Walking with nature

Unique, outdoor play to take place at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory on Aug. 8-9, 11

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau would likely have felt right at home at the Iowa Lakeside Lab on the shores of West Lake Okoboji.

So perhaps there is no better place for the 19th century world of the renowned friends, philosophers and naturalists to come to life.

The highly acclaimed and award-winning outdoor walking play, “Nature,” is coming to Lakeside Lab where it will be performed at 6 p.m. Aug. 8 and 9, followed by a showing at 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon, Aug. 11.

Tickets are on sale for $20 per person.

The entire performance will last about 90 minutes without intermission. Guests are encouraged to dress for the weather, wear comfortable shoes and can bring blankets or portable chairs to carry along to each location.

Golf carts will be provided as needed and attendees with limited mobility are asked to call in advance if such assistance will be needed.

There will also be an abbreviated performance for free during the Okoboji Blue Water Festival at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, at Preservation Plaza in Arnolds Park.

Bringing the production, from TigerLion Arts of Minneapolis, to Lakeside Lab has been an event three years in the making.

“Longtime board member Jim Kech has seen it a couple times and his first thought was ‘Oh my goodness, this has to take place at Lakeside, there is not a better place on Earth for it to be than here,’” said Lisa Roti, executive director of Friends of Lakeside Lab. “It’s been a long process to bring them here and we’ve had the help of some incredible sponsors along the way.”

Certainly the natural environment around Lakeside Lab — woodlands, prairie, lakeshore — would inspire Thoreau and Emerson, as would the nature of the work done by the students, staff and interns at the facility.

“One of the neat things about them is their thoughts on transcendentalism with nature and the belief that nature can truly transport you and change your life,” Roti said. “We know that through their unique, immersive experience at Lakeside Lab the trajectory of people’s lives and careers can completely change. So, this play really works well in terms of what the lab stands for and what those men stood for.”

This unique theatrical event was created by Tyson Forbes, a direct descendant of Emerson.

“I have always felt honored to be an Emerson descendant,” Forbes said in a news release for the event.

“I feel an intimate responsibility to his lineage, and for years I have imagined a play that could bring his spirit and teachings, along with that of his friend and fellow author, Henry David Thoreau, to a broader audience.

“When I read their work, I find answers to burning questions on how to live my life more deeply and responsibly in this world. They were both radicals of their time, calling on their peers to think for themselves and be agents of change. I believe their words and ideas are as necessary now as they were then.”

The audience will make their way around the grounds while the play unfolds around them in four distinct scenes that explore their lives, philosophies and ultimately the rift that brought about an end to their friendship.

The award-winning ensemble of professional actors will be joined by local actress Ebba Bjornstad, who was selected after a series of auditions to play the part of Elly Emerson.

An eight-person chorus will also be filled out by local community members.

“We’re really excited for everyone that has the opportunity to be involved. It will be a lot of fun for them and for the audience too,” Roti said. “The fact that we are able to have something of this caliber in our own backyard is such a great opportunity.”