Fond du Lac Follies: The Northrup Road Players

News From Indian Country 6-08

Fond du Lac Follies motored to Marquette, Michigan, for an Indigenous Environmental Network gathering. For this 250 mile one-way trip I brought out my favorite toy, the ‘64 Corvette that my wife won at the Black Bear Casino. This was the first major trip of the year for that beautiful sports car. I gassed, greased, and washed the car.

The directions were simple, hang a left in Superior, Wisconsin, then stay on the road until you get to Marquette. The Corvette rumbled along eating the miles and drinking the gas. I know I was looking cool; it is too bad there are not many people in that part of Michigan who could see me being so cool.

Once I arrived I began meeting people I know. I met old friends and made new friends at the conference. In one workshop I learned what the people in Australia are doing to protect their lands. In another I learned how Anishinaabeg people are reseeding wild rice in Michigan.

On the ride back to Minnesota I ran into a rainstorm and learned I needed new weather-stripping because the car leaks.
Rick Smith, Fonjalacker, invited me to the University of Minnesota-Duluth to talk about terror. So I did.

Jennifer Neimi of the University of Minnesota-Duluth came out to Sawyer to visit during sugar bush. While she was here she asked if we could perform the play Shinnob Jep for the Minnesota Indigenous Language Symposium IV. The doings were to be held at the Holiday Inn in downtown Duluth. I said sure, we can put on that play and make people laugh.

The Northrup Road Players came into being at that point. I asked my son (and neighbor) Matthew if he wanted to play in the play again. His eyes lit up when he said yes. His partner Jackie said she would also like to act in Shinnob Jep. Nephew (and neighbor) Kris begged for a chance to be an actor so the Northrup Road Players began rehearsal.

We started ten days before the scheduled performance time. At first we practiced every other day then we began daily rehearsals. Along the way we learned from each other how to better say and deliver the lines.

We had a dress rehearsal at the Sawyer Center in front of a Mothers Day crowd. In spite of theatre tradition none of us were wearing a dress, not even Jackie.

We made the Sawyer women laugh when we did the play. One person was slightly confused and thought the play was an audience participation kind of a show. As we were going through the questions and answers in the play, she would shout out her answers. It felt good to make those people laugh.

On the day of the performance the Northrup Road Players rehearsed twice and finished with the props. Meg Aerol, usually known as Dr. Margaret Noori, came to the Symposium from Ann Arbor, Michigan. We had a good visit and she drew some tipi poles for us. We needed the drawing for one of the signs used in the play.

There must have been 250 – 280 people in the Ballroom. The Northrup Road Players were ready.

I wanted the lights to be dimmed and then turned back on to signal the opening of the play. The hotel staff got it half right; they turned the lights off then didn’t turn them back on for several minutes. I was trying to panic but didn’t remember how. The audience patiently waited.

The play began and our rehearsal time paid off because people started laughing. We were grooving on the feedback. The audience laughed all the way through the play. It seems like we just got started and the play was over. The Northrup Road Players did well, no major mistakes were made.

I was thinking about this. In this time of a war in two countries, four buck a gallon gas, foreclosures, and sad economic news, it felt good to make people laugh, forget their troubles for a little while.

Now that the Northrup Road players are doing so well in remembering their lines we are seeking new venues. I thought we might have to change one word in the script if we bring the play to a school.

The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College is one possibility since they are having a conference there at the end of June.


Fond du Lac Follies toured the new casino before the grand opening. The casino is huge and very beautiful. I saw many new machines and the upscale steak house. There are three bars in the casino and a place for non-smokers.

It is amazing what a hundred million dollars buys these days.


Mii iw.