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History meets drama in storytelling event

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Area residents have the opportunity to experience a dramatic interpretation of history -- and record their own, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society and the Wadena County Historical Society.

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Maren Levad, the library partnership coordinator for the Minnesota Historical Society, encouraged the public to attend the free event at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 24, at the Wadena Memorial Auditorium.

"It's called the Wadena Playwright Project, an intergenerational project," Levad said.

Local teen writers will draw from the experiences of Wadena County seniors, termed the Greatest Generation, who lived through the back-to-back catastrophes of the Great Depression and World War II.

Over the week of July 19-23, Yalonda Nelson, Avery Jackson, Angie Lawrence, Tareyn Stromberg and Hope Dumpprope will write a theatrical piece under the guidance of St. Paul playwright and social studies teacher Nelson Inz and director Amy Hunter.

The final dramatic readings will be based on the real-life accounts of local seniors including Marian Derby, Ruby Lynk, Robert Sommars, historian Roger Folkestad and several others. The teens will work with Sandi Nelson of the Wadena County Historical Society and learn how to conduct oral history interviews on the topic "Overcoming Hard Times and Adversity."

The project planning started in January, but as of June 17, Wadena County residents of all ages have survived their own disaster of Minnesota history. The Minnesota Historical Society plans to tie these themes together and collect recent tornado stories from the audience immediately following the presentation.

Two people with video cameras will be on hand to tape Wadena tornado survivors telling their stories.

"People who want to be recorded can be, and people who don't have time can share their stories and have that opportunity as well," said Levad.

Those who wish to tell their story without being videotaped can fill out a written form to be mailed later.

Levad said the idea to additionally preserve tornado stories was inspired by Minnesota Historical Society's exhibit "Weather Permitting." A section called "Get To the Basement!" features multimedia presentations on the May 6, 1965 tornadoes that devastated the Fridley, Minn. area.

"We knew how important it was to that community that they were able to look back and reflect on the storm and share that for the future generations," Levad said.

The Wadena Playwright Project is one of several recent intergenerational projects throughout Minnesota. It is being produced in collaboration with the Wadena City Library and the Wadena County Historical Society.

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