Orphan Train returns to Minot

Submitted Photo Tom Barry as The Farmer, Harris Barry as Danny, and Karen Anderson as The Lady in a scene together.

In 2007, the Mouse River Players brought “Orphan Train” to the stage. Years later, they’re bringing it back for two weekends.

The play will be on stage for audiences to enjoy on March 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m., March 11 at 2 p.m., March 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m., and March 18 at 2 p.m. All performances will be at the Mouse River Players’ “Arlene” Community Theater.

A historically based play, “Orphan Train” follows eight different stories with a prologue and an epilogue, creating 10 parts. The original orphan trains operated between 1854 and 1929, relocating about 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children from New York City. Stops on the railroad route received advertisements and flyers telling about where the orphans could be adopted or signed up as indentured servants.

Each story has a unique set up and backstory, according to Paula Simonson, co-director of the play.

“The first and last stories are real tear jerkers,” said Holly Eidsness, co-director of the play.

One of the eight stories follows a girl named Mary, who is taken in by a lady who wants a companion to do the grunt work. Unfortunately Mary isn’t familiar with the work and the lady is critical of the situation and she is locked up. The story will reveal her fate.

Another story follows a pickpocket who is a girl dressed as a boy for her own safety on the streets of New York. When she is taken in, it is discovered she is really a girl and not the boy intended for adoption.

“All the stories center around real scenarios that happened, so even though it’s fictional and the characters aren’t real, these stories happened to real people,” said Eidsness.

Returning to the play will be three actors who once played the roles of the kids now returning to play roles as adults in the play, as well as three adults returning. The play has a cast of around 42 actors, around 10 stage hands, and one costume designer.

“The play is such an emotional thing,” Eidsness said. “The actors themselves are all very good, the cream of the crop. The children range from ages 7 to 16 or 17, and while not all play orphans, they all have an amazing skill level of acting.”

Simonson said, “It’s a very powerful story. The plight of unwanted children just touches everyone. As a participant, it’s just so powerful to be a part of.”

Tickets can be purchased online in advance for $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, students, or military, and $10 for children 12 and under. Both directors pushed the popularity of the play and suggest purchasing tickets in advanced of the performance you want to attend to insure your spot.

Along with the play, the Railroad Museum will be open for one hour before each performance for visitors to peruse and learn. The museum has allowed some of their collection to be used as props or pieces for the play.

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