Taking her art 'Down Under': DL native's play to be presented Dec. 8 at school in Queensland, Australia
Though she's always been interested in writing, Detroit Lakes native Carol Anne Hough never really considered becoming a playwright until she saw an advertisement for a grant project about 10 years ago.
"I like to try new things, and to challenge myself," says Hough. "I called an agency in the Twin Cities that was offering a grant to artists with disabilities who wanted to learn to write plays."
She qualified because of injuries suffered in a childhood car accident that left her with some neurological damage -- "I use a walking stick," Hough says.
"I won an opportunity to take a class at the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis," she adds.
In 2005, Hough won another grant, for an artist residency at the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes. That grant led to a local production of one of Hough's original works, "Orchard Adventures."
Since then, she has written two more plays in the series, "Wetland Adventures" and "Garden Adventures."
The second play in the series, "Wetland Adventures," was produced at the Holmes Theatre in 2007, while the third, "Garden Adventures," will be presented next month -- at a school in Queensland, Australia.
Through the wonders of the Internet, Perseverance Primary School teacher Fiona Mckeown got in touch with Hough and asked for permission to produce one of her environmentally-themed works at the school.
Mckeown, who was looking for an educational play with an environmental theme, found some information about Hough's 2005 artist residency grant online, and contacted the agency that had awarded Hough the grant, VSA Minnesota.
"They forwarded her e-mail to me," Hough says.
Hough happily gave permission to Mckeown to produce her work at Perseverance Primary.
When asked how she had learned about Hough's work, Mckeown said that last year her class performed "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss, but that she was struggling to find a play with an environmental message to perform this year.
Mckeown's daughter is studying Environmental Science at the University of Queensland. She asked her peers for environmental play ideas. One of her new friends told her of a play called "Orchard Adventures."
That new friend was Detroit Lakes native Kelsy Wenner, who played a bee in that original 2005 performance of Hough's "Orchard Adventures" at the Historic Holmes Theatre.
Mckeown then used Google to track down Hough, and the rest is history.
"Garden Adventures" will be performed at Perseverance Primary School on Thursday, Dec. 8. Though Hough will not be able to attend in person, she said Mckeown had promised to send her a video of the performance.
Perseverance Primary School has two retired field naturalists who visit for half a day each week. The field naturalists take students on bushwalks and help them observe changes in nature over time. They also helped students set up a vegetable garden and have arranged visits to their own organic vegetable garden too.
They currently link classroom lessons to Hough's play, and what they observe on bushwalks and under microscopes. To prepare for the performance, older children made puppets to explain the play to younger children. The students are also studying subplots in the play as part of their literature studies.
Mckeown, the classroom teacher at Perseverance Primary, expressed appreciation for Hough's ability to write about insects, her generosity in sharing the play with the class, and an appreciation for how great it is the Internet has made the world so small.
Mckeown called the play "a lovely blend of insect knowledge with a strong message of friendship along with a positive message about life and love."
Hough chose to focus on environmental issues in her plays because of her chosen field of study; she has a master's degree in horticulture from the University of Minnesota and has been working to make insect knowledge accessible for children since writing her master's thesis on apple maggots.
"I love plants -- reading about them, writing about them and exploring them," she says, noting that her love of horticultural science is second only to her love of writing.
Hough, who makes her home in Fargo, says that she is planning a fourth installment in her environmental series, "Forest Adventures," but she isn't sure exactly when it will be completed.
Right now, her focus is elsewhere.
"I'm in the beginning stages of writing my first screenplay," Hough says.
Though she hasn't yet focused on a definite theme, she says she's "hoping to do a documentary about the communities in Fargo and Detroit Lakes... I think it's an interesting culture."
Eventually, however, she plans to get back to writing children's plays. "I'm also hoping to bring 'Garden Adventures' to Detroit Lakes next year," she says.