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Play recalls Koochiching’s early days

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“Old Koochiching,” an original musical play celebrating the origins of Koochiching County, will be presented this Friday (April 20) at 7:30 p.m. in the Backus Auditorium for the Performing Arts in International Falls.

The play is a very light-hearted look at some of the people and issues involved in the creation of the county 100 years ago, according to the playwright, Douglas Skrief of Ranier, Mn.

“Real events are treated with a lot of imagination and high spirits,” he said. “Musical numbers abound. Over 40 community members will perform.

“The result is a good-humoured, very accessible telling of the county’s early history,” Skrief added.

The play opens with modern-day students being given an assignment to write an essay about county history. One student soon finds himself being led through historical scenes by Paul Bunyan III, the legendary lumberjack’s grandson.

Other scenes include early settler Alexander Baker, geologists looking for gold, a Rainy Lake City saloon scene, a lumber camp, a quilting bee, Minneapolis businessmen, and the election that established the county.

“The challenge was to capture the grit and energy of the early settlers and present a lot of historical information in as entertaining a way as possible,” Skrief explained.

“The play is a mix of dream, tall tales, and historical facts.”

Complementing the script, lyrics, and some original melodies by Skrief, musical director Jessie Laurion has added additional melodies and arranged all the music, including traditional tunes from the period.

A small band will accompany the cast.

An earlier road-show version of this play was presented to nearly 800 school children in Indus, Littlefork, Northhome, and International Falls in the fall of 2006, thanks to funding by Koochiching County through its centennial committee.

The community generously has backed the current production with funds, talent, and dedication, Skrief explained. It is being presented with special arrangements with E.W. Backus Auditorium for the Performing Arts.

Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for students (U.S.), which can be purchased at City Drug Store, Coffee Landing Metro, Thrifty White Drug Store, and Backus Community Center.

They also will be available at the door.

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