‘Handing Down the Names’ Succeeds as Season Starter
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 15:10
As the premiere production of the Little Country Theatre’s centennial season, expectations were high for “Handing Down the Names.” This unpublished play by Steven Dietz won out http://www.ndsu.edu/finearts/NS-images/theatre/940-Names.jpg last week as a terrific starter to the season with a story many Fargo-Moorhead residents can connect to.
Following the fictional Dorn family through the centuries and across the world, “Handing Down the Names” documents the various plights that many Germans from Russia experienced in the 1700s and 1900s onstage.
It all begins with a widowed mother-to-be and her brother-in-law marrying for the sake of her unborn child in 1766. Deciding to pull up stakes and relocate to the Saratov region of Russia with many of their countrymen, husband and wife brave land, sea and the elements in hope of a better life.
Promised new land and many other perks by the imperious Catherine the Great, the Germans from Russia flowed into the Saratov area, only to be dealt extreme hardships upon arrival. Our heroes the Dorns lose one of their own and must struggle through their first Russian winter totally unfamiliar with their new surroundings.
Time, however, has a funny way of moving on, and the timeline jumps ahead to 1907, when the fourth-degree descendants of the first Dorns uproot and immigrate to America.
It is here where hardship hits the heaviest, as difficulties in leaving the country, surviving on the boat and entering the United States clobber the ever-hopeful Dorn family. They endure three deaths and a separation before arriving at their final destination—farmland outside of Windsor, Colorado.
These hardships that play out onstage—death of children, familial separation, war—represent the worst of what many Germans from Russia faced when leaving their country.
Families were indeed separated, and yes, many never saw their loved ones again. Mothers and their children did indeed die during childbirth. Husbands and wives were ripped apart during the days of the Russian Revolution. Above all, that glimmer of hope that so many families clung to was oftentimes the only thing they had in coming so far and losing so much along the way.
These experiences all materialize in “Handing Down the Names,” a play whose cast is to be commended for handling the raw realities that take place onstage. Many Germans from Russia settled in and around North Dakota, and many area residents can claim such people as their ancestors. Seeing situations their ancestors experienced play out onstage will make any descendant heartily appreciate the strength of those who came before them.
“Handing Down the Names” continues its run at Askanase Auditorium from 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 to 19 and 2 p.m. Oct. 20. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for non-NDSU students and $5 for NDSU students and are available online at ndsu.edu/finearts and by phone at 231-7969.