I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.
– Henry David Thoreau
And after two years and two months in his simple cabin by Walden Pond, Thoreau made the decision to leave.
Thoreau’s determination to move back into town is the basis of a two-act play by Morenci Area High School students, scheduled at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 in the drama room.
In his final two days at Walden, the man destined to become one of America’s great philosophers discusses the reasons for his Walden experiment and speaks of his vision of America’s future. All the while, his convictions are constantly challenged by his good friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Don’t think of this philosophical musing as a stuffy exchange. There’s plenty of humor tossed in as Thoreau explains his thoughts and Emerson holds them up for examination.
Michael Johnathon, the author of “Walden: the Ballad of Thoreau,” describes the play not as a biography but rather a conversation and intellectual argument between a pair of old colleagues who love and respect each other greatly.
The play is unique, said director and English teacher Char-Lene Wilkins, in that the script and production materials are offered free of charge to schools and colleges in conjunction with the Earth Day 2008 project. Financial support of the project is provided by five companies and organizations.
Tickets will be sold without the need to pay royalties, and proceeds will benefit the high school Green Earth Club (GECKOs) and the journalism class.
“In an age of global warming, bio-fuels, hybrid cars and oil wars,” Johnathon writes, “the play can introduce students to Thoreau as well as environmental concerns in their own home towns at a time when, frankly, they need it.”
Two other characters join Thoreau and Emerson. Joshua Barnett, a worker at the Thoreau family pencil shop, plays the common man who possess a great deal of common sense. Many of the intellectual arguments between Thoreau and Emerson are reflected in the Barnett character.
A female perspective is offered through Rachel Stuers, an expressive woman in her 20s who is said to have “the gleamings of feminism long before it was acknowledged by society.” Her tone offers somewhat of a challenge, but not outright rebellion.
When Thoreau died, Johnathan said, he was better known for the manufacture of the pencil than for any words he wrote with one.
His aim with the play is to make sure students today know Thoreau for his ideas and discover their relevance to contemporary life.