Bismarck State College Theatre presents
new play about Germans from Russia
November 4, 2005
Sidney J. Lee Auditorium, Bismarck State College Bismarck,
Bismarck State College Theatre explores
the strength of family in the North Dakota premiere of "Handing
Down the Names" Nov. 9-13 in Sidney J. Lee Auditorium. Shows
begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
In a montage of stories, playwright Steven Dietz honors his family's
enduring courage and uncommon choice to leave their German homeland
and travel to Russia to secure a better future for their children.
They and other immigrants became known collectively as the Germans
from Russia, a peasant people whose farming skills enriched the
barren steppes for 150 years until oppression brought many to America
in the early 1900s.
Dietz uses family history, documented historical
facts and events, and imagination to create a seven-generation
mosaic of the "Dorn" family from 1766 to 1949. The
play imparts the loss and pain of separation as circumstances
split family apart with some settling in America and others
forced to return or stay in Russia during the turbulent early
"This is about heritage; what it meant then, and how
it has changed over time," says director Dan Rogers,
associate professor of speech and theater.
Audiences will find a history lesson in the exodus launched when
Catherine the Great of Russia, a monarch of German heritage, issued
a manifesto inviting her kinsmen to settle land annexed in a war.
The play opens in Germany with Ruth, a young woman whose husband
forced into military service and dies. She is pregnant, and, according
custom, her husband's younger brother offers marriage to hand down
name. They join others in the yearlong trip on the Volga River to
promised land of treeless prairie and hardship.
"But within 100 years, these people turned the region into
of Russia and fed the entire country," Rogers says.
The 17-member ensemble cast performs multiple roles. Players are
Knodel, Andrea Ficek, Karissa Pudwill, Sean Marshall, and Conrad
all of Bismarck; Kelsey Fredricks, Charlie Barber, and Matt Jacobson-Heck,
Mandan; Amber Wolfe, Hazen; Danielle Stadick, Beulah; Chantal Withe,
Wilton; Jordan Axtman, Harvey; Toby Lund, Selfridge; Alexander Duppong,
Glen Ullin; Kayla Sanford, Watford City; Courtney Olson, Sidney,
and Laura Struckman, Savage, Mont. Between 80 to 90 percent of the
happens to have German-Russian heritage, Rogers says.
Craig Moxon, technical theater instructor, provides set and lighting
design. Students in lead production positions are Farren Gunderson,
assistant director, Mandan; and Jessica Hafen, assistant technical
director, Shawnee, Kan.
The Germans from Russia Heritage Society will provide informational
displays at the BSC auditorium. Reserved seat tickets are $5 and
purchased weekdays until 4 p.m. at the box office beginning Oct.
Note: Do a web search for playright Steven Dietz and of the play,
Down the Names" for interesting website pages of the performance
play at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah in the spring of
at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, in April of 2005.