Cows on a theater stage?

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Posted: 03/20/2019 16:36:44 PM

At the Hatbox Theater in Concord, the poster for Stones in his pockets promised me: “Two actors. Fifteen characters. Cows. “That would be my kind of show!

The actors were Scott H. Severance and Sven Wiberg. One Minute Sven was Charlie Conlan, an extra with an Irish accent for the film Quiet valley, filming on location in County Kerry, Ireland. Then he grabbed a scarf, spoke with a fake British accent, rocked his hips across the stage, and he was Caroline Giovanni, a glamorous American movie star. The audience laughed, not at his instant transition to a woman, but because he did it so well.

Scott started out as Jake Quinn, another extra in Quiet valley, but he variously portrayed a 17-year-old; an accent coach; and then my favorite, Mickey – a cranky man with bad posture who was the last surviving extra from the John Wayne movie, The quiet man. Most of the roles were tied to a single object. Mickey sucked a pipe, Caroline wore a shawl, the accent coach had a scarf. But they were only props; Scott and Sven have assumed the essence of each character. I have never been confused and often enchanted because these two actors played their many roles.

Cows never show up on stage, but they were still the heroes because of… well, their cow farm. Let me explain. Everyone loves cows. As you drive through the countryside, are you soothed by the sight of cattle lying in a field? Do you feel like kissing a heifer (or at least petting one) or maybe giving it a handful of tall grass? Imagine a field full of peaceful cattle waiting to be scratched, brushed or fed. Now imagine that this is your job, and what it would do for your soul.

Cattle care about food, affection and their babies. They teach us to value the family. Cows don’t need money, entertainment, or the latest cellphones and cars. They are content to take care of their young, nibble on hay and hang out with their friends. Cattle develop lifelong bonds with each other.

I saw two cows, which were separated, run towards each other when they are reunited and spend hours licking and grooming each other.

In the play, schoolboy Sean Harkin gives a class presentation in the show listing some of the benefits conferred by cattle. They don’t just feed us by providing us with milk and meat, when they “go to the toilet” (his words), they make fertilizer. According to his friends, Sean had wanted to raise cattle – until drugs and his desire to be in the movies took over his life, resulting in his death.

As a farmer, I love cows as much as Sean ever did, and it is fitting that they are given a healthy and fulfilling life path. Of course, if Sean had followed his dream, it would have been a much different (and difficult to stage) play. But cows do have the ability to heal. It’s one of their superpowers.

Sunday is the last day to see Stones in his pockets at the Hatbox Theater (hatboxnh.com) in Concord before moving to the Rochester Opera House (rochesteroperahouse.com) from March 22-31.

(Carole Soule is a co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, where she raises and sells pasture pork, lamb, eggs and grass-fed beef. She can be contacted at [email protected])


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