A Life of Days

by Liz Neerland


Dramatis personae

PlaywrightLiz Neerland
DirectorJosh Cragun
Stage ManagerAlyssa Thompson
Production ManagerMonique Lindquist
Scenic DesignBrian Hesser
Costume DesignRubble&Ash
Lighting DesignEmmet Kowler
Property DesignUrsula K. Bowden
ViraDelta Rae Giordano
CallieBrid Henry
NikonNicholas Nelson
ViraCate Jackson

This production runs 2 hour 30 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.



Ursula K Bowden is a freelance set and properties designer and scenic charge in the Upper Midwest. A BFA Technical Theater and Theatrical Design degree holder from Drake University, Bowden has been a full time theater artist for over a decade. In addition to ~30 shows with nimbus, her work has been seen in various incarnations on the stages of Park Square Theater, New Native Theatre, Chameleon Theatre Circle, Theatre Pro Rata, Swandive Theatre, Fortune's Fool Theatre, Freshwater Theatre, Theatre Unbound, Frank Theatre, Theatre Latte Da, the Guthrie Theater, and others. She also works as a theater educator around the Twin Cities. Ursula’s eye for detail was featured in American Theatre Magazine in 2014 for her scenic design for Swandive Theatre’s An Outopia for Pigeons. At home she enjoys spending time with her husband and young sons.

Josh Cragun is a writer who fell into the company of theater artists at a young and impressionable age, and fortunately, has never been quite the same. This led to a series of questionable decisions, one of which took place in 2001 when he formed nimbus with a fellow writer known as Cockroach. He has been creating new theater with the company ever since. In that time he has written thirteen original works of theater for the company. In addition he has directed, as well as designed video, costumes, properties and sets for the company over the years. In one way or another, he has contributed to all of the company’s productions.

Delta Rae GIordano is pleased to work with nimbus again after more than a decade – she previously appeared in Death and the Maiden and You Burn Me. She was seen earlier this year as Gotchling in A Bright Room Called Day with Red Bird Theatre and as Clytemnestra in Iphigenia and Other Daughters with Theatre Unbound. As a company member with Theatre Unbound from 2004-14, Delta appeared in more than a dozen productions including the world premieres of Silkworms: a nun play, The Good Fight and Frankenstein Incarnate: The Passions of Mary Shelley. She has also worked with Illusion Theater (Miranda, My Antonia), Sandbox Theatre (Words Do Move), Theatre Pro Rata (A Lie of the Mind, Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet) and Teatro del Pueblo (The House on Mango Street, Real Women Have Curves). While developing this play with nimbus, Delta has been inspired by her husband who probably could survive on his own in the woods for 40 years.

Brid Henry is a happy camper, but is not a camper. She used to be a Girl Scout and stayed at Camp Lakamaga one fateful weekend. It was raining when young Brid arrived and the first activity took place outside. Brid does not remember the activity but does remember wearing two sets of white knee high socks to protect her from bugs and the general outdoors. This measure of protection was ineffective, because Brid looked down at her white knee high socks to find her legs covered in mosquitoes. This is why she is not a camper. This is why Brid is an actor. She is ecstatic to be making her debut with nimbus and is also excited to be indoors. Recently, she was the Courtesan in Comedy of Errors (Zephyr Theatre), Don John in Much Ado About Nothing (BARd Shakes), The Figure in the premiere of Greenway (Twin Cities Horror Fest) and Roxanne in Cyrano on the Moon (Red Dice Collective). Credits as an improviser at HUGE Theater include: Bed Sheet Togas (Duck Washington & Eric Thompson), OMG! (Taj Ruler & Emily Schmidt), Off Book (Sean Dillon) and Small College Town (Denzel Belin).

Brian Hesser serves as Technical Director for nimbus and is native to the Southside of Minneapolis. He received a B.A. in Theater Arts from Augsburg College. For the past decade he has worked for a plethora of small (and occasionally large) professional theater companies and educational institutions, as an actor, director, fight choreographer, scenic designer, TD, painter, carpenter, and volunteer.

This is Cate Jackson's second time appearing with nimbus, last seen on stilts and flinging soy sauce in Ghost Sonata. She has recently appeared with An Alleged Theatre Company (Foursquare) and Theatre in the Round (Little Women, And Then There Were None, Secret Garden). Other credits include TheatreX (Haunting of Hill House), Smartmouth Comedy (Wild Weekend), Little Lifeboats (Sing to Me Now), Live Action Set (Crime and Punishment, The Sparrow), Haunted Basement, National Theatre for Children, and many more. Catch her next in The BAND Group's 2020 adaptation of The Madwoman of Chaillot. She is an acting alum of the University of Minnesota and The National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O'Neil Theatre Center. Risk, Fail, Risk Again!

Emmet Kowler is excited to join nimbus for the first time on A Life of Days. His work as a lighting and video designer can be seen around the Twin Cities. Recent designs include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Yellow Tree Theatre), the world premiere of How It’s Gon’ Be (Underdog Theater), and My Sister in this House (Theatre Pro Rata). He also moonlights from time to time as a photographer, shooting all his favorite bands for 89.3 The Current and pretty nature things in Northern Minnesota. He would like to thank Portia, Sally, and Yoko for all their love and support. Upcoming: The Ever and After (Theatre Pro Rata)

Monique Lindquist is a native of Cincinnati and a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BS in Aerospace Engineering and an MA in Education from Hamline University. She has been involved with nimbus for many years as a set builder, box officer, and general volunteer, and stepped into the role of Production Manager with the 2013 season. In her spare time (what spare time???) Monique is an avid hockey player and triathlete.

Liz Neerland is a native of Minneapolis and a graduate of Grinnell College. Since 2002, she has had a hand in writing, directing, designing, or producing every nimbus show. Recent writing credits include The Kalevala, In the Age of Paint and Bone, and Bohemian Flats. In addition to her co-Artistic Director Duties, she also serves as the company's Managing Director, and is the Technical Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival every summer. In her "spare time" she enjoys cooking, motorcyling, spending time on the North Shore, and managing her dogs' Instagram account.

Nicholas Nelson is a Twin Cities-based singer, guitarist, actor, and composer. This past summer, he was featured in Xena and Gabrielle Smash the Patriarchy at the Minnesota Fringe Festival and Die Fledermaus presented by Opera on the Lake. He is delighted to be making his sixth appearance with nimbus. Past nimbus credits include The River Becomes Sea, Ludlow, The Kalevala, From Darkness, and The Lower Depths. As an operatic bass, Nelson has performed the roles of Larkens in La Fanciulla del West with Minnesota Opera and Colline in La Boheme with Lakes Area Music Festival. Previously, Nelson was a Resident Artist with Portland Opera, performing such roles as Pope Urban VIII in Galileo Galilei, Masetto in Don Giovanni, Angelotti in Tosca, and Pistola in Falstaff, among others. He has appeared in numerous recitals and events with The Schubert Club, most recently performing Courtroom Concerts featuring songs by Rimsky-Korsakov and Schubert. This December he will be singing the role of Sarastro in The Magic Flute as an alumnus performer at the University of Minnesota as well as presenting workshop scenes from his original one-man music-drama, Escape from Hawking One.

Rubble&Ash is a new name to capture the decade-old collaborative design and production work of Andrea M Gross and Barb Portinga. For the past dozen years they have challenged and supported one another as costume designers, pattern makers, and storytellers. As Rubble&Ash, their work has been seen at nimbus in The Pathetic Life and Remarkable Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy the Worst Robber in the West, The River Becomes Sea, and The Kalevala; and at Park Square Theatre in Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant. Barb has been making her living solely via her varied costume skills since graduating from Augsburg College in 1990. Her design work has been seen throughout the Midwest, from Utah to Door County, WI. Andrea made her Twin Cities debut with nimbus (Propaganda for the Converted in 2005) and has collaborated on over 75 productions with companies and directors all over Minnesota since.

Rubble&Ash melds pieces from existing stocks of costumes; thrift, antique, and fabric stores; and purpose builds garments to combine elements in unexpected ways. The intention is always to support the story and creation of character with skill and ingenuity. Upcoming: History Theater: Superman Becomes Lois Lane, February 2020.

Alyssa Thompson has been working as a Stage Manager/ASM around the Twin Cities for the past six years. She is the Company Stage Manager for nimbus, and loves the devising process and creating new work. She spends her days marketing travel to Scandinavia, Africa, and (her favorite) Antarctica. Her stage management credits include River Becomes Sea, Ludlow, The Kalevala, and Storms of November, with nimbus and Pioneer Suite and Mrs. Charles with Freshwater Theatre.

Gregory Yang is a Hmong American actor and is excited to return to the nimbus stage after 6 years. In addition to acting, Gregory is also a screen writer, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Purple Belt, and a Dungeon Master. Selected Stage Credits include: Theater Mu, Park Square Theatre, Full Circle Theater Company, Stepping Stone Theatre, and more. Up next for him is the short film: "Green Project."

Playwright’s notes

The way nimbus creates its shows is unique, and even though we’ve done it 49(!) times, there’s always something unexpected with each show.

This one confunded me in the beginning. It started when I read an article in Smithsonian Magazine about the Lykovs, a family who fled religious persecution in Russia in 1936 and lived in total isolation in Siberia until they were “discovered” by a survey crew in 1978. I found the story fascinating and decided to write a play about it.

But as we dove into the show, I found myself less and less excited about it. I realized that the Lykov story was interesting, but maybe not “do a deep dive autobiographical show about them” interesting. As we talked, I realized that what moved me wasn’t so much the specific story about this family, but the idea of living in isolation, of why people remove themselves and how it affects them. That this concept of a hermit is deeply rooted in our culture but not many of us really know what that means.

We decided to abstract the show, to take the Lykov family as inspiration but build our own story about our own family in fictional circumstances. We brought it to the present day, and rooted our characters in the real history of the 20th and 21st centuries. However, we left some things intentionally vague. We never say where we are - we’re in a forest, in some mountains, near a river. This show could happen anywhere because it could happen anywhere. We sometimes think people have discovered all there is to discover, but that’s really not the case.

Now I was hooked - I wanted to know more about these people I had created, and I realized how deeply this show was already pulling from my own psyche. Josh and I own land on the North Shore and revel in any time we have to escape up there. It certainly isn’t life in isolation, but it’s also a far cry from life in the city.

I often can tell how personal a show is when I start to dive in and realize I already own most of the books that pop up in my research. I pulled on my own experience building a cabin in the woods, of backpacking in the Black Hills and Glacier Park. My parents confirmed that the situation that caused our family to flee in the 1960s (no spoilers) was very real and very frightening. We were well on our way.

I said there’s always unexpected things with each show, and they come from all directions. We work collaboratively, and our actors are deeply involved with the crafting of the script and characters. Again, I won’t spoil things, but if it wasn’t for a specific prop that one actor mentioned we could use, I never would have written the scenes that became the dramatic resolution to the show. We never can guess where our inspiration will come from, but when it does I love running with it to see where it takes us.

That inspiration has taken me many places with this play, and we’ve all landed here. I hope you enjoy our trip into the forest, and what we find there.

Special thanks

Brent Anderson, Garry Geiken, Eli Coats, Corinna Knepper Troth

About nimbus

nim-bus, n.

1. a : A bright cloud, or cloudlike splendor, imagined as investing deities when they appeared on earth.
b : a cloud or atmosphere about a person or thing

2 : A bright or golden disk surrounding the head of a drawn or sculptured divinity, saint, or sovereign

3 : a rain cloud

nimbus has been creating original theater in the Twin Cities since 2001. Their unique process for the creation of playwright-led collaborative work combined with their passion for creating bold, eclectic theater has been dazzling audiences for over 15 years. A company founded and led by playwrights and run by the artists themselves, we are dedicated to creating theatre that crosses boundaries, promotes imagination, and ignites new conversations.

How we create our work

All of our work is created collaboratively using a process we have been refining since 2001. Our casts and design teams work with a director, dramaturg, and playwright to create original theater together. Often starting with a simple idea or concept, the entire team participates in researching and discussing the ideas, characters, and locations the play will focus on.

After several weeks of intensive research, the team enters a period we call ‘script work.’ During this time, the cast and director improvise and work with text provided by the playwright. Over time, a script takes form. After a staged reading as well as editing and finishing work by the playwright, rehearsal begins.

Unlike traditional American theater, our process allows the design concepts, characters, and narrative to develop together. Although our process is new, it is not extremely different from the way that Shakespeare or Moliere created their work. Our work is always evolving and changing, and we welcome your input in improving it.

nimbus Company members

Josh Cragun – Artistic Director
Liz Neerland – Artistic Director
Mitchell Frazier – Master Electrician
Andrea Gross – Company Manager
Caitlin Hammel – Video Manager
Brian Hesser – Technical Director
Monique Lindquist - Production Manager
Carl Lundstrom - Front of House Manager
Alyssa Thompson - Company Stage ManagerAlex Meyer - Volunteer Coordinator

nimbus Board of Directors

Jill Hoeft Mat Lindquist G.W. Gant Luxton Nick Tally Heidi Berg

Thank you to all of our 2018 financial contributors:

Icon ($500+):

Dutch & Irma Cragun
David Potter & Darwin Lookingbill
Liz & Jake Davis
Pam Kaufman & Dennis Keierleber
Sarah Asch & Evan Schnell
Charles & Maureen Kelly Neerland
I-Ming Shih

Parhelion ($250 - $499):

John Beal & Barbara Brin
Paul Engh
Nancy Feldman
Andy & Karen Krenik
Ariel Leaf
Mat & Monique Lindquist
Tammy & Mike Thompson
Network For Good, in the name of Cockroach

Aura ($100 - $249):

Libby Andrus
Ray & Mary Ann Campbell
Doug Carlson
Walter Duffy
David & Mary Grace Flannery
Meri Golden
Doug & Susan Greenberg
Daniel C
Hartnett Family Foundation
Dianne & Steve Healy
Ken & Patty Hepburn
Lucie Holzemer & Wally Mattson
Kelli Gorr
Tom Kelly
Sarah Martin
Ron & Mary Mattson
John McCormick
Leah Milcarek
LaVonne Neerland
Jay Newcomb & Family
Mark Oyaas
Scott Pakudaitis
Daniel Pinkerton & Jane Johnston
Peter & Mary Sandberg
Mary & David Sandberg
Mel Thorne
Josiah Titus
Andrew Troth
Nicole Tuma
Patrick Yoon

Corona ($50 - $99):

Karen Crouch
Marcus Downs
Nancy Eustis
Tim Foster
Logan Keith
Warren & Carolyn Kime
Kirsti & Jerry Klukas
Joseph Kuznik
Maury & Julie Landsman
Melissa & Marcus Lienhard
Christopher Miller
Kathy Minkler
Victoria Sass
Marsha & Mike Wagner
John & Donna Ward
Boston Scientific

Halo ($1-$49):

Bruce Abas
Jim Barri
Cora Berg
Alan Berks
Doran Edwards
Ryan Goeken
Kit Gordon
Terry Kelzer
Ben Layne
Eric Mahn
David Moehring
Jenna Papke
Victoria Sass
Meredith Smith
Bill & Sarah Stout
William Studer