TV Review: Michael Johnathon’s ‘Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau’Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Film, Lexington Opera House, radio, Television, Theater; Tagged as: Adam Luckey, Anthony Haigh, Beth Kirchner, Doug Smart, Earth Day, Eric Johnson, Henry David Thoreau, Jessie Rose Pennington, KET, Michael Johnathon, review, Walden, Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau, WEKU
Michael Johnathon is pretty hard on his hero in the opening act of Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau.
We find Henry David Thoreau, as played by Adam Luckey, in his cabin at Walden Pond sounding like the years alone have really, really gotten to him. For a man with nothing on his calendar, he’s almost breathless trying to figure out what to do with himself. When he thinks, “music and art are born at sunrise,” he is torn between whether he needs to write that down or play his flute, thereby creating some musical art. He putters, chatting with his wood pile and snap beans until a blessed moment of self awareness: “Dear God, you’re having conversations with peas and finding it intellectual.”
Johnathan doesn’t shy away from the fact that even today, as Thoreau is now considered a literary giant and the forefather of the environmental movement, his personality and journey can seem a little bit odd and sad. But that acknowledgment and a steady refinement of Thoreau’s ideas through Ralph Waldo Emerson and two other visitors to Thoreau’s cabin raise this script well above two acts of hero worship.
Yes, the play can be a little preachy and preoccupied with Thoreau’s need for a woman. But it and the documentary segments that bookend the new video production are informative about Thoreau and particularly the ways in which he foresaw the impact of modern technological progress on the environment. The video was made last fall, with segments filmed at Walden Pond in Concord, Mass., some Lexington woods, and at performances of the Walden play at the Lexington Opera House last fall.
With supporting performances by Eric Johnson, Anthony Haigh and Jessie Rose Pennington, and solid stage direction from Beth Kirchner and video direction by Doug Smart, the film fulfills a popular environmentally-based slogan: Kentucky Proud. The production will be broadcast on KET and WEKU-FM 88.9 locally and be seen around the country this Earth Day week. The script is available for free download at the Walden play site to anyone who wants to perform it, so long as they register their performance. According to Johnathon, more that 7,000 people or groups have already done that. The program is also available on DVD.
One Response to “TV Review: Michael Johnathon’s ‘Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau’”
Congratulations to Michael Johnathon and his award-winning work!
Michael works hard for the projects he believes in, so it was great news to hear that a WoodSongs partner donated the lift needed for the crew to stay safe for another 500 shows.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich