Theater preview: Journey from school to farm to theater
Play depicts sometimes funny, sometimes hard lessons of farm life
“This show has been a heartfelt endeavor to connect the dots between agriculture and art – two passions of mine,” said Sarah Syverson, a personality from KSJD and the director of the Montezuma School to Farm Project.
Syverson plans vignettes loosely based on her personal farming journey to the Durango Arts Center in a one-woman show called Growing: Adventures in Food and Farming. She is the writer and star of the show. She plays herself and other characters including an old goat lady, a turnip, a canning cheer leader and a new-ager who wants to be one with the vegetables. All the supporting characters help Syverson grow along the way.
“She really runs a broad spectrum that is what so fun to watch her shift from character to character,” said Mona Wood-Patterson, the co-creator and producer.
While Syverson was growing up in the suburbs of a town in Montana, farming seemed like a scene from poetry. She pictured herself walking through rows of perfect vegetables wearing a peasant dress.
But when she left corporate life and moved to the Mancos Valley to run her own three-acre farm, reality and accompanying hilarity set in.
Invading grasshoppers and failing greenhouse roofs are part of the farming life. Yet, the show approaches the plagues and joys of farming with an eye for comedy and highlights tender moments.
“It’s not just a riotous comedy, it’s really a journey,” Wood-Patterson said.
In real life, without any experience, Syverson forayed into animal husbandry with chickens. She was terrified of touching them but also of facing their deaths. In the end, a few of the first dozen met their demise at the hands of Syverson’s own dogs.
“It was mortifying to pick up this bloody chicken,” she recalled. Now, she faces their slaughter as a natural end – when they are no longer producing many eggs.
She later moved on to keeping bigger livestock, and all along the way, she was learning.
“That is what this show is about for me – growing in my heart and soul, growing a little food to share, and being able to laugh with an open heart along the way at the pitfalls and steep learning curves,” she said.
She was also inspired by her moments as the director of the Montezuma School to Farm Project, which started educational gardening programs in the Dolores, Mancos and Montezuma-Cortez school districts.
Some students she encounters during her work are disconnected from the source of their food. She recalled a class in which a student who saw meat rabbits for the first time commented, I wouldn’t eat that; my food comes from the grocery store.
But through her program, she has also seen many students learn to love eating from the garden.
“I saw my own self in these kids at that age, remembering the wonders and joys of the garden – and also the hard work,” she said.
Syverson’s show will kick off the season for the Merely Players, a Durango-based theater company, run by Wood-Patterson and her husband.