The Obama Fellow Who Wants to Transform Rural America Through Local Theater

She and her team then spend about a month developing a script, incorporating ideas from residents about what kind of play they’d like to see and what kind of story they’d like to tell. “A lot of times, people are interested in telling a story about the town’s history or playing a character that’s a member of their own family,” she says. To encourage participation, Hanson will ask people to audition, and for shows with larger casts, performers will frequently prerecord the dialogue so they don’t need to be nervous about memorizing their lines. For the first show that she ever did in Granite Falls, which celebrated the river and a regional art crawl known as the Meander, she cast anyone who was interested. For another, in the neighboring town of Milan (pronounced MY-lun), she told me that she, her partner and a handful of volunteers knocked on every door in town, asking people to audition. Milan’s population is about 360, “and ultimately we had about 40 people,” Hanson told me. “That’s a lot.”

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