Lanesboro Arts presents "Leaves of Grass – Illuminated" at the St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro on Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. Patrick Scully, a Minnesota native
Lanesboro Arts presents “Leaves of Grass – Illuminated” at the St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro on Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. Patrick Scully, a Minnesota native and the founder of Patrick’s Cabaret in Minneapolis, summons the spirit of Walt Whitman in this one-man show, voicing the poet’s words and adding his own artistic flavor. The performance is a physical embodiment of Whitman’s work through dance and a reflection of the poet’s art, spirituality, sexuality, and gender expression.
“Leave of Grass” was Walt Whitman’s life project. First published in 1855, the book of poems was controversial at best and offensive at worst. The collection has continued to inspire thought, interpretation, and speculation ever since.
“Leaves of Grass – Illuminated” pulls from history, art, literature, even opera, and presents aspects of Whitman’s life and work that are fascinating in our time, now that discussions of male/male relations have finally moved out of the shadows into the light of day. On stage, this world includes projected video images of eighteen men dancing together, ranging from tender and sensual to boisterous. The audience is invited to interpret the presence of the dancers. Are they Whitman’s fantasy? A memory? The future? Or something else altogether? The video work by created by Bessie Award winner Nancy Mason Hauser.
Scully explained that his life as a performer has been about performing his own work on stage, most of it autobiographical. “I have dealt a lot with being a gay man in a world that wasn’t quite ready for gay people to be as out and as open as I was eager to be,” he said.
“With ‘Whitman,’ I continue to work with these very similar themes, but just on someone from a different historical period—someone whose life has mirrored my own in some ways, but someone whose challenges have been different.” Scully considered it an opportunity to work with someone whose name was well recognized but whose sensuality is often not known. He called the one-man play a way to out Walt Whitman in a manner that Whitman would have liked.
He uses Whitman as a vehicle to address the same themes the poet sought to tackle – the struggle for liberation and human rights – but to do it in a way that has a broader reach. “Whitman had a utopian vision of what men’s relationships could be, and how that could transform not just locally but the world,” Scully said. “He saw it as a balm for the crass materialism that he saw in his time.”
“You think about Whitman as a gardener,” Scully continued. “He was not only someone who tended his garden but expanded it as life went on. So although ‘Leaves of Grass’ was his life’s work, when he first published it in 1855, it was a very thin volume. When he published the deathbed version in 1892, it was a pretty fat volume. He didn’t just add to it. Like a gardener, he pruned and trimmed.”
This show is the product of over 10 years of research and development. Over the past few years, Scully has read 55 books by and about Whitman. “The intention was to have a broad enough understanding of him so that if I were doing a show for Whitman scholars, I could morph this show to make it more specifically interesting for them. Or if I’m doing it in Germany, I could make it more relevant to German literature and German writers.”
This incarnation of the show: “Leaves of Grass – Illuminated” manifests Scully’s original vision for this work, as a high-tech one-man show. “Leaves of Grass – Uncut,” the full cast version of the show, opened in Minneapolis to critical acclaim in 2014. Scully’s workshop process led to a residency at MANCC at Florida Sate University in 2015, followed by “Leaves of Grass – Illuminated” premiering in NYC in May of 2017. Scully explains, “I call this version ‘Leaves of Grass – Illuminated’ because of the clear reference to shining a light on something, but also illuminated manuscripts with added beauty on the page. And I use the video projectors to illuminate parts of the set.”
Through the show, you may learn something about Whitman, something tiny or something profound you didn’t know about the literary icon. Though much of the show focuses on Whitman’s struggle with sexuality, Scully says sexuality is “not necessarily what may make you feel out of sync with the times. People can vibrate at different frequencies than those around them. The question is how we stay true to ourselves and adapt the world to us, not the other way around.”
Scully, who got his master’s in 2008 in teaching English as a second language, is currently teaching part-time at the University of Minnesota. But most of his artistic focus is on the Whitman shows. “Right now in my creative life, this pretty much takes up all the space and energy I have,” he said. “Recently I have been thinking about other things I might do. There’s nothing concrete yet, but little wisps of thought come drifting through my head and then evaporate and drift away.”
“Both Whitman and Scully are major figures; they contain multitudes.” (Village Voice)
“Patrick Scully was born to play Walt Whitman.” (Lavender Magazine)
“Scully is the perfect caretaker for Whitman’s legacy.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
(Saturday) 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
St. Mane Theatre
206 Parkway Ave N, Lanesboro, MN