It’s 1989 in rural Minnesota and drivers cannot stop swerving into the ditch near the home of Rachel.
Rachel is the lead character in Orono resident, Jenni “JL” Charrier’s latest production, “Into the Ditch.” The play involves photographer and Orono High School senior Anna Syversen as well as recent Orono graduate Zoe Larson as Charrier’s assistant tech.
“Into the Ditch” runs just under an hour and will be performed at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis Aug 4 - 10 at Augsburg Studio Theatre. The story follows a farmer, Rachel, who spends time pulling six individuals out of a ditch while also getting to know them, their stories and finding out how they all connect.
Inspiration for the play came from Charrier’s father, a farmer who pulled drivers out of a ditch near a three-way junction for several decades near their family farm.
“It’s really fun to bring stuff to life. It’s gratifying. Every once in awhile I’ll be performing and listening to the other actor but I’ll think that it’s so great to hear all of my dialogue that I wrote three years ago... to see it come to life is really cool,” Charrier said.
Charrie wrote and directed “Into the Ditch” under her production and performance company, Foxhill Studios. The company was founded in 2011 and has since worked on multiple productions, often times hiring students to help give them experience.
Working with Foxhill Studios, Syversen will be taking pictures of the play during their performances and Larson will be working the lights and cues, something she’s done many times for Orono High School and other performances.
“Timing is so important. Especially in my shows because I try to create a specific mood,” Charrier said.
Larson has worked mostly in Orono schools as a lighting tech for the school plays, and will work with a more experienced tech at Augsburg while implementing Charrier’s vision for the play.
As the play makes its way through the Minnesota seasons, Charrier says that the lighting and colors will vary in order to get the mood just right.
“My favorite part about lighting is working with colors,” Larson said.
Larson plans to possibly continue her lighting adventures as she begins college at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire where she will be studying biology and nursing.
Photographing a play will be a new experience for Syversen but one she is looking forward to. Over her high school career, she has focused her photos on student life and academic life for the Orono High School yearbook.
“I think it will be a cool opportunity to work with older people who have experience and to put myself out there,” she said.
Syversen hopes to continue improving her skills as a minor in college.
Giving real world experience to teenagers isn’t the only thing that Charrier keeps local. Often times she will hire actors from Orono and the local surrounding communities for her plays.
“I like a collaborative effort. I like having people in the community involved,” she said.
Information about “Into the Ditch” performances can be found at www.foxhillstudiostheatre.com