April 21, 2024

‘Runestone!’ musical opens at History Theatre, May 7

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After a two-year COVID-19 delay, Mark Jensen’s musical Runestone! A Rock Musical will hold its world premiere at the History Theatre, May 7-29, 2022.

Runestone was scheduled for production in May, 2020, so its been a two-year COVID-19 delay,” said Jensen, a native of Kensington. 

The musical was developed first through the History Theatre’s Raw Stages Festival in 2019, and then later during their summer 2019 Second Stage program.

“We developed an early version of act one during Raw Stages and then completed the entire script and music during the Second Stage workshop.” Jensen stated, working with composer Gary Rue in 2015.

“Gary is an accomplished musician and composer here in the Twin Cities,” Jensen said. “This is our fourth musical together.”

The two previously created musicals for Steppingstone Theatre for Youth Development, including a bluegrass/country music adaptation of Tom Sawyer.

“The version of Runestone Gary and I originally presented to Tyler Michaels King, our director, was quite different,” recalled Jensen. “That script was more of a debate. Tyler made the excellent suggestion that we focus on Olof Ohman and his family’s experience with the stone, so this production reveals their story. It is also a rock musical. Gary and I have written songs using many styles within the rock genre. We have a four piece rock band led by Brian Pekol, our music director.”

The musical also features seven professional Twin Cities actors playing numerous roles.

For the one or two Minnesotans who don’t know the story of the most famous rock in the state, the story of the Runestone goes like this: In 1898, Swedish immigrant Olof Ohman digs up a rock on his property near Kensington, MN. The rock is covered with carved runes (Nordic letters) that tells the story of Viking explorers  being the first Europeans to set foot in Minnesota. A number of their party are killed by Natives and the stone is carved as a memorial for them. At first, Ohman is praised for his discovery, but soon controversy erupts and his life is turned upside down with claims the rock is fake and Ohman a fraud and liar.

The musical will allow you to step back in time and enjoy a whimsical rock and roll ride.

“This project has been a huge passion of mine for several years,” admitted Jensen. “I first started writing a Runestone play in 2002, and the History Theatre held a first reading of the play version during Raw Stages in 2003. I also developed early versions through public and private readings at the Playwrights Center of Minneapolis. All that work helped inform this musical, as I was able to reuse and re-imagine many of the scenes from those earlier versions.”

Tickets for Runestone! A Rock Musical are available now at the History Theatre website <www.historytheatre.com/2021-2022/runestone-rock-musical> or google it.

There is a streaming option as well. During the last week of the run, individuals and groups can buy Stream tickets for a recorded performance. They can then watch the performance when its convenient by end of the run on May 29. After this date, the streaming performance will no longer be available. This a great option for individuals who want to see it but can’t get to St. Paul. This might also be a great option for school groups and other organizations.

“Its been a long haul, but the rock is rolling,” Jensen exclaims.

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