The Master Butchers Singing Club

by Marsha Norman, based upon the novel by Louise Erdrich
directed by Francesca Zambello
originally produced at Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN.
September 17, 2010 through November 6, 2010

About the Premiere Production:

Bookended by the two World Wars, The Master Butchers Singing Club, a moving story of tradition, family, love and loss, follows the life of Fidelis Waldvogel and his family, as well as Delphine Watzka and her partner Cyprian, as they adjust in their separate lives in the small town of Argus, North Dakota. As Fidelis and Delphine’s lives intertwine, the play chronicles ordinary small-town citizens as they encounter the extraordinary events — both in their insular world and in the larger world — that come to define their lives.

Artistic Statement

From Joe Dowling (Director, Guthrie Theater):
I have had an interest in adapting The Master Butchers Singing Club since 2001, when a short story excerpted from the novel was brought to my attention. Upon publication of the full novel in 2003, the Guthrie pursued the rights to adapt it for the stage. Independently, director Francesca Zambello developed a passion for the book. Following her stint at the helm of our world premiere of Little House on the Prairie in 2008, she came to us with her interest in directing the work and introduced us to playwright Marsha Norman. Louise Erdrich gave her blessing to this creative team, and a happy synergy ensued among the company, author and adaptor.

Erdrich’s prose has been acclaimed by critics and colleagues for decades, and Marsha Norman’s script brings out the richly cadenced and deeply textured narrative. Ms. Norman deftly explores ideas about addiction during a time of repression, immortality and death, the ephemeral and protean nature of language in the context of social change and immigration, and the ways we project identities of loved ones onto other people.New plays are inherently risky. While Louise Erdrich and her novel have many devoted followers, and Marsha Norman and Francesca Zambello both have long and successful careers in the theater, the Guthrie’s stage adaptation is, as yet, an unknown product. Its aesthetic borrows from its literary source, as well as Native storytelling and musical traditions, forging a new genre.

As with any new play, our ultimate hope is that it will have a life beyond its premiere at the Guthrie. During its stay in Minneapolis, we look forward to the opportunity to engage the Twin Cities Native community and to spark meaningful civic dialogue. The Master Butchers Singing Club, written by a Minneapolis-based author of Ojibwe descent, helmed by a female creative team, and telling a story about the people who live in the Upper Midwest, offers an intriguing perspective for the audiences of our region and beyond.

What this grant will allow us to do:

The Guthrie is thrilled by the possibilities presented by this quintessentially American play. Funding from the Edgerton Foundation allowed us to add one week of rehearsal time with the full cast and creative team.

Director: Francesca Zambello
Set Design: David Korins
Lighting Design: Mark McCullough
Sound Design: Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen
Costume Design: Jess Goldstein
Composer:Kevin Stites

Additional Funders:

Ameriprise Financial

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