A Re-imagining in the Flint Hills
Photos by Marci Spaw
The Ruin at Volland has been a source of curiosity for all who visit.
“What is that?” they say, when looking out the big front windows of the Store. “It is the remains of a house,” we answer, “It was built by Otto Kratzer as the home for his family.” 1927 is carved into a concrete step which leads down into the former basement.
A few years into the life of the house, at 10 in the morning, a fire started in the attic and burned the house to the ground. Because there was no electricity at that time, the suspicion is that a steam engine was idling on the tracks nearby, taking up water from the creek, and a spark landed on the roof.
The family moved into the upstairs of their big brick store next door and never rebuilt their home.
The “Ruin” sits close to the railroad track, next to a small grove of trees. It looks at the hill which displays “Volland” in white-painted rocks. It is a magnet for children and adults alike, and once for a bride and groom. It is an invitation for photo opportunities and for quiet moments by poets. It is a place for imagination and play.
A play! That’s it. We have wondered through the years how it could best be used, what kinds of things could happen there. And now, theatre seems just right, for a beginning.
Enter Beth Wynstra and Mary Pinard…
Mary Pinard is a poet who teaches literature and poetry at a business college in the East- Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Mary has spent parts of many summers in the Flint Hills, and the last three, she has visited The Volland Store as a resident poet. Sharing experiences of her time in Kansas has perplexed many of her friends,
Mary Pinard, selfie in the Flint Hills, 2019
but has intrigued her colleague Beth Wynstra, who teaches courses in American Drama, Acting, Modernism, and Rhetoric at Babson.
Now they are teaming up to present a community-based theater project, culminating with a live production “at the Ruin,” in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibition “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” in 2021. The project will be produced and overseen by The Volland Store.
Beth writes: “We believe a theatrical production adds a compelling element to the Smithsonian exhibition’s goal ‘to explore local stories of innovation and adaptation.’ The basis of Theater at the Ruin will be the real-life narratives and experiences of those in the greater Alma community. Furthermore, Theater at the Ruin will be produced at The Volland Store, exemplifying the significance of historic places as well as demonstrating how these locales might be reimagined as dynamic new spaces for artistic exploration and community building.”
- Theater at the Ruin will begin in Spring 2021 with interviews with individuals who live in the greater Alma community as well as those who visit the Smithsonian exhibition at The Volland Store. Beth Wynstra, the project’s director, and Mary Pinard, the project’s playwright, will conduct the interviews with a goal of speaking to a wide, cross-section of individuals who come from a variety of generations and experiences.
- Beth will audition actors in Spring 2021. These actors will work with Beth in virtual rehearsals throughout the spring.
- Mary will craft the interview transcripts into dramatic monologues or, possibly, dialogues. The writing of these dramatic texts will take place in Spring 2021.
- Beth and Mary will return to The Volland Store in early summer for two weeks to hold rehearsals with actors and prepare for the live production of Theater at the Ruin to be held June 18 and 19, 2021.
- It is our hope to publish the script for Theater at the Ruin to capture the unique voices and life experiences of the narratives we collect and perform.
Beth Wynstra teaches courses in American Drama, Acting, Modernism, and Rhetoric. She holds a Ph.D. in Theater Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a certificate in Directing from the Yale School of Drama. Beth is working on a book manuscript tentatively titled I Only Act a Part You’ve Created: Eugene O’Neill’s Wife Characters, A Reconsideration, which investigates the agency, persuasive tactics, and status of wife characters in the plays of Eugene O’Neill. She has written extensively on the life and plays of Eugene O’Neill and serves on the board of the Eugene O’Neill International Society. Beth regularly directs plays and musicals at Babson and is the Founding Artistic Director of The Empty Space Theater.
This will be Beth’s first trip to the Flint Hills. She can’t wait. She and Mary plan to arrive on the second weekend of the Crossroads exhibit (March 20-21, 2021) to gather stories and audition actors. Put it on your calendar and spread the word. More information to come. Beth is adept at working with students who have no prior acting experience. All are welcome!
Enjoy this: https://www.facebook.com/BabsonArts/videos/416112192283069/