Walking Shadow Theatre – “Gilgamesh” and “Beowulf”

Photo courtesy of Amy Rummenie
Photo courtesy of Amy Rummenie

I didn’t expect to find myself blinking back tears less than five minutes into John Heimbuch’s performance of Gilgamesh, but that is exactly what happened. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I’m sure it had something to do with the intimate amphitheater, the towering trees, and the power of one person breathing new life into an old story. This is theater at its most basic: storytelling at its most rarefied.

Between now and October 17 there will be four more performances of Gilgamesh and two of Beowulf, both written and originally performed by Charlie Bethel. Walking Shadow Theatre’s production of Gilgamesh is a fresh, vibrant retelling of the ancient Sumerian story, which wrestles with themes of sex, religion, friendship, honor, death, and immortality. I won’t have a chance to see Beowulf, but using Gilgamesh as my measuring stick, I can guarantee a funny, energetic, and thought-provoking interpretation of the two classic tales.

These are one-person shows in a small outdoor venue. There are no costumes, no props, no music, no microphones, and no set decoration. We don’t need them. Director Amy Rummenie has masterfully choreographed a delicate dance for Heimbuch, who gleefully pantomimes battles, adventures, and seductions. He leaps from benches, cavorts off the stage, and finds a couple key moments to reference the woods around us as the organic set decoration that they are.

The window for outdoor theater in the Twin Cities is closing. Watching the oldest story known to humankind being performed for a small crowd in a natural environment by a person in ordinary clothes who relies solely on the attention of his audience, the relative silence of the woods, and the strength of his own voice is a powerful experience. A production of either Gilgamesh or Beowulf could be the cherry on the top of your Minnesota fall. 

Tickets are available at walkingshadowtheatre.org

Monday, October 4 @ 6:00pm – BEOWULF

Friday, October 8 @ 6:00pm – GILGAMESH

Saturday, October 9 @ 6:00pm – BEOWULF

Sunday, October 10 @ 6:00pm – GILGAMESH

Friday, October 15 @ 6:00pm – GILGAMESH

Sunday, October 17 @ 6:00pm – GILGAMESH

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