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John Muir Presentations Show Descriptions

Tunnel ViewConversation with a Tramp:
An Evening with John Muir

This stirring production has been presented every summer in Yosemite National Park - and throughout the country and around the world as well - since 1983. It depicts Muir's last dramatic battle to preserve the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley, part of our National Park, but threatened by San Francisco's desire to construct a dam there, drowning it hundreds of feet deep. Audience members are his guests as they await final word of the Hetch Hetchy's fate from Washington decision makers. While waiting, Muir's righteous anger at the 'temple destroyers' is tempered by his hearty good humor, and his relating of a number of his most extraordinary wilderness adventures, including his remarkable 'tree ride' in a Sierra windstorm. A fine introduction to both Muir the man and his profound love of wildness, this show is often sponsored by organizations defending their own environment.

John Muir Among the Animals John Muir Among the Animals
Muir's nearly disastrous "interview" with a Yosemite bear, his face-to-fang encounter with a rattlesnake, and hilarious stories of tending sheep - those "hoofed locusts" destroying the lovely meadows of the Yosemite High Country - are among the many stories in this very popular show. Also included is Muir's boyhood remembrance of the passenger pigeons, which dazzled him with their flocks of many millions filling the sky for days at a time. In stark contrast, in Muir's old age, he is made aware of the single remaining pigeon named Martha, held captive at the Cincinnati Zoo. The basic themes here revolve around animal rights and the problem of extinction, but are largely served up with Muir's irrepressible humor. And Muir's deep understanding and love for the animal kingdom was never made more evident - or more educational - than his telling of his frightening adventure with a dog named Stickeen. This quaint little adventuresome animal, with whom Muir gets lost in a storm on an Alaskan glacier, provides us with one of the greatest dog stories of all time.

The Spirit of John Muir

The Spirit of John Muir
This show is a fun romp through some of the very best of Muir's grand, thrilling adventures in his beloved western wilderness. "The Perilous Night on Mount Shasta", - with Muir freezing in the midst of a howling blizzard while simultaneously being boiled and blistered in hot springs -his astonishing ride down a Yosemite Valley canyon wall on a snow avalanche, and climbing the 500' wall of the winter ice cone beneath the Yosemite Fall are only a few of the amazing - and true - adventures. They also include Muir's encounters with a mighty Yosemite earthquake, dangerous Alaskan ice crevasses, snow blindness, and much more - all liberally salted with Muir's wilderness philosophy. This show's theme revolves around the health and invigoration one acquires when one fully and joyfully engages wildness.

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir The Tramp and the Roughrider
The newest of our productions!
In May of 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt, planning a tour of the western forests, invited the naturalist John Muir to a four-day camping trip in the Yosemite wilderness. The Tramp and the Roughrider illuminates this extraordinary encounter, with the action unfolding at sunset on Glacier Point, overlooking the magnificent Yosemite Valley.

Both of these characters were feisty and opinionated, and had sharp disagreements on issues like hunting, animal rights, and forest management. Muir's poetic and evangelistic temperament, clashing with Roosevelt's political (and boyish) enthusiasms, naturally spawned both tension and humor. Both skillful storytellers, it seems natural that both would seek to top one another by relating some of their many adventures in the American wilderness - Roosevelt bringing a frontier ruffian to justice, for example, or Muir telling of his hair-raising 'interview' with a Yosemite bear. At the time of this historic meeting, many millions of acres of our western forest, with little or no governmental supervision, were being exploited and abused by hunting, lumber, stock and mining interests.

Alan Sutterfield as Theodore Roosevelt & Lee Stetson as John Muir The federal government had established only five national parks and one small wildlife preserve (Pelican Island) and was without a Park Service. The Yosemite Valley, though surrounded by a national park, was controlled by the state of California, and was frowsy and neglected.

But around the campfire, in sifting through their histories and their hopes, these very different men slowly discover how the other had been shaped by the wilderness they loved, opening up some rich possibilities of "doing some forest good." And by the end of Roosevelt's presidency, America could boast of an additional 200 million acres of forest wilderness, five more national parks, and 65 wildlife preserves. Bully! Whether you're a naturalist, a sports-man, or both, you will be captivated by this passionate performance by Lee Stetson as John Muir and Alan Sutterfield as Theodore Roosevelt.

Connie Stetson as Sarah Hawkins Sarah Hawkins Contemplates
a Fourth Husband

"My first husband, the only one of the three I ever learn to love, died of snakebite after four years of marriage. My second, may be roast in Hell, drowned, dead drunk in the mud of a Nevada City street two years after. My third, after a year or so, was blown to bits, when a boiler exploded while traveling by steamboat. So if I do marry Apple Abbot, I calculate he wouldn't last more than six months." So says Sarah, pioneer woman. Striding across frontier America, she has known starvation, loneliness, backbreaking work, bleak deserts, violent storms, stampeding buffalo, temperamental 49ers, the death of most of her family, and three successive husbands! But this feisty, funny woman is still sharp of eye and tongue, with an earthy humor and a hard fought -for independence. Sarah Hawkins is a fictional character. But her story is true; a crazy-quilt of real-life adventures, stitched together from the journals, diaries and other accounts of pioneer women who struggled to cross the hazardous 2400 miles of the Overland Trail. Connie Stetson stars in this hugely enjoyable show.

Pickaxes and Petticoats with Connie Stetson Pickaxes and Petticoats
"As soon as we got to our first gold field, Gump, my second husband, began to show his true colors. He put up a dirty canvas tent for me and my babies, then spent maybe two whole days in the creek bed, after which the only gold that crossed his palms was at the card table. He was low-grade oar, make no mistake - I couldn't have jumped a worse claim. And me the only woman in that camp with about 3,000 ugly men!" This is life and strife in the gold mines of the California 49ers - from a decidedly female perspective! Often hilarious, sometimes tragic, but always dynamic, you'll relish the highly opinionated storytelling of these true stories, gathered from the journals and diaries written by the astonishing women who came to tame wild California. Told by Connie Stetson, as the feisty Sarah Hawkins, the ultimate survivor, who finally decides whether or not to marry Apple Abbot.

John Wesley Powell Down the Great Unknown
Here is one of America's most compelling stories of exploration and bravery. In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell, despite having lost his right arm in the Civil War, outfitted a small party of men in wooden boats in Wyoming, and descended down into the then unknown Colorado River. Daring that mighty river for a thousand miles of huge, horrifying rapids, unsuspected dangers, and endless hardship, he and his men were the first to challenge the mysterious Grand Canyon. As the story unfolds, told largely in Powell's own words, we are awed anew by his description of the Canyon's grandeur, our imagination is excited at his discoveries, and we are stunned and humbled at the human cost of attempting this perilous descent. The Tragedy at Disaster Falls, Indian encounters, the desertion and death of three of his party, and his final triumph are among the highlights of this stirring production. A keen scientist as well as explorer, Powell's prophetic warning regarding the wise use of water in the arid Southwest is also a major theme of this powerful production.

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John Muir Presentations Actor Bios

Lee Stetson
Lee Stetson's plays include three one-person shows based on the life of the naturalist John Muir, and a fourth based on both Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt. These productions, with Mr. Stetson in the title role, have been presented in Yosemite National Park since 1983 to more than a quarter of a million visitors. Additionally, the Muir shows have toured throughout the country to universities, parks, museums, wilderness and environmental organizations from Washington D.C. to Hawaii. Mr. Stetson lectures frequently on the arts and the environment, and spends a considerable portion of his time promoting the performing arts in the national parks. Lee's career has included founding and managing the Hawaii Performing Arts Company, being the Artistic Manager of both the Hawaii Theatre Festival and the Antique Theatre Festival of Idaho, and freelance directing throughout the Northwest and in Los Angeles. As an actor he has performed more than fifty major roles from Shakespeare to Simon, and his television credits include a dozen episodes of Hawaii 5-0.
Lee Stetson as John Muir
Lee Stetson as John Muir
Connie Stetson as Sarah Hawkins

  Connie Stetson
Connie Stetson's starring roles include Gypsy, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Misalliance, among others. She has performed the role of Sarah Hawkins for the past eight years in Yosemite Valley. She trained with the Los Angeles premiere improvisational comedy ensemble, The Groundlings. Connie also teaches and directs drama and improvisational skills to the children of the Yosemite and El Portal schools. The Stetsons currently live in Midpines, California, just outside Yosemite National Park. Their highly acclaimed productions are frequently seen throughout the country, touring communities, universities, historical societies, natural history centers, and environmental organizations.

Alan Sutterfield - as President Theodore Roosevelt
Alan Sutterfield has been an actor and playwright for many years, both in Hawaii and on the mainland. Recently he has played leading roles in James Joyce’s “The Dead”, “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Laughter on the 23rd Floor”. He is gratified to add Theodore Roosevelt to his acting credits, which include the historical characters General Custer, Captain James Cook, and John Merrick, The Elephant Man. Alan’s latest play, “King Kalahkaua’s Poker Game” was produced in May of last year in Honolulu.

  Alan Sutterfield as Theodore Roosevelt

Earll Kingston as John Wesley Powell  

Earll Kingston
Earll Kingston has more than twenty years experience in theatre. In Hawaii, he performed and directed for the Hawaii Performing Arts Company, taught acting at the University of Hawaii, and appeared in numerous episodes of Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum P.I. In California he has acted for the Globe Theatre in Hollywood and for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. He is a member of California on Stage, a San Francisco-based group engaged in writing and performing stage and radio works based on California history. He performed the John Wesley Powell role in Down The Unknown for eight years in the Grand Canyon, a show which he still tours.

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John Muir Presentations Reviews

Quotes from Reviews of the Muir Shows

"Rich in its offering of the love Muir shared with the earth, 'Tramp' is an elegant and inspiring portrayal of America's preeminent conservationist."
David Brower

"(Stetson's) stimulating performance builds the character with remarkable sensitivity, from his strong yet gentle voice to the boyish gleam in his eye, providing a rare opportunity for a personal glimpse of this legendary man."
"An acting tour de force, he flows with the torrent of word pictures, surfacing brief memories of childhood and family life, but always returning to the currents and eddies that make up his love for the wilderness."
"Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain, James Whitmore as Will Rodgers, Julie Harris as Emily Dickerson, and now - in keeping with the burgeoning American interest in nature - Lee Stetson as John Muir."
San Francisco
"This veteran actor makes us believe so deeply in Muir that we too begin thinking of the plants and trees and wildlife as people. Stetson has done as much or more to acquaint Americans with one of its most remarkable sons than Muir himself in all his writings."
"...a charming zestful performance, full of great thoughts throughout.... "
"His description of his 100 foot climb to the top of a Douglas fir in the midst of a bracing wind storm had his guests collectively gasp, feeling almost as breathless and windblown as the aged storyteller himself."
"Even in the shadow of Muir's own eloquence Stetson's writing skills are evident (as are his acting skills) showing us how a human being as unique and remarkable as John Muir takes shape, not only his motivations, but the sources of his motivations. The people who really need to see it, most of our politicians and all of our developers, probably won't be interested. This is why, in ancient Greece, not to attend the theatre was a criminal offense."
"The humor, spirit, and message of Muir soar on in this good, honest one-man show. Before seeing Lee Stetson, I didn't think anyone could successfully impersonate John Muir. Last summer in Yosemite, I attended three performances in a row and all were spellbinding. Each night men and women were so affected they wept unashamedly."
Palo Alto

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John Muir Presentations General Information

Length of Show
Each production has at least an hour and a half of material, and is most often presented as a two-act show, requiring an intermission. However, they are also presented in an hour length format or less, and are frequently tailored to meet specific needs of theme and/or time. Conventions, banquets, outdoor shows and schools often have schedules requiring less than an hour for presentation, and all of these shows are easily adaptable.

Additional Offerings
In addition to the performance, the actor can sometimes offer one of several workshop/lecture sessions, or other events. A Stroll with John Muir, in nearly any outdoor environment, is one of the more popular of these, in which "Muir" interacts with those participating, telling stories and answering questions in character. Acting For The Stage, The Creation of a One-Person Stage Show, and Story-telling are other possibilities. Lee also offers a lecture on The Performing Arts And the Environment. Lee can also adapt material from the various productions to present "Muir's" views on current issues or to emphasize a particular theme.

Technical Needs
All technical needs for the various productions have been deliberately simplified, and in many cases nothing is required save that the performer be seen and heard. The requirements for full technical productions are described below in the Things Technical section.

We enjoy our work, and think it important. Consequently, every request for a presentation will be met with enthusiasm, and a real effort to make it work. For the Muir presentations in particular, the fee is always negotiable, dependent on such factors as Lee's schedule, size and make-up of the potential audience, and the primary purpose of the presentation (fundraising, entertainment, rally, etc.). We recognize that elementary schools, smaller parks, less affluent communities, and many wilderness and environmental organizations sometimes cannot meet our usual fees. Still, we can often schedule a performance when in the 'neighborhood.' We have in the past exchanged our programs for a service, a product, a vacation opportunity, a river trip, etc. We'll often do a school presentation as well as a community evening event, or find a second venue of some kind close by, to help offset some of the cost. And sometimes a percentage of the gate receipts is a reasonable approach. There's usually a way to do it, and we pledge our best effort.

Travel Expenses
These expenses are usually calculated from Yosemite, CA for the Stetsons, and the nearest airport is Fresno, CA. For Earll Kingston, these expenses are calculated from Berkeley, CA. While touring, these expenses can sometimes be significantly reduced by sharing the costs with a number of host organizations.

A motel or hotel as close to the performance as possible is generally preferred.

Publicity Materials
A good deal of publicity material can be generated from what can be found on these web pages, but additional publicity photographs, news articles, poster and program samples can be provided by Lee Stetson.

Please email (below) or call Lee Stetson, 209-742-7838, (after 10:00AM Pacific Coast Time) for additional information or for setting a date for a presentation. We truly appreciate your interest and hope to bring one of our productions to your community or organization one day soon.

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John Muir Presentations Things Technical

All of these productions are designed to be produced with a minimum of technical hassle. And while the performances are designed to be an hour and a half in length, (with intermission), they are frequently presented as shorter versions, from 20 minutes to an hour or so.

Space Requirements
The playing area for any of the productions needs to be only 20 feet deep and 15 feet wide. Smaller areas may be made to work. A thrust stage is preferred, but any configuration will work well. All of the shows can be done outdoors as well.

None of the stage sets require walls, but each, excepting The Tramp and the Roughrider, requires a few furniture pieces to suggest the environment. And if the presentation is to be done in one act, without an intermission, and no longer than an hour or so, then only a few of the furniture pieces may be required. A list of furniture for each production is listed below. The background is best black or neutral.

Lighting should simply be focused on the playing area, with as little "spill" as possible. The operation of the lights requires no special cues, though it should allow for a simple fading up at the beginning and fading down at the end of each act.

Though not always necessary for less than two-act productions, the actor will bring pre-show music for audience enjoyment, for which a good sound system (tape deck, amplifier, speakers) is required. If the auditorium is large, has poor acoustics, or if the show is presented outdoors, a remote (lapel) mike is required for each actor.

Hand Props
These are brought to the production by the actor.

All of the productions in their full length, two-act versions require some turn-of-the-century furniture. Other versions may require some but not all of the furniture indicated.

Conversation With A Tramp and John Muir Among the Animals: A fireplace with mantle (preferred) or a wood stove, a rocking chair and low footstool for it, a large desk and a chair to match, a coat rack, a wastebasket, and two dozen or so old books. If a wood stove were provided instead of a fireplace, another small table would be needed. Not necessary, but helpful in dressing the set, would be plants, large and small, a large throw rug, an old typewriter, and such things as a naturalist would have in his study; pine cones, fossils, rocks, etc.

The Spirit of John Muir can use the identical set above, but only a stool (chair high) is absolutely necessary. Having a lot of plant life about is a good touch.

Sarah Hawkins Contemplates a Fourth Husband and Pickaxes and Petticoats: Rocking chair, small table.

Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell: Coat-rack or hall tree, small desk and chair, rocking chair and a sturdy stool which can be stood upon safely.

Each performance requires at least one competent technician, familiar with the auditorium's sound and lighting facilities, to help set up, run the lights, and strike the set. All of the technical needs should be in place before the performer arrives, and at least two hours before curtain, the performer and the technician will set sound and light levels. All of the furniture should be in the center of the playing area when the performer arrives for sound and light check. That's it!

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Click here to email Lee Stetson
Lee Stetson
PO Box 93
Midpines, CA 95345
(209) 742-7838