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Collaborative allows Detroit Lakes, Pelican Rapids students to experience theater together

Actress Emma Hunter plays the role of Jamie in Roseneath Theatre's touring production of "Spirit Horse," which comes to the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes this Thursday for two shows, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Students from Detroit Lakes and Pelican Rapids will be attending the production through the schools' cultural collaborative.

Through the Cultural Collaborative between Detroit Lakes and Pelican Rapids, seventh graders are experiencing theater together.

"The reason I wanted to get involved is we don't have a lot of other cultures here in Detroit Lakes, and so it's a good experience for the students to meet other people and find out about other cultures in a pretty easy way," Detroit Lakes teacher Pam Daly said.

"The interesting part," she added, "is in Pelican, for as many different cultures as they do have, they have very few Native Americans, so this is a good opportunity for them, too."

Teachers from the two school districts got together and discussed what cultural experience they would collaborate on.

This is the first time they have done the partnership.

They met for a half day to plan and pick stories to read before they visited the theater together.

"We've been planning this for about four months," Daly said.

So, students in both schools are reading short stories that center around American Indian themes. "The Toughest Indian in the World" by Sherman Alexie about a native boy from Spokane, Wash., who walks from his reservation to take the SATs. He doesn't have money, he wears his traditional clothes and does extremely well on the test. The person in charge of the test is questioning everything the boy does and wants to take his score away. The boy takes on the man and stands up for himself.

The students really liked that story, Daly said.

"Drum Kiss" by Susan Power, who is from the Twin Cities, was the second short story they read. It's about a girl who is an outcast at school, and she finds relief in books and reads a lot to escape. She begins to tell her own story and makes friends through her stories.

"They've liked the stories we've read, and then we always discuss the stories and they are doing that in Pelican, too," Daly explained.

All that reading and studying has led up to Thursday's play "Spirit Horse," which is also open to the public, at the Historic Holmes Theatre.

The play will be presented at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and tickets are $8, or $4 for school groups.

The Roseneath Theatre of Toronto is presenting "Spirit Horse."

"Interestingly enough, it's an Irish play that was sent to a Canadian Ojibwe playwright and he transformed it into a native theme, which is kind of different. Not the way it normally works," she said.

The Irish play was called "Into the West" and the students are watching the movie as are Pelican Rapids students so they will have more similarities to discuss "to try to find the parts of the play that are original and what's been changed."

The play's premise is an Irish widowed father and his two children have been gypsies in Ireland, never living a settled life. A horse comes into their lives, which is the mother's spirit, and helps "them to heal and find the right track again."

Although this is the first pairing and cultural collaborative for the seventh graders of Detroit Lakes and Pelican Rapids schools, "we'd like to do something else in the future, but it has to be educationally viable. I think we all realize we don't have the time to do fluff. It's got to be good," Daly said.

"It's nice for our students," she continued.

"A lot of them never get to go to a play period, so the fact that they get that cultural experience, and then combine it with meeting a variety of other people, I think it'll be really good for them."