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Sweet Land

In the Lime Light: Sweet Land the Musical

Chris Peters '21

VISTA Productions will be taking on a new challenge this spring, filming and producing Sweet Land. After Covid canceled last year's Spring production of Newsies, the cast and crew are excited to tackle this new challenge.

Sweet Land is “a poignant, moving, and inspiring story of a celebration of land, love, and the American immigrant experience. The musical takes place in 1920 Minnesota as Inge Altenberg journeys to marry a bachelor farmer without having met him. However, within the wake of World War I, her German heritage is unwelcomed and turns her neighbors against her. As such, the determined young immigrant and her soon-to-be husband, Olaf, fight for their lives, face their misgiving and the harshness of an unforgiving land. This emotional journey reminds the reader of who they are and where they came from.”

After reading the short story "A Gravestone Made of Wheat" by Will Weaver, professional filmmaker Ali Selim, a 1979 graduate of Saint Thomas Academy, wrote and directed the award-winning independent film Sweet Land. Years later local writer and producer Perin Post got permission to develop the piece into a musical that had a successful run at the History Theatre as-well-as regional theatres.

VISTA will be the first high school to receive the rights for this beautiful show. The company had the unique opportunity to speak with the producer and lyricist of this piece, Laurie Heggie, who is extremely excited for students to get their hands on this piece. She knows that having “students working on this is going to be extremely instructive for [her] as [she] will be able to see the various emotions that other performers encountered, and the unique character choices they will make.”

Saint Thomas Academy’s own will be tackling this challenge head-on as there are many familiar returning faces to VISTA’s stage: Christopher Peters ‘21, will play the lead role of Olaf Torvik/ Lars Torvik, Charlie Treacy ‘22 the role of Alvin Frandsen, Cy Walsh ‘21 Pastor Sorenson, and Wilson Pulkrabek ‘23 Judge/ Arne Lunde. VISTA fans should also be on the lookout for newcomers – Adam Groh ‘21, Harold Magnussen, and Shaun Davis ‘23, Trigve Elsen/Leader/Nelson.

VISTA Productions plans to film this performance outside, something never done before in its history. Adding the element of being on "location" will create even more new challenges. They plan on filming the performance on Visitation’s campus. Here, they will be challenged with managing lighting, sound, and continuity in an uncontrolled setting in front of a camera.

Upon reflection, Ethan Hiew stated that “acting in front of a camera instead of a live audience is a different experience. There’s something special about a live audience that’s different than the camera and vice versa. Even though there is less pressure in front of a camera because you can do retakes, the idea of your actions being recorded permanently into the camera creates a different magical experience much similar to but also different than a live audience.”

Not only will this production be filmed but VISTA productions is more excited to announce that they will be inviting their beloved fans back for the first time since fall 2020. The production plans to premiere on the weekend of May 20th-22nd. We are excited and eager to further see the creative process of VISTA that we have all come to know and love.

“Trust the Earth, Trust the Sun, Trust in God Above.”

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