since I am not a literary aficionado, nor a librarian (like Laura Bush, who visited the site during her husband's presidency), I knew about the TV series "Little House on the Prairie", starring Michael Landon, BEFORE I knew they were based on books by a Missouri woman named Laura Ingalls Wilder. While touring the historic home, I learned that Mrs. Wilder wrote the books, which were released around 1931, when she was SIXTY-FOUR years old! I found that inspirational, and is one of the reasons I became interested in blogging. She said the reason she wrote the books in the first place, was to preserve the stories of her childhood. Likewise, that is one of the reasons I started blogging---to preserve the memories of some of my experiences. (I figure this will be especially helpful if I ever get Alzheimer's Disease, and cannot remember anything about my past!) Of course, the other reason I started blogging was to help me remember various scripture passages. The one that is appropriate for all this talk about old people is this paraphrase of Psalm 73:26 from The Message: "When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful." Isn't that a great promise! I want to also mention another thing about Laura Ingalls Wilder that inspired me: She attributed some of her skill at story telling to the fact that her sister had been blind, and Laura---at an early age---developed the habit of carefully describing in as descriptive words as possible, the various things and situations that were going on around her, to her blind sister. That way her sister could paint a mental picture of her surroundings. Since my mother was blind at the end of her life, I tried to develop that same quality, and vividly describe scenes to her that she was no longer able to see.

The "Laura's Memories" production is held on select weekends in the summer, in the town's city park. There is a modern amphitheater that seats 600, with seats that have backs to them, and an appropriate sound system and lighting system. Folks who do not want to sit on the amphitheater seats are more than welcome to bring lawn chairs or blankets, and get comfortable on the expansive green lawn surrounding the amphitheater. There is even an "orchestra pit" of sorts, in front of the stage, where the musical director/composer/pianist---Pat Allen---sits, along with other sound effects personnel. The photo on top shows that the price of admission is very reasonable---just $7.00 for adults and $3.00 for children. The bottom photo shows what a large cast of performers the show contains, as they gather behind the stage, shortly before the play begins. Also, those in attendance do not have to worry about the play being canceled due to rain. In the event of rain, everyone just moves to the gymnasium, which is adjacent to the park.

I got as much enjoyment out of "people watching", as I did the actual production. Although the roll call the master of ceremonies did before the show started indicated there were folks there from Minnesota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin, the family pictured in the top two photos of this collage were from nearby Norwood, Missouri. When I was driving to the city park, I got behind a gigantic blue tractor. As I continued to the city park, so did the gigantic blue tractor in front of me. Then it parked, and the family in the top photos climbed down from the seats, and headed for the amphitheater. I surmised that their presence there was a good sign that this was wholesome, family-friendly entertainment! Another family sitting beside me, said they were from Minnesota, and had visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder historic site in their state. It seems that Laura's husband, Almanzo Wilder, was quite the restless soul, and moved his family more than once! I noticed the little children in the audience seemed to pay more attention to the actors on stage than you would expect for their age, and I think it is because there were so many children on stage, doing an excellent job of singing and dancing to the lively tunes!

This collage shows a few of the scenes from the musical, with the lower right photo being the one that is depicting Laura as a senior citizen, living in Mansfield, and being active in various civic organizations. The musical, which lasts about one and one-half hours, has a fifteen minute intermission midway through. They even give away door prizes during the intermission, based on a random drawing from the numbers that were on audience admission tickets. There is also a food concession stand, restrooms, and souvenirs/C.D.'s for sale. If you are interested in seeing this production, there is still time this year, as they are scheduled for September 3-4, September 10-11, and September 17-18. All performances begin at 8 PM, but there is a brief pre-show on most evenings. For more information, phone 417-924-3525 or 417-924-3383. Since the amphitheater is so large, with adjacent areas for lawn chairs, if desired, there is no reason to get tickets in advance. In fact, tickets are for sale only on the evening of the event, when the gates open at 6:30 pm. Miles of outdoor summer musical smiles! Tricia
Posted by Picasa