‘The Children of Mystery River’ opens at Festival Theatre Sept. 8

Youth actors create a tent and a rainstorm during a rehearsal of “The Children of Mystery River,” which opens Sept. 8 at Festival Theatre in St. Croix Falls, Wis. (Submitted photo)

“The Children of Mystery River,” Festival Theatre’s second youth and family show this runs Sept. 8-17.

The show is based on a book by local authors Phil and Joanne Peterson and is being adapted for the stage by the University of Wisconsin River Falls and Seth Kaltwasser. It follows three children as they make their way down a river in the mid 1800s. The show features 15 local youth actors and one adult.

The story for “The Children of Mystery River” came as a result of a two-year pilot program called the St. Croix Master Watershed Stewards — a project funded by a matching grant from the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Education to create a staff to develop and institute a comprehensive watershed stewardship curriculum. Phil Peterson was one of those participants, and “The Children of Mystery River” was the result.

The intent of the book, Peterson says, was for students to “discover the real values of water and recognize the vulnerabilities of water.” He also hopes that through the story students will learn they can invent solutions in their own minds and decide what to do and what not to do about certain things they encounter.

The staged play seeks to build on those founding principles. Director Rachel Kunhle has been asking the youth actors to embody what is needed and create it for themselves.

“The actors become the river, they become the fire and the trees and the animals,” Kuhnle said. “They create a whole town, a whole storm just by their movements and actions. It’s really very inventive, and they’re doing a wonderful job so far.”

Tickets are $13.50 for adults and $8.50 for youth 5-18. Patrons are encouraged to reserve ahead of time, because there are a limited number of performances.

Tickets can be purchased at FestivalTheatre.org, by emailing [email protected] or by calling the box office at 715-483-3387.