Music: Purple Rose Theatre Company weaves a legend into life with award winning play White Buffalo
Thousands of people descend on a small farm in Wisconsin to witness a miracle in White Buffalo, the award-winning play by Don Zolidis.
The play’s world premier is currently being performed by a wonderfully talented cast at the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea.
The extremely rare birth of a pure white bison calf (played by Meghan Thompson) fulfills a Sioux prophecy about the return of the White Buffalo Woman(Rainbow Dickerson). According to Sioux religious beliefs, the birth signals the beginning of peace and unity among all races.
It also signals the arrival of many guests to the Gelling farm, where mother Carol (Michelle Mountain) and 18-year-old daughter Abby (Stacie Hadgikosti) struggle to see eye-to-eye.
The arrival of a young Sioux man John Two Rivers (Michael Brian Ogden), who is skeptical, challenges Abby’s passionate embrace of the legend. Meanwhile, the sudden return of Abby’s father Mike (Alex Leydenfrost) brings up tough questions about forgiveness, as they have not heard from him for eight years, and the arrival of Anderson Wilkes (David Daoust), who offers to pay a large amount for the bison, forces the Gellings to decide whether or not they should keep the magical animal. While the characters decide for themselves whether or not they believe the legend of the white buffalo, the real question of the play is whether or not it will bring peace and unity to the fractured family.
Told through emotionally charged monologues and passionate debates between the characters, as well as engrossing reenactments of the legend performed by chorus narrators (Matthew David and Nate Mitchell with drummer Gregory Butka), the legend and present day are interwoven in a beautiful way. The narrators, the White Buffalo Woman, and the white calf listen to what is happening with the family, like spirits. At times it even seems that the characters sense their presence.
A visit to the theater on Sunday, May 13 would make a great Mother’s Day present for any mom, as the character of Carol reflects the challenges and joys felt by most mothers.
In 2011, Zolidis was awarded an Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award for White Buffalo at the Purple Rose.
The Purple Rose had a hand in perfecting the script, before the play was ever performed on stage. Heidi Bennett, Marketing Director at the Purple Rose, said the script won an award from The Princess Grace Foundation in 2004, but never received a professional production until now.
“We did workshops and brought the playwright in,’’ Bennett said. “Actors read the play out loud, and Zolidis made some changes to the script after that.’’
There also were public readings at the Ann Arbor District Library and the Chelsea District Library in 2007 and 2010. Zolidis continued to tweak the script based on the workshops and feedback he received from the public. “For us, it has been a play that’s been around here for a while, and we are excited by how it turned out,” Bennett said.
White Buffalo will be performed through June 2. Shows are on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8 p.m. with Wednesday matinees at 3 p.m. There also are performances on Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There will be a special matinee for student groups on Thursday, May 10, at 11 a.m.
The Purple Rose Theatre Company is located at 137 Park Street, in Chelsea. For ticketing information and a schedule of performances, visit www.purplerosetheatre.org or call the box office at (734) 433-7673.