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Prohibited acts

Granite Falls marked the 100-year anniversary of Prohibition with Volstead Days

Photo by Sabrina Pankratz A group of musicians played together during the preview of “Over the Barrel: A Prohibition Musical” Saturday afternoon during Volstead Days in Granite Falls.

GRANITE FALLS — With it being the 100-year anniversary of Prohibition, local artists Jess Gorman and Tamara Isfeld collaborated on Prohibited Acts, a project featured at Volstead Days in Granite Falls.

The project is funded by the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council.

The Days also featured a free preview and full performances of “Over the Barrel, A Prohibition musical.” The musical put on by the Placebase Productions, Other Tiger Productions and the Granite Falls Historical Society.

“The project started with myself, and another artist Tamara Isfeld realizing the 100 year anniversary of prohibition was coming to town,” said Gorman, one of the two artists who created the Prohibited Acts series.

Gorman said that both artists work with the Granite Area Arts Council, and she pitched the idea of doing a series that focused on the taboo to the Granite Historical Society, a year ago.

“Basically we’re sitting there at this table trying to figure out what to do for this 100- year anniversary, and a lady from the historical society goes, remember that thing you were talking about last year with the taboo scenes, wouldn’t that be fun?” said Gorman.

Gorman said after that she applied for an individual artist grant that collaborated with the community, and the community collaborator was the Granite Area Arts Council.

“What the project’s purpose was to make the modern day residents of Granite Falls feel encompassed and alive and see themselves within their local history,” said Gorman.

Gorman said that the Granite Falls local history with Prohibition is that it is the home of the author of the Prohibition act, Andrew Volstead, and the project would reflect on that with the 100th anniversary of when the Prohibition act was passed.

“So, what we did with this project, it’s not just looking at the alcohol-related taboos, it’s looking at anything that was considered taboo, or prohibited, or against the norm in the Prohibition era,” said Gorman.

Gorman said there were four live sets put on during the Volstead Days — the Speakeasy at the Volstead House, Ankle Baring at the Lady Slipper Garden, the Diner Scene at the El Nido, and the Public Makeup Counter at Korthius Jewelry. Gorman said speakeasies, women’s ankles being exposed, women applying makeup in public, and restaurants serving people immigrants and racial backgrounds were all considered taboo and prohibited during the Prohibition era.

Gorman said the diner was to bring people of all backgrounds and ethnicity of the community together.

“The art on the bar (in the Diner) was done by local artist, Jammie Neimeyer, she’s biracial and she’s lived in the community a very long time. She did this bar piece that was specifically designed for this set, so there’s doodles all over it with Speakeasy and 1920s’ verbiage,” said Gorman.

Gorman said that community also participated in a 2-D scene, where people were allowed to pick out an outfit from the Prohibition era and be photographed in a still scene that are now displayed in the K.K. Berge building.

“All of the photos that were taken for that the 2-D exhibit that is up now, and all the photos that are being taken today during these four interactive exhibits will all get turned in to a book for the community, that will be produced in the fall,” said Gorman.

Later in the evening, a preview of “Over the Barrel, a Prohibition musical,” was put on at the Bluenose Gopher Public House. This weekend the musical was sold out for its full performance, but the cast put on a free preview of the musical to the community before a full performance later that night.

Ashley Hanson, producer, director, and founder of Placebase Productions, said that they received a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council to commemorate the 100th of Prohibition and the Prohibition act signed 100 years ago by Andrew Volstead.

The musical’s cast was made up of all women.

“As we started preparing the play, and thinking about what characters were in the play. It’s a lot of men in history that were making these decisions based on women. Prohibition was really from women rising up, and men were really the deciding factor. So, instead of having men play these powerful people throughout history, why not let women play these powerful people throughout history?” said Hanson.

“It’s really fun to get to sing these powerful songs, with all these women,” said Hanson.

According to Hanson, the musical is celebrating three different areas of Granite Falls, the Bluenose Gopher being named after Andrew Volstead, because that was his nickname around the country for shutting down drinking. The Yes House, which was a pharmacy at one point where you could get a prescription written for alcohol during Prohibition, and the third location is Andrew Volstead’s childhood home.

“We started with historical research and then we did interviews with people at the (Granite Falls) Historical Society who knew a lot about Prohibition in the area. And, then we held story circles, and in our story circles instead of talking more about the history we talked more about what prohibition means and is, and how it came to be,” said Hanson.

Hanson said that all of Placebase Productions’ musicals and plays are all loosely based on history and that they are not history theater.

“We use history as an inroad for conversation, so it’s like historical fiction. It’s a creative interpretation of what might have happened. So that we can rather then just looking back, we use events that happened in the past to really bring conversations to light that are relevant to the future,” said Hanson.

Hanson said that she loves the shows because of the ability to see the actor’s transform and fill their characters.

“The starting of being really shy or not very confident and by the end like dancing on the bar and yelling and stomping. Watching the transformation in the actors has been really incredible,” said Hanson.

To see “Over the Barrel: a Prohibition Musical,” tickets for the July 26-27, Aug. 8-9, Sept. 12-13, and Oct. 4-5 shows are available for purchase at the Bluenose Gopher Public House, and online at https://overthebarrel.bpt.me.

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