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The Urban Hermit

Musical theater
show image

The Urban Hermit

By BardLive Productions

Created by Rachel Nelson

After recovering from addiction, what next? This self-proclaimed urban hermit is pulled out of her shell by way of street busking-fiddle, mandolin, washtub bass-and discovers the music that brings us together.

Musical theater

GLBT content Opera/New Music Solo show Storytelling/Spoken word

Greater Minnesota company (outside the metro area)

Just so you know, this show has
Adult language

The creators say this show is appropriate for ages 16 and up

Other shows

Created by Rachel Nelson
Directed by Beth Brooks
Stage Manager: Johanna Dittus
Promotion, props, Duluth photos: Linda Melcher
Show Image Photo: John Blumenfeld

After recovering from addiction, what's next? This self-proclaimed urban hermit is pulled out of her shell by way of street busking–fiddle, guitar, washtub bass–and discovers the music that brings us together.

Often the end of one story is the beginning of another.  The story that interests Urban Hermit creator Rachel Nelson after someone recovers from addiction or illness is - Ok, so what now?  For this character, the new story is about learning how to connect to others, and music helps her do this.  

“I see young people struggling with substance abuse, depression, and self-identity, and I wanted to create for them a show with light at the end of the tunnel.  A little joy."

Nelson came to theater and storytelling via early experiences as a theater musician. Now the storyteller/songwriter is her own theater musician, and is known as "that fiddling storyteller." She is the current Story Slam champion for Northstar Storytelling League. Having studied physical acting with Kari Margolis, Rachel is delighted to be directed in this production by Margolis Brown Theater Co. founding member Beth Brooks.

Nelson's musicals juxtapose elements of story with movement and music.  These nonverbal elements, she says, are powerful ways of connecting with her audiences: languages older than words. In this show she uses fiddle, guitar, Tibetan bowl, and washtub bass to accompany the action.

THE URBAN HERMIT premiered at Duluth’s Play Ground in June 2012. Info and photos at www.bardlive.com

Link to Flickr slideshow- http://www.flickr.com//photos/bardlive/sets/72157630361760276/show/ 

“Master storyteller unveils new work . . . employing movements both exaggerated and simple to weave her tale.”- Lawrance Bernabo, Duluth NewsTribune

“Nelson blooms as a street busker . . . [in] this sweet, sad, rich tale.” - Kristine Osbakken, Duluth Reader





Master storyteller unveils new work
By Lawrance Bernabo, for the Duluth News Tribune  6.22.2012

Storytelling is an ancient art, although these days that oral tradition is in danger of receding even further into the past in the Internet age. When it comes to actually seeing a storyteller perform their art, the obvious reference point in this neck of the woods would be Garrison Keillor... On Thursday night at the Play Ground, another master storyteller from Minnesota debuted a new work.

The genesis for Rachel Nelson’s “Urban Hermit” was a story slam challenge to tell a personal story, something, she tells us, she had studiously avoided in her storytelling. Whatever story Nelson told that day has now evolved into a much longer piece including music, in which the temptation of a 30-day Greyhound bus pass for $90 leads to Nelson quitting her day job and heading off on a journey of self-discovery.

Publicity photos for “Urban Hermit” have all depicted Nelson playing the fiddle...But she begins and ends the show playing a Tibetan bowl, and while she probably plays the fiddle the most in this show, there are also a trio of songs played on the guitar and a really fun number done on washtub bass and kazoo.

Cast + crew

Beth Brooks
Role: Director
Beth Brooks is a founding member of the Margolis Brown Theater Company, with whom she relocated from New York to Minneapolis in 1993. With the Company, she helped create 10 full-length productions and toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Upcoming projects include co-creating a remount of "Herocycle," to be featured at Old Arizona Theater in Minneapolis, June 2013.

Rachel Nelson
Role: Storyteller, songwriter, musician
Storyteller/songwriter Rachel Nelson of Two Harbors, MN has studied physical theater with Kari Margolis, and came to theater and storytelling via music. She has published 2 CDs of original songs and stories. Nelson’s previous Fringe musical After Leaving Eden: Living the Questions premiered at MN Fringe and was remounted to tour the KC Fringe, Spirit in the House, the University of WI-Superior, Duluth’s Play Ground, and the National Storytelling Network Conference Fringe. Nelson premiered The Urban Hermit at Duluth’s Play Ground in June 2012. More info, www.bardlive.com

Johanna Dittus
Role: Stage Manager
Johanna Dittus is a graduate of University of MN-Duluth's Theater department, with a major in musical theater. Recent shows include Spring Awakening with Renegade Theater Company (Duluth) and Hair at the Duluth Playhouse. She is delighted to be checking out the theater scene in the Twin Cities at this year's Fringe.

Write a review

You will be able to write a review for this show during the festival.

User reviews

Beyond Storytelling
by Dixie Treichel
Rating 5 stars
Creative integration of storytelling, live music, and movement. This piece is not just a wordy narrative but an artful, captivating theater piece that Rachel Nelson weaves with humor and non-verbal communication. Her skills on a variety of folk instruments, voice and songs she has written adds to the piece as a whole. She guides us along a path from isolation to performing in a women's coffee house, as a street musician and the dissolving of the hermit . Very well done

From hermithood to self-hood
by Jon Skaalen
Rating 4 stars
This journey is worth watching and listening to. I wish I could recall the reasons for the character's drinking and living as a hermit, but perhaps that sometimes just happens. She shows how a bit of human contact and a creative outlet (yo, THE ARTS) enable her to emerge into a really fine musician and human. I look forward to hearing and listening to Rachel again! Thank you.

by Mahmoud Hakima
Rating 5 stars
This may well be the only review I write for this year's Fringe, but it's for a great cause. I caught this show in the *dreaded* 10pm slot, but at the end I walked out feeling more alive and awake then when I entered. Not to mention inspired. Rachel kept me captivated with her journey, from her struggle with drugs and alcohol to becoming a successful street musician and gaining respect from "the suits". A wonderful story, woven together by movement, touching musical numbers from a wide variety of instruments, and perhaps one of the most awesome demos ever on how to make a washtub bass. It was very refreshing to see and hear a talented performer on top of her game. And I must say, she must have been one cool gal to hang with! Worth seeing!

by J. B. Clarke
Rating 5 stars
An inspiring and well-crafted journey - an especially thoughtful use of the theater in the round space to enhance the story. Thank you for being vulnerable and humorous, dear Rachel!

Great performance
by Eric Wentling
Rating 4 stars
A one-woman storytelling show with guitar, violin, and wash-bucket base playing interludes. Rachel Nelson really is a talented lady and brings you into her personal story of growing up a loner, dealing with alcohol abuse, and learning to interact with people. Her telling truly transports you.

Wonderful storytelling
by Frayed Edge
Rating 4 stars
I'll be blunt. The performer's style is not exactly to my taste in storytelling, but she is definitely a master of her craft.

Well strung together vignettes of growth in self and performance are interspersed with guitar, fiddle and washtub base performances that are very good.

Great writing and delivery. 5 stars if it fit my taste better, but still a show everyone should make it to.

1-Tell your friends not to go
2-A bad fringe show, below par for the festival. Don't Bother
3-Worth seeing, don't go out of your way.
4-Good to Great. Make time for this show.
5-Absolutely outstanding. A great show, festival or otherwise.

by Renee Howard
Rating 5 stars
Was moved through out the entire show! Rachel is so talented in so many ways. Storyteller, Musician, Singer. Her physicality keeps you captivated, and you never know what's going to happen next. Love, Love, Loved it!!

by thom sandberg
Rating 5 stars
totally really like this.

rachel so creates a story arc. and her musical skills are so over the top. a great hour.

by Kelly Rosenthal
Rating 4 stars
Great staging with lovely music and story-telling.

lovely music & storytelling
by Vicki Joan Keck
Rating 4 stars
Rachel really bares her soul with this piece and I applaud her for that! Her mix of personal storytelling and terrific tunes on all manner of instruments is engaging and heart warming. It reminds us all that we can get through the tough stuff and come out of it the better for it. Kudos!

Compelling Show
by Laurie Swenson
Rating 5 stars
I was pulled to this show on a friend's recommendation and from a very pleasant visit with Rachel at Fringe Central. I'm so glad I saw it. I loved the storytelling, the music, the pacing. Using the rolling chair was genius. The story was touching and compelling and made me really pull for Rachel. I enjoyed all the music, but the blues song with the washboard base really struck me. Overall this was a lovely show with real, human connection.

Stories live in the telling
by Paula Nancarrow
Rating 5 stars
Rachel is wonderfully physical for a storyteller; often we don't know what to do with our bodies when we're up there. She's had the advantage of training with Kari Margolis, and a good director from the same school, Beth Brooks, who has brought that physicality out in new ways. Add to that the delight of her music. Rachel has been exploring difficult personal material for a year or two, and I've had the privilege of watching that unfold. It is risky on so many levels to do so, and many of us fear being labelled self-indulgent, self-important, "too full of ourselves." Rachel acknowledges this fear, but she's moved way beyond worrying about it, at least in this piece. It is an engaging performance by a talented artist. Enjoy!

by Dean Hatton
Rating 5 stars
Need I say more?
Story telling, Music (live instruments) with movement all inner connected to make this show simply brilliant!

Off-Broadway Triple Threat
by Kirsten Stephens
Rating 5 stars
Rachel's unique style of storytelling makes for a delightful hour of engaging theater. She uses folk music, a friendly stage presence, and deceptively simple movement to take us on the journey of an extreme introvert's slow emergence from her shell. An absolutely lovely show. Highly recommend it.

The best accident!
by Nathan Cousins
Rating 4 stars
Walked into this show because the venue was close by after our first choice sold out. Rachel Nelson's vulnerable delivery and being a slightly awkward mover had me from go. This show is a compelling autobiography with just the right punctuation of brilliant musicianship, vivid storytelling and a spunky little gray-bobbed woman who gives everything to this piece in relaying her struggles people and coming to grips with her vices and masks. Full of wit, tenderness and charm and a lovely use of the space. A cut above. Check this one out for sure!

Top notch story telling
by Rena Rasch
Rating 5 stars
Very well done, nice mixture of music, movement, and story. Compelling and personal. Clever use of rolling chair in round theater space. I recommend!

by Clark Kinser
Rating 4 stars
Good story telling, funny and insightful, and the music is quite good and inventive.


Friday, 8/38:30 p.m.
Sunday, 8/52:30 p.m.
Tuesday, 8/710:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 8/810:00 p.m.
Saturday, 8/118:30 p.m.