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'Sweet Land' musical coming to Holmes Theatre Saturday: Author Will Weaver to host writing workshops in conjunction with show

Park Rapids native Will Weaver will be making a stop in Detroit Lakes this weekend to do some writing workshops in advance of a Saturday evening performance of the musical "Sweet Land," which is based on a short story he wrote almost 25 years ago. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Ann Michels_stars as Inge Altenberg in the musical "Sweet Land," based on a short story by Minnesota author Will Weaver," which makes its Detroit Lakes debut at the Historic Holmes Theatre this Saturday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. (Photo Credit: Rick Spaulding)2 / 2

It's been almost 25 years since Park Rapids area native Will Weaver wrote "A Gravestone Made of Wheat," the short story that inspired the movie "Sweet Land," and later, a musical theater adaptation of that movie — but the theme behind that story "has never been more relevant than today," the award-winning author says.

"Sweet Land" follows the story of immigrant Inge Altenberg (played by Ann Michels) as she journeys to America to marry a bachelor farmer, sight unseen, in the wake of World War I — in a northwest Minnesota community where Inge's German heritage turns her new neighbors against the match.

"It's a fictional story, with roots in real life," Weaver says. "It becomes an immigrant story, and I think that's what has given 'Sweet Land' new relevance, going forward.

"The immigrant story just keeps repeating itself," he continued. "The problems are the same today — it's language, it's culture, it's being in a new land and it's being very uncertain how things are going to work out."

Weaver will be in Detroit Lakes this weekend for a special presentation of the musical "Sweet Land" at the Historic Holmes Theatre on Saturday evening — as well as a pair of writing workshops in conjunction with it.

"I'll be at the Detroit Lakes Middle School Friday afternoon, talking to students about the writing process and how books get written," he says, "as well as looking at my young adult novel, 'Memory Boy' — it's about how after a great environmental disaster, a family has to pull together to survive."

Weaver says that many of the stories he writes are about families and their relationships.

"I write a lot about how families work, and sometimes, how they don't work so well," he added.

Consequently, the public workshop that he will hold Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to noon inside the Holmes Theatre Ballroom is focused on how to write about family.

"I'm excited about that," Weaver says, "because family provides some of the richest (writing) material in our lives, and it makes the most interesting reading.

"We all have family stories," he added. "But (writing about) family means real people are involved, so we'll be talking about how to address that in writing...

"How much distance you want from the original story? You can be 100 percent truthful, or there can be a lot of fiction to alter things. 'Realistic fiction' novels are often a blend of fact and fiction, and many people use (real) family stories or family events as the basis for their fiction.

"I often end up writing about family and sometimes, that can be difficult," he continued, adding that writing about embarrassing, awkward and/or tragic family events will be one of the topics covered during the workshop, which is open to all interested writers — no matter their skill level — at a cost of $20 per person.

Because space is limited, pre-registration is required; contact the Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-7469 for more information.

Weaver will also be making a few brief remarks at the beginning of the Saturday evening presentation of "Sweet Land," which starts at 7:30 p.m. on the main stage of the Holmes Theatre.

Though he doesn't make personal appearances at every performance of the musical 'Sweet Land,' he decided to come to Saturday's show because "I'm sentimental about Detroit Lakes. It was sort of an important part of my growing up (on a dairy farm in rural Park Rapids). I knew people in Detroit Lakes and played at high school sports events there."

As for how much input he had into this particular adaptation of his work, he says... not much.

"I had some involvement with the script of 'Sweet Land' (the original movie) early on," he says, but added that one of the things he has learned over the years with regard to film and stage adaptations of his work is "to find a good producer, a good group (of actors and crew), and then trust them to do good things."

He says that he thinks this musical version of "Sweet Land," which is being presented by the Ivey Award-winning History Theatre of St. Paul, Minn., is "wonderful."

"It's like an Upper Midwest version of 'Oklahoma,'" Weaver said. "It has the same rousing, feel-good tone to it. I'm very happy with the adaptation."

Tickets to see "Sweet Land" are $15 for adults and $7.50 for students — or you can buy one adult ticket at full price and get a second, student ticket free of charge.

To reserve your seats, please call the Holmes Box Office at 218-844-7469, visit the website at, or stop by the box office in person at 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes. Tickets will also be available at the door the night of the show.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454