Arts & Leisure

Marrowbone is back to rejuvenate another fall

JUSTINE JACKSON, SARA Granstrom, Marianne Lust and Sophie Pickens are the organizers of this year’s Marrowbone. The outdoor theater experience in Lincoln will take place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1-2, at noon.

THE ORIGINAL POSTER for Marrowbone.

Marrowbone, an outdoor theater experience in the woods and fields of Lincoln, is back this year and will take place on Saturday, Oct. 1, and Sunday, Oct. 2, beginning at noon each day. This fall tradition, which organizers describe as a theater of stories in word, gesture and song, has deep roots dating back to the first performance in 1991, when Marianne Lust launched her vision.

“I did it for 20 years,” Lust said, remembering how a haunted forest she went to with her daughter inspired Marrowbone’s format. “The idea of leading a group through the woods must have come from that haunted forest.”

But like all good borrowed ideas, Marrowbone quickly developed its own unique character. The title, for instance, comes from a W.B. Yeats poem:

God guard me from the thoughts

Men think in the mind alone

He who sings the lasting song

Thinks in the marrowbone.

After two decades of leading Marrowbone through the woods in Lincoln, Lust retired the project until 2019, when Sara Granstrom, Justine Jackson and Sophie Pickens picked up the reins. 

“In 2019 we did the first show in over a decade,” explained Pickens, who also co-runs the Vergennes art gallery Northern Daughters with Jackson. 

“We were so fed by the process in 2019,” added Granstrom. “Then the pandemic hit.”

So 2020 was out, and 2021 felt too volatile. 

This year, Granstrom, Jackson and Pickens (all working parents with young children) looked at the reality of their busy lives and decided organizing Marrowbone just wasn’t in the cards. That is, until Lust approached them with her idea.

“I had no intention of doing it this year,” Lust said. “The inspiration came almost overnight — like lightning. So I got in touch with them and they said ‘yes,’ they would handle the logistics of producing the event, and I could handle just the creative.”

This year, Yeats’s overarching theme is particularly strong, offering scenes of great complexity and depth though not without humor abounding. Lust is focusing the theme of the six performances on “composting, in all manners of speaking,” she explained. “Literally — the transmogrification of used mater into rich soil again; and metaphorically — composting old paradigms, old legacies, old family histories, old stereotypes…”

The performances this year feature work by artists such as Wendell Berry, Deborah Lubar, Eula Biss, Hector Villa-Lobos, and Antonio Machado translated by Robert Bly, among others.

“It’s a really collaborative process with the performers,” Lust said. “It involves a lot of trust.”

Lust only meets with the performers two or three times at most, then there’s one group rehearsal and then the on-site run through before it’s time to go.

This year’s Marrowbone will be held in the “hidden meadow” out on Geary Road. Somewhere around 30-40 mostly volunteers make up this year’s cast and crew. 

“Part of our work as producers is to coordinate the whole group of marvelous volunteers,” Granstrom said. “We couldn’t do this without them. From the ticket table at the beginning, to the sets, costumes, props and guides through woods and fields, to the people at the end keeping the fire and selling the food or helping with parking… all of those folks are essential to putting on the production.”

Performances are outside, rain or shine, with the audience walking a guided path to different scenes coming to life in and on the edge of the autumn woods. The walk is half a mile long. Kids are welcome, but this is an adult performance and material is definitely not geared toward children.

“I have a distinct memory going to Marrowbone with my dad as a kid,” Granstrom remembered. “It was pouring rain and I was wearing a jean jacket — it was so cold and heavy, but still such a beautiful memory and way to experience theater… The event this year is rain or shine, and it can be just as beautiful, if not as comfortable, in the rain.”

 I’m really excited for Marrowbone especially after the past few years we’ve had,” Jackson said. “From performers to attendees, I think Marrowbone offers us access to so much we have been missing.”

“It’s a little bit beyond words to ask why Marrowbone is special,” Pickens added. “It gives us the opportunity to slow down and listen; the format gives us time to digest what we’re experiencing, and a place to land at the end. There we can share refreshments and be with people who were just in a similar space — it’s an opportunity to really sink in. I love that we get to create that container.”

Granstrom, Jackson and Pickens hope that this is the start of more regular annual Marrowbone events, and they expressed immense gratitude to Lust for returning this year with her creative energy. 

“I love theater,” Lust said simply. “It’s what I love more than anything — it is my art form and I delight in watching it… I am totally surprised to be here and doing Marrowbone again, but I can’t help myself when I get an idea.”

Advance tickets are encouraged to better balance the guided tours. Tickets cost $10 adults, $5 children, $25 family; sliding scale tickets are available. Visit marrowbone.org or stop in Emerald Rose in Bristol and Northern Daughters in Vergennes to buy tickets. For any questions email marrowbonevt@gmail.com. Directions to the “hidden meadow” can be found online (marrowbone.org) and are printed on all tickets.

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