A year ago when we decided it was time to reprise one of the most popular shows we’ve ever produced, that was our only motivation: the combination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Christmas had been irresistible to our audiences in 2014 and we thought it deserved another run.
Presenting the non-canonical story of the Ingalls family’s year in Burr Oak, Iowa now seems oddly more appropriate than we could have dreamed. Laura chose not to include this year of her life in her Little House books–it was just too painful. A plague of grasshoppers, the death of a baby brother, and the lonely discomfort of living in a room “in town” and working in a loud and crowded tavern…these were such unhappy memories for the adult Laura, that she simply wrote them out of her timeline. It never occurred to us at afO that we would be bringing this story to life during a year which has been just as painful for many of us, and which we may in future wish we could erase from our own timelines.
***We are several weeks into our rehearsal process for this second show of our 2020-2021 season. Unlike The Dreadful Journal of Phoebe Weems, which was presented ONLY virtually, we will be performing A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas for live audiences November 13-14. If you would prefer to enjoy an online version, we are also planning to film it for pay-to-view, probably in December. Watch for more details soon!
This charming 2005 script by Laurie Brooks is based on good solid research into the “missing” two years of Laura’s childhood. Of course the Little House books which she wrote were about her days as Laura Ingalls, and since this play takes place in 1876 when she was nine years old, it should really be A Laura Ingalls Christmas…but that would be quibbling. Brooks has beautifully brought out the humor and sweetness of the Ingalls sisters: Mary, Laura and Carrie. Johnny Steadman, the hotel owner’s son, is a wonderfully comic–ornery–contrast to the girls.[For more information about this time in Laura’s life, you may want to check out the museum website for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum at Burr Oak, Iowa.]
It is very satisfying to know that the events depicted in our play are based on history. Even the girls’ measles–and the fact that Johnny gets them at Christmastime–are events recorded in the source material, primarily Laura’s memoir, Pioneer Girl, which was published in 2014. For most of a century this manuscript has been available only to scholars. Laura tried to have it published during the Depression, but it was deemed too harsh and bleak a story to appeal to the general public at that time. Years later, Laura’s daughter Rose Wilder Lane, herself an author, would encourage Laura to reframe her life as stories for children. The Little House series of books was born, and was to have enduring popularity.
***Watch this space for more venue and ticket information, and for an introduction to our splendid Little House cast, as well as for a special opportunity to support a new local “little house”, the St. Joseph Missions Women’s Shelter.