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A First Look at the Manzanita Tree Project


Original Image by James St. John

In this month’s blog entry, I’ll give you a sneak peek of an exciting project Katie’s working on – and information on how you can get involved. The Manzanita Tree Project is meant to inspire people to do good in their local communities and worldwide, making it a perfect fit with Bloom’s mission.


According to Katie, the Manzanita Tree Project will blend the disciplines of musical theater and performance art as it tells “the story of humans remembering that they have a responsibility to give back to the earth.” The show, which she described as “Moulin Rouge! meets FernGully,” will feature reinterpreted tracks from The Herbal Remedies’ 2017 album Fox Path.


The Manzanita Tree Project focuses on “Mannie” – a nonbinary child living in the Upper Peninsula community of Houghton, MI – and their grandmother. Mannie’s class is sent home from school due to a flood warning one day; while they are initially glad to have the day off, the impact that global warming has had on the region soon becomes impossible to ignore.


“Our protagonist has this revelatory experience about the way they could make change,” Katie said.


Katie said the show’s staging will be highly modular, expanding or contracting to fit whatever venue it is performed in.


“This could be anywhere from filling the Calumet Theatre just to serving people in their backyards,” she said.



This focus on modularity is expected to help it continue in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Our production can observe physical distancing guidelines and offer through a variety of platforms and service line deliveries, given the proper allies,” Katie said.


Katie also hopes to use the show to help highlight local initiatives in the communities where it is performed.


Inspiration for the Manzanita Tree Project came from many different sources, including the very real flooding the Keweenaw Peninsula experienced about two years ago, Katie’s hopes for a post-capitalist culture, and the current political climate.


“To me, this is kind of like advocating for preventative care – using the arts as a platform for being able to have difficult conversations with people that you love and also amplifying common-ground values,” Katie said.


At its core, however, the show is a tribute to Katie’s experiences with community theater and the lessons she has learned from her elders and peers.


“Fundamentally, I think no matter where I’ve gone and no matter what stage of life, I’ve been committed to some sort of service … trying to understand how I could really just honor the legacies of people that have been really kind and have been mentors to me,” Katie said.


The project’s namesake is a Manzanita tree Katie encountered while on the West Coast. Her Herbal Remedies bandmate Thistle Van Dyk identified the tree, and Katie wrote a song inspired by it.


“Without too much effort, it emerged as a round … and also had these eco-educational components that were sort of poetic and fun,” she said.


While the next steps for the Manzanita Tree Project’s future were unclear as of late September, a rough outline of the show’s plot had been assembled and efforts to develop it further were underway.



“Right now, we’re still at the research and development stages,” Katie said.


The show will feature the contributions of at least two actors and three musicians, as well as technical workers, writers, and more. Katie is currently searching for creative collaborators, potential donors, and representatives of venues such as schools, churches, barns, and libraries that the Manzanita Tree Project could visit. She noted that receipt of referrals to organizations receive a real-live thank-you call/voicemail.


“If you’re interested, we’re interested to hear from you,” Katie said.


Want to help make the Manzanita Tree Project a reality? You can get in touch with Katie by visiting Bloom’s page about the project. To stay in the loop about the project, you can become a member of Bloom, like Bloom’s Facebook page, and follow @honoringpastpresentpotential on Instagram.


For more information about my freelance writing services, visit my website or email me at jordan@jordandbeck.com. You can also check out my previous blog entry for Bloom here.

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