I’m not a religious man. But I believe in pilgrimages. I believe in preparing oneself for a journey. Re-reading Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, which continues to inspire A Midewin Almanac, I find myself in need of spending some time at Leopold’s beloved “shack.”
But like any pilgrimage worth the effort, there are important shrines to visit along the way. First up is American Players Theatre. To my mind, it is the North American equivalent of Delphi. Set in the exquisite, unglaciated hills of southwest Wisconsin, it attracts many fellow pilgrims from far and wide who seek the voice of the gods in the works of Shakespeare and other classical dramatists.
Nearly 20 years ago, I spent one of the best summers of my life as an actor at APT. Night after night, under the stars, slaying the bloody King of Scotland or standing firm against mob mentality in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.
This night, I set sail on a production of The Tempest; the same show in which I appeared on the same stage all those many years ago. If I had remained in acting, I would have relished the opportunity to grow into the role of Prospero and command the elements:
Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm’d
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And ‘twixt the green sea and the azured vault
Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck’d up
The pine and cedar: graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ’em forth
By my so potent art.
As a volunteer restorationist at Midewin, my skills and abilities are considerably less dramatic. But they’re enough that I can deeply appreciate the hillside prairie restorations that are a vital part of the APT experience.
Next up on the pilgrimage…Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen.