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Key Ingredients Michigan Foodways Exhibits and Programs
Cheboygan, Michigan     •     September & October 2007


"This was one of the most unique and well received events of the Key Ingredients Michigan Foodways project at the library.  It brought both new experiences and ideas to a food community that is just starting to find each other.

I felt moved when I read it - moved to work hard to convey something powerful, and moved to change the way that I live. . . . I still think about that day and what we said and heard. I have changed some habits because of it, and plan to change more."
                                    -Lisa Brisson, project coordinator


king cast


Story narrative includes:
   Introduction
   Our Readers and Our Audience
   Potluck, Music & Conversation
   Reactions & Comments

Introduction
The Cheboygan Area Public Library presented What Will Be in the Fields Tomorrow?  as one of many companion programs for the Key Ingredients Michigan Foodways. Two exhibits about food were the reason for programs.  Key Ingredients: American by Food -- a Smithsonian Museum on Main Street program and Michigan Foodways created by the MSU Museum to provided a Michigan focus, were made possible by the Michigan Humanities Council. 

September 15th a community social --music, a script reading, and potluck—was held at the Benton Township Hall in rural Cheboygan County. This was the only event held away from the library. Benton Township Hall is on the crest of a hill in the middle of beautiful rolling hillsides. The location demanded that attendees had to pass farms no matter what direction they came. Our goal was to present the stories and ideas in the script in a way that was very informal. We wanted people to come for the music and the potluck, and be inspired by the scrip and the presentation.

kids practicingpeople rehearsing outside
Youth characters and outside rehearsal


Our Readers and Our Audience
Readers were recruited by our Extension partner and included their director, local farmers, 4H members and several “townies” with connections to the library.  Rehearsal was minimal.  Most read the scrip before but parts were not assigned until that day.  Our cast had the opportunity to read through the scrip at least once with their partners, but there no elaborate practice. 

Audience members were greeted by the sounds of folk music by Harmony and Grits. We were a mixed group mostly associated with the library and Extension. Very few had experienced readers’ theatre before and just over half had direct agriculture experience.  It was hard to tell initially how the program was received.  The participants were not outwardly responsive, but it was obvious afterward that most were absorbed in the words and the ideas being presented. Harmony and Grit’s concluded the presentation with their rendition of the title song, What Will be in the Fields Tomorrow?

Potluck, Music & Conversation
An enthusiastic potluck accompanied by more music followed the performance.  Many great conversations were overheard about the scrip and the ideas it presented, and also about the personal experiences of those attending. A Farm Bureau display on their programs and local food producers was very popular.  The band was engaged to play for about an hour during the potluck but they said they’d play until people stopped listening.  We finally had to ask them to wrap up because no one would leave until they stopped!

. . . Reactions & Comments . . .
The Strength of Farming Women
I think that the one thing that struck me most about the script was the accurate way the author portrayed the strength of farming women. They were strong in their beliefs, and strong in their actions. The exchange on the pros and cons of organic gardening was a perfect example. And the fact that the these women stayed friends for decades and respected each other. We don't have to embrace each others choices...just the way they live out their lives, and take of what matters. It's all about people you know you can count on to do what is right. I think that this piece captures that very essence in their exchanges.

Poetic Parts
I was particularly moved by the poetic parts –often real words directly from the mouths of farmers. I felt moved when I read it - moved to work hard to convey something powerful, and moved to change the way that I live. 

Environment and the Impact
I LOVED the music, and found that it really added to the atmosphere of down-to-earth, heartfelt conversations.  A potluck is always a welcome thing - a gathering, connecting force. I have talked with several people about the experience afterwards, enthusiastically.  I still think about that day and what we said and heard, I have changed some habits because of it, and plan to change more.

-Lisa Brisson, project coordinator


Information:
Key Ingredients Michigan Foodways
http://www.michiganfoodways.org/

Museum on Main Street Smithsonian Program
http://www.museumonmainstreet.org/

Michigan Foodways exhibit
contact the MSU Museum’s Traveling Exhibitions Service
http://www.museum.msu.edu/museum/tes/
beltranm@msu.edu