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Sarah Phipps as Kurt Mead, a naturalist who was inspired to pursue his career by Whitewater’s Dave Palmquist. / Jill Veerkamp

The Whitewater Valley in southeastern Minnesota has a deep and rich history, from pre-European settlement to today. There are many stories to be told of the valley and in August, these stories are being brought to life at Whitewater State Park in the theatrical performances of “A Whitewater World.” To celebrate Whitewater State Park’s centennial, the original production are staged in the park’s Meadow on every Sunday in August, starting at 4 p.m. The last two performances are Aug. 18 and 25.

Playwright Eva Barr of rural Wykoff was hired to write the script for the production, which she did using interviews that staff and volunteers at Whitewater State Park gathered in the recent oral history project. “Eva was really excited about this idea and she has experience doing place-based storytelling through theater,” said Whitewater State Park Naturalist Sara Holger. “She does an impressive job researching her topics and following up with people to get unique perspectives. She even met with representatives of the Prairie Island Indian Community in Red Wing to invite their participation on the project and to gather their insights and perspectives on the history of the area.”

St. Charles resident Dana McConnell was brought in to help direct and a cast of nine local people rehearsed since the beginning of June. The cast portrays multiple roles, each depicting real people that lived in the valley or made a significant impact on the area. “There’s a whole bunch of characters,” said Barr. She added that she hoped she has been able to do justice to their stories.

Sarah Phipps, a St. Mary’s student and a member of the cast, said, “I think the best part of this process is everyone coming together from their different backgrounds and wanting to make this show so important and valuable and really respect the names that are mentioned and the history that’s brought up in the show.”

“There’s a lot of respectfulness in the show,” she added. The cast is dedicated in educating others on past events and in telling the stories of the people that lived in the Whitewater Valley, including the Dakota that made the region their home prior to European settlement. “They have an incredible story that needs to be told,” said Phipps.

Live music is an important element for “A Whitewater World,” with musicians playing violin, bass, and guitar. The music sets the scene for each time period depicted in the show, and is played during scene transitions.

While there will be a few tarps and benches for the audience to sit on for the show, people are also encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets.

“It’s fun,” Barr said to encourage people to come see the show. “It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon.” She added that for people from the local area, the show has stories of their neighbors and the region they call home.

The Friends of Whitewater State Park were able to securing funding for “A Whitewater World,” which includes grants from the South East Minnesota Arts Council, the Plainview Area Foundation, and the St. Charles Area Community Foundation.

Reprinted with permission of the St. Charles Press

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