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Nature comes to the Old Manse

Nature at Old Manse

We’re counting the days until the immersive theatrical experience, Nature, opens next Friday, September 22nd at the Old Manse in Concord. This acclaimed, family-friendly “walking play” is a mythic telling of Emerson and Thoreau’s deep friendship and mutual love affair with the natural world. 

The Trustees has teamed up with Minneapolis-based TigerLion Arts to present 11 performances, starting September 22 and running through October 1. Audiences will experience a playful and deeply moving outdoor journey among the Old Manse’s grassy meadows and native trees as scenes unfold through a combination of music, story and song. The 90-minute, family-friendly performance will be presented by an award-winning ensemble of professional traveling actors, plus a local chorus led by The First Parish Church of Concord’s Music Director, Beth Norton, and a child cast member from the Concord community. This is Nature’s first performance on the East Coast after a successful season touring multiple sites in the Midwest in 2015 and 2016.  

“Our properties around the state have been, and continue to be, a creative platform for artists and writers, with The Old Manse inspiring some of the greatest minds in our time” says Barbara Erickson, Trustees President & CEO. “How fitting that this incredible historic site will serve as the setting for the East Coast’s first production of Nature where two of America’s leading transcendentalists, Emerson and Thoreau, nurtured their friendship and were inspired to write some of their most important works. We are excited to share this amazing experience with our members and visitors this fall.”

Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.thetrustees.org/natureplay. Trustees members: adults $20, children $10; Nonmembers: adults $25, children $15. 

The Cast of Nature

Tyson Forbes is co-artistic director of TigerLion Arts and stars in the company’s production of NATURE. Forbes has performed in regional theaters throughout the U.S. and has collaborated on numerous original productions, with NATURE being especially close to his heart, as he created it with his wife, Markell Kiefer, the show’s director, and he is the great-great-great-grandson of Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

Forbes first realized how cool it is to be Emerson’s direct descendent pretty early on in his life. “Emerson was always this enigmatic figure in my childhood,” says Forbes. “His portraits and quotes were everywhere and, of course, I was always surrounded by his descendents. It was only when I sat with his essay Nature, after I graduated from college, that the enormity of his mind and spirit grabbed me. I read that essay over and over again, and that is where the seed for this production began.”

Forbes says his favorite thing to do outside is to lose himself in the wild nooks of this world and become a child again. The message of the Transcendentalists resonates with us today, says Forbes, because of our ongoing relationship with the natural environment. “Caring for our natural world IS caring for ourselves. This is not some new-age hippified notion. These are American ideas, American values, and were born of two of America’s greatest thinkers, and they need to be cherished and held high.”   

Since it’s a walking play, Nature is not meant to be viewed, but to be experienced, says Forbes. “And what good would it do to shut the doors on our central character, Mother Nature herself.” 

Elizabeth (Beth) Norton has served as music director for First Parish (Unitarian Universalist) in Concord, since 1994, leading a dynamic 70-voice adult choir and supervising a vital and varied music program for singers and instrumentalists of all ages and stages. She will lead an all volunteer community chorus as part of Nature, which includes members of First Parish, as well as singers from Carlisle, Lexington and the surrounding area. “The Transcendentalists are always with us at First Parish,” says Norton. “Their portraits are on our walls, their busts on our mantle pieces, their names on our classrooms. Though we are a progressive, liberal UU congregation that is very much concerned with the issues of our contemporary world, we are grounded in the rich history and influence of the Transcendentalists. I sometimes think of the famous Transcendentalists in this town as similar to the ghosts in the Harry Potter books. They are ever-present. Often we take them for granted or even ignore them or brush them off. But when we pay attention to them, they often have wisdom and even secrets to reveal to us.”

The part of Elly, Emerson’s daughter, is played by Addison Boger, a sixth grader at The Nashoba Brooks School in Concord. Addison began her acting career in the second grade loves that her hometown is thoroughly steeped in history. For her 5th grade service day at Willard Elementary School, Addison chose the Old Manse out of several different options. Right there, near the Old North Bridge where the Revolutionary War began, she helped clean the historic garden that Thoreau planted. “ It was really funny,” says Addison, “because then it was just a couple of weeks later that I heard about this play!”

Performance Details

Nature begins near the apple orchard at the Old Manse located at 269 Monument Street, Concord, MA. Audience members are encouraged to arrive early to visit the grounds. Picnic meals are welcome and can be enjoyed during the pre-show including bagpiping and choral arrangements performed by local community members 30 minutes before the play begins. Guests of all ages are encouraged to come as the show is family-friendly and has somethings for everyone. Guests should dress for the weather, wear comfortable shoes, and bring water bottles. Run time is approximately 90 minutes without intermission. During the play, the audience will walk short distances between four different locations. Portable lawn chairs or blankets are recommended for seating, as there are a limited number of chairs, which will be reserved for those who need them most. The Trustees will also provide transportation for people with limited mobility. The play is held rain or shine. In the event of severe weather, ticket holders may come back for any subsequent performance.

The Trustees are working with multiple local community partners to present educational programming related to the play such as post show discussions and a family theatre workshop. The community partners include: The Thoreau Society; Thoreau Farm Trust; The Walden Woods Project; the Concord Museum; and Minute Man National Historical Park. For more information visit www.thetrustees.org.

The Old Manse 

The Old Manse is a National Historic Landmark and popular destination for tourists and literary enthusiasts situated on the banks of the Concord River next to the Old North Bridge and Minuteman National Park. It was built by Patriot Minister William Emerson in 1770, grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The younger Emerson lived and wrote some of his most famous works at The Old Manse, including the first draft of his famed essay, Nature. The Manse also served as a focal point of America’s political, literary, and social revolutions. Thoreau was a frequent visitor and guest. 

The Old Manse is one of The Trustees’ most exceptional cultural sites located on nine acres in the historic town of Concord, MA. A National Historic Landmark, the eight room, traditional Georgian-style clapboard home was built in 1770 by patriot minister William Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather. From the upstairs, visitors can look out at the Old North Bridge over the Concord River, where the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775.  For years, the site served as a home and gathering place for the authors, artists, philosophers, and intellectuals who helped shape the Early American Republic’s reform movements – the Revolution and Transcendentalism. William Emerson was the first to answer the alarm bell in Concord that warned of the British Regulars’ approach and there is speculation that he may also have fought at the Battle on the Old North Bridge. Before the revolution, the house served as a community meeting place where area residents and leaders discussed the issues of the day. 

The Trustees

Founded by landscape architect Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees has, for more than 125 years, been a catalyst for important ideas, endeavors, and progress in Massachusetts. As a steward of distinctive and dynamic places of both historic and cultural value, The Trustees is the nation’s first preservation and conservation organization, and its landscapes and landmarks continue to inspire discussion, innovation, and action today as they did in the past. We are a nonprofit supported by members, friends and donors and our 116 sites are destinations for residents, members, and visitors alike, welcoming millions of guests annually. www.thetrustees.org

TigerLion Arts 

TigerLion Arts, founded and led by Markell Kiefer and Tyson Forbes, is a Minneapolis-based production company with a mission to celebrate human wisdom and the spirit of nature through creative works that awaken, inform, and delight. Since 2009, TigerLion Arts has touched thousands nationwide with four original productions: The Buddha Prince (2009), a walking play about the life of the Dalai Lama performed in New York City's Central Park; Nature (2010); KIPO! (2011), a circus of spirit, song and dance from Tibet, which was the official arts component of the Dalai Lama's 2011 Minnesota visit, and The Dragons are Singing Tonight (2012), a musical based on the book of children's poetry by Jack Prelutsky, created in collaboration with Circus Juventas and Minnesota Boychoir. 

Nature tour

Nature was honored in the Minneapolis Star Tribune as the “Best of 2014: Striking performances mark best in theater” after presenting at the MN Landscape Arboretum in 2014. Lauded by Cherry and Spoon’s editor as being “one of the most special and unique theater experiences I've ever had”. In 2015 & 2016 Nature toured to 15 parks and arboretums in Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio and Iowa as part of their nationwide tour called Nature for the Nation

Our sponsors

The Concord leg of the tour is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service’s "Imagine Your Parks" grant - supporting projects that use the arts to engage people with memorable places.


Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.thetrustees.org/natureplay. Trustees members: adults $20, children $10; Nonmembers: adults $25, children $15.