by Summer Lukasiewicz
I have seen a number of one-person shows over the years and am always awed by the power and vulnerability of one actor on stage doing it all, but theatre is a collaborative art form, even if the form it takes is a one-person show.
SNOWCATCHER is a 65-minute one act written and performed by Becky Boesen–one actor, seven characters. However, the show came to fruition through the collaboration of arts organizations across the state, from the Historic Midwest Theater in Scottsbluff to the Lincoln Arts Council, Blixt, and the Lied Center. A team of artists brought their skills to the collaboration to bring this one-person show to the stage: Director/Sound Designer Robin McKercher, Costume Designer Donna Himmelberger, Lighting Designer Kim Williams, Lighting Specialist Del Delorm, Technical Director Melanie Rudy, and Executive Producer Petra Wahlqvist.
Walking into the Johnny Carson Theater, the audience is greeted with an empty chair in front of three long white pieces of fabric suspended from a tall frame all held in warm light…and silence. At first, I thought some pre-show music would be nice–the smattering of early arrivers were whispering as though in a library or a tomb–but after sitting with the silence and the empty chair for a few minutes, I felt the impact of that emptiness, the drama of absence and changed my mind–well done. SNOWCATCHER addresses uncomfortable topics of death and grief and fear…and asking the audience to sit with silence and absence is a powerful first moment.
Through a fast-moving 65 minutes, the audience travels through the 1888 Nebraska Blizzard and through the stream-of-consciousness of Hattie, a six-year-old girl who opted, when the storm hit, to leave her school in order to look for her friend and strive to find her way home. Hattie is also contending with the recent death of her mother. (Or perhaps it’s not so recent–time is relative after all, and more so to small children, as Hattie frequently reminds us, “dream is dream and here with me now is here with me now.”)
Boesen tackles, and I do mean physically tackles, six additional characters who Hattie introduces and talks with in memory and dream. This is a full-body endeavor where Boesen rolls, crawls, high-kicks, kneels, jumps, dances, fights and uses every bit of her energy to bring the story fully to life. Under Robin McKercher’s direction, the transitions between characters are quick and clear with fast physical shifts and vocal differences that distinguish each character.
The utilization of the white fabric and chair create memorable, dynamic moments. The space, storm, and transitions are further realized with sound and lighting that bring the blizzard into the theater.
The quick shifts and unpredictable thought process of a six-year-old girl spin and whirl quickly through a story of struggle and grief, but near the end in a moment when Boesen drops fully into her own voice, she (with some additional help from lighting and sound) brings us a moment of lightness and hope.
Boesen was asked if she’d consider writing a story about this historic storm.
Her process and the creation of this work bring her clear answer: I am the storm.
Go see it.
SNOWCATCHER plays at the Carson Theatre at the Lied Center Thursday, October 18 – Sunday October 21. For tickets contact the Lied Center box office 402-472-4747 or online at liedcenter.org .
Summer Lukasiewicz is an actor, director, writer, educator, the Executive Director of Flatwater Shakespeare Company, and a lover of well-told stories.