from the script:
May 26, 1846, on the Kansas prairie.
Where are the seagulls?
the Kansas prairie, I keep mistaking hawks for gulls:
a thick wind blows inside my head
full of salt and seafog
now in my dreams I find
wild rosehips on the beach at Newburyport:
I'm a child chasing waves across the sand
sails sting white against the blue
in these feathery seas of grass
traveling towards the steep heart of America,
why do I
keep watching for seagulls?
The year is 1846. Thousands of people are lured to California’s fabled beauty, weather, and opportunity. George Donner, Tamsen his wife who was from Massachusetts, family, and friends travel in covered wagons from Springfield, IL, toward their goal of the Bay of San Francisco. They cross rolling hills, flat prairies, rivers, fort oases, deserts, the Salt Lake, and difficult mountains. At what became known as Donner Pass, they are snowed in for months. What should have been a four-month trip in summertime became a snowbound winter. They never reach their goal – well, some in the party do, others die, and what many people remember best is that some survived by eating the flesh of those who died. Tamsen’s year does not dwell on this but on a joy in traveling and in starting a new life: the excitement, adventure, friendships, and beauty as well as hardships.
This one-woman presentation comes from a book of poems by contemporary poet Ruth Whitman, who in traveling across the United States was moved to write a series of poems. She felt she was writing someone’s story, but whose? When she arrives in California, she realizes it was Tamsen Donner’s. The book of poems is named Tamsen Donner: A Woman’s Journey. It looks forward with anticipation, it is joyous, provocative, moving, heartbreaking yet life affirming. It begins April 15, 1846 as the Donner party leaves Springfield, Illinois; the last entry is April 15, 1847 near Truckee, California, where many have perished.
There is a resurgence of interest in the Donner party as new manuscripts and diaries have been found, archaeologists study anew the Donner party camps, and books recounting and revising the story appear. This play brings the story to life in a fresh and accessible way for audiences. Pictures accompany this performance and a bibliography is available to audience members.
Pellowe is engaging and powerful in one-person shows. Typical audience comment: "She could have gone for twice as long! I hated to have it over. I could listen to her all night."
Available Beginning in May of 2011
Technical requirements are simple for what is basically a staged reading, requiring a performance space, a large screen or projection area, a table for props onstage, a lectern, a stool or chair, maybe a sound system depending on the space. If a proper theatre space is used, lighting plot is available. Running time: approximately 70 minutes.
To inquire about booking this intriguing show and negotiate fees, jump in now and inquire about booking. Send an email listing preferred dates and times, expected audience and size, type of space, name(s) of contact, phone, address, and email. Depending on type of space, we can give technical details.