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Traditional Menominee Pageant, “The Legend of Spirit Rock," to be Staged


Photo by James Kelly

July 11, 2017 – The College of the Menominee Nation’s theater department invites the public to witness a traditional Menominee Pageant in the Woodland Bowl at sunset on Wednesday, August 2. The project is led by CMN faculty member Ryan Winn, who continues to honor a promise to Menominee elders by both staging a traditional Menominee Pageant before the annual Menominee contest powwow and creating an archive for Pageant artifacts in the S. Verna Fowler Academic Library throughout the past academic year.


In 1937 the Woodland Bowl was constructed to host theatrical productions. The shows were called the Menominee Pageants, and they ran for decades, with the last of the original performances being in 1971. Last year CMN staged a revival production, and this year the College of Menominee Nation, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Menominee Nation Contest Powwow, and Menominee County, will again showcase this traditional form of Menominee theater.


This year’s show will feature “The Legend of Spirit Rock,” which was originally written and staged by Joe Keshena in 1948. The script was then adapted by James G. Frechette and produced in both 1960 and 1966. The show brings to life some powerful depictions of the great hardships that the Menominee People have endured. Since humor is also an integral part of Menominee history, this production also includes a play-within-a-play titled, “The Raccoon and the Blind Men.”


Menominee Pageants are a mixture of pantomiming, live music, and dancing. This means that the show’s oration will be recorded, enhanced with sound effects, and then performed with the actors speaking their lines along with the recorded track. The pageants also served as an exhibition of dances. As was the case in the past, all dancers are welcome to join the production, but should check-in with the lead dancers, Jamie Awonohopay and Thomas Pecore, prior to the show.


In addition to rerecording most of the parts, the production will showcase the vocal talents of the late Petronell Keshena Martin. Pet, as she was known, had a speaking voice unequaled in Northeastern Wisconsin, and through digitizing some original reel-to-reel recordings CMN is able to share her gift with the community once again. As such, the production is dedicated to her memory.


The pageant will begin at dusk in the Woodland Bowl, which is located on Fairgrounds Road in Keshena. The show runs around two hours, with an intermission where food and beverages will be sold by local vendors. The pageant is perfect for all ages. Admission is free, but any donations received will be used to fund next summer’s production.