Bringing performance alive through taste

The cast of “Dr. Falstaff and the Working Wives of Lake County” will be performing the operetta at Swede Hollow Park on Saturday, Sept. 29. The operetta not only includes sights and sounds, but also tastes, as food will be used to extend the story and interact with the audience. (submitted photo)

Picnic operetta returns to Swede Hollow Park


When thinking of a weekend activity, going to the opera isn’t always the first idea, though if that was somehow on the agenda, look no further than Swede Hollow Park.

 On Saturday, Sept. 29, a local theater group will host a picnic operetta at the park, which will involve more than just voices — the story will also be told through food. 

Mixed Precipitation, a Twin Cities-based performance company, is in its 10th year and has performed operettas in Swede Hollow for many of those years through the help of the Friends of Swede Hollow neighborhood organization.

This year’s performance is called “Dr. Falstaff and the Working Wives of Lake Country: A Picnic Operetta,” and is based off the Shakespeare comedy, “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” in which an old knight tries to woo two married women for his financial benefit. The women lead him on for their own amusement and to embarrass the knight, whose name is Mr. Falstaff.

In Mixed Precipitation’s version, the comedy takes place in an old mining town in northern Minnesota. The women portrayed are a nurse and librarian. 

Scotty Reynolds, Mixed Precipitation’s artistic director, said when adapting the performances over the years, the goal’s been to tie them into current events. He said because of recent debates and discussions about mining in Minnesota, dropping Falstaff into the Iron Range seemed to be a good fit. Past operettas have included “Philemon and Baucis — Planet in Peril,” and “Donald Giovanni in Cornlandia.”  

Reynolds said this year’s storyline also includes battles with the Environmental Protection Agency, campaigns to bring mining back and cities that are suffering after being left behind by closed-down taconite mines. It also features some Bruce Springsteen tunes.

The performances serve multiple purposes, he said — to bring opera to people who may never have seen it, to familiarize them with classical storylines and to take current political or cultural situations that may be unfamiliar to a participant and put them into a context that makes sense.

“It honors that experience of people,” said Reynolds of the operetta’s mining theme. 



through taste

In addition to modernizing a Shakespeare tale, the story will also be told with the help of food.

“We use food to translate, highlight and theatricalize events in the story,” Reynolds said. 

This picnic operetta, as it’s called, is performed across the state during the harvest months —August and September — said Reynolds, so that the performance group can include locally harvested foods. 

For the Swede Hollow show, Mixed Precipitation will partner with Urban Roots to provide various vegetable dishes to accompany the show. Urban Roots is an East Side youth and urban agriculture nonprofit that has gardens across the neighborhood where young people learn to grow and sell produce. 

The use of food “helps extend the action of the story” said Reynolds. For example, the Swede Hollow show will include a chocolate pudding made with beet powder, which will serve as a visual and taste element to symbolize the taconite tailings left behind from mining. 

Reynolds said the nearly 90-minute show won’t have a huge set and relies on the visual performances of the actors and food to bring the story to life. 

It should be noted that the provided food — five courses — will only be enough for tasting, not an entire meal. Reynolds encourages families to bring their own picnic to the show if they think they’ll be hungry.

For those interested in the Sept. 29 show, which begins at 3 p.m., spots can be reserved at Tickets are free, but donations are highly encouraged. The performances will take place at Swede Hollow Park, 657 Beaumont St. E. Some blankets are provided, but families are welcome to bring their own. Friendly dogs are also welcome.

In the event of rain, Reynolds said there will be an alternative community spot where the performance will be held. Those with reservations will be notified and an announcement will be put up on Mix Precipitation’s social media.


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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