Holm tribute planned at HasslerThe story goes like this: While teaching a class of young writers at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn., Bill Holm gave an assignment: Write about something you see on your way home, in your community, or even in your own back yard.
The story goes like this: While teaching a class of young writers at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn., Bill Holm gave an assignment: Write about something you see on your way home, in your community, or even in your own back yard.
The next time the class met, Jon Hassler Theater officials said, Holm was astounded to find that not one of his students could come up with something to write about.
His face reddening with disbelief, Holm launched into what he later remembered as his “trademark lecture on Thoreau, Emerson, and the transcendentalists,” and how they were masters of finding a universe in the smallest things.
As his anger and his lecture reached a climax, Bill looked down to see a boxelder bug making its way across one of his students’ desks.
“In fact,” Holm said, “you could write a piece about this bug, and that is now your assignment.”
Holm went home and decided to work on his own assignment. The result, “Boxelder Bug Variations,” became a full-length book of musings on these humble bugs and on life, beauty and the small beginnings that bring forth majestic creations.
In 1987 Sally Childs embarked upon an adaptation of Holm’s book, shaping a theater-dance production that she described as, “formal, elegant, presentational, and highly experimental.” She reworked the piece for presentation at the Hassler in 2001.
Now, as part of a tribute to Holm, who died in February, Childs has reworked the production again, this time into a reading with music.
Holm once talked about what went into creating the book, saying, “The material of any work of art — a chair, an afghan, an equestrian statue, a waltz — is so amorphous and mysterious that probably only a psychologist, an executioner, or a full professor would be fool enough to try to name it, or even describe it in its own language.
“An artist, on the other hand, gives it a body, and a body, since is exists, is true. A boxelder bug is as satisfactory a body as purple, or a saxophone, or French, or obsidian.”
Childs took the idea from there, starting with “Consider the boxelder bug,” then looking at how people feel about bugs, and finally bringing the piece together with “a man and a woman and a boxelder bug.”
The staged reading at 8 p.m. Aug. 8 will feature Twin Cities actors Terry Lynn Carlson, Beth Desotelle and Suzanna Winter, along with the Hassler’s general manager, Carter Martin. Childs will narrate.
Before the presentation, poet John Rezmerksi, who works with the Holm estate, will speak on the author’s legacy. Nancy Gormley and Angela Griffin will reads excerpts from Holm’s book of essays, “The Music of Failure,” accompanied by slides of the prairie taken by Nancy Campbell.
Tickets are $14. Call (507) 534-2900 or go online to www.jonhasslertheater.org.
“Boxelder Bug Variations” is the first program in the Hassler Summer Sampler. Also scheduled: “Wisecracks from My Father” by Leslye Orr, 8 p.m. Aug. 14-15; “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up” by David Harris, 7 p.m. Aug. 22; and “Revelations of Mann” by David Mann, 8 p.m. Aug. 28-29.