Where theater is alive and well

Town of Gretna - AttractionsDo you know where Gretna, Manitoba is — without checking an atlas? You remember atlases right? Those wonderful maps travelers used before mapquest and GPS’s? The woman in the post office didn’t know and before I visited, I wasn’t exactly sure. It is literally a few hundred yards from the North Dakota border, a small town in the prairie of Manitoba, population 574 as of 2006.

snowWhen I arrived April 25th, there was still about 2 feet of snow on the baseball field, enough to depress any baseball fan.

However! The students and faculty at Mennonite Collegiate Institute and fine folks of Gretna provided one of my favorite performance experiences of the past 5 years. I performed in Buhler Hall a new performance hall listed as one of the attractions of the town on their official website.

On Friday I rehearsed the one act play, “Applications” with a dozen MCI students. The play is set in God’s office on the sixth day of creation. God is beat, ready for a day off when Gabriel announces “this is the day we are taking applications for the human body”—and various parts of the body show up, filled out applications in hand.

[The kidneys]

GOD: Now, this says you mostly work in jantorial services.

KIDNEY 1: Yes, that’s right, we find dirt, we get rid of it and move on.

KIDNEY 2: ——–Yes, that’s right, we find dirt, we get rid of it and move on

[The appendix]

GOD: This application appears to be incomplete. What is it that you do, Mr..[checking the form] ….Appendix?

APPENDIX: Well you know, it’s not so much what I do ..it’s more of a  .. Well, I’m not what you would call a specialist. I rather try and be a person for all tasks..a little bit of this …a little bit of that…

GOD: Sort of a Jack of all trades?

APPENDIX: I could do that, I could be a jack.

GOD: It’s just a figure of speech.

[The sense of humor]

GOD: You have the application? [ Is handed the application]

Sense of Humor: Knock knock.

GOD: What?

S of H: Knock knock.

God: [ reluctantly ] Who’s there?

S of H: It’s me, I’m standing right here. See that’s a visual joke..

GOD: I can see that.

S of H: Right. Oh good one. Very witty, very witty.

[God is studying the form] You didn’t fill this out at all.

S of H: I know.

GOD: You just drew pictures of cows smoking cigarettes.

S of H: Funny, isn’t it?

…and others.  The Application was great fun to perform with kids who were ready to play and contributed comedy beyond the script–a gift for a playwright. The play was the opening act for a performance of “Laughter is Sacred Space” which was a delight to perform in the attraction number 9 on the website….Buhler Hall.  I love prop closets and Buhler has a good one. Rick and the tech crew helped me build a set that worked just fine:

Thanks to the warm and gracious folks of Gretna, Manitoba…Peter and Shanda, Rick, Tammy, Darryl  and students of CMI where theater is alive and well.




  1. Kathy Neufeld Dunn on May 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

    My uncle was from Gretna. Not at all surprised you received such a warm welcome in the cold North. Thanks for sharing a bit of your experience there.