Heading to Owatonna

Kevin Kling (front) will be performing as part of the “For The Birds” production. The show will be held on March 8 at the Owatonna Arts Center. (submitted)

OWATONNA – Kevin Kling, a well-known playwright and storyteller, will perform in Owatonna in a show titled “For the Birds.”

Composer Victor Zupanc and musical act Zeitgeist will join Kling on stage for the performance, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. March 8 at the Owatonna Arts Center.

According to its website, Zeitgeist is a quartet of musicians “who are animated by a spirit of adventure and collaboration. Zeitgeist has been presenting works of substance with passion and integrity for more than 35 years.” Heather Barringer (percussion), Patti Cudd (percussion), Pat O’Keefe (woodwinds) and Shannon Wettstein (piano) are the members of Zeitgeist.

According to his website, Victor Zupanc is a prominent composer in American theater having worked on 200 productions worldwide as well as several feature films and documentaries.

Many people know Kling from his time on Minnesota Public Radio. He is currently in the third year of a three-year residency. He does commentaries and performances at the Fitzgerald Theatre.

“It’s fantastic. It’s been a dream job,” Kling said. “Tony Bol, the program director at the Fitzgerald, keeps coming up with these fantastic show ideas.”

Kling was born with a congenital birth defect — his left arm is about three-quarters of the size of his right arm, and his left hand has no wrist or thumb. In 2001, Kling was in a motorcycle accident. The nerves in his right arm were pulled completely out of their sockets. Currently, he has partial use of his left arm and cannot use his right arm at all.

Kling continues to write plays and stories in a rigorous fashion, and travels around the globe to numerous storytelling festivals, residencies, and has been invited to perform the acclaimed National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., for several years. Kling has released a number of compact disc collections of his stories, and has published three books, “The Dog Says How,” “Holiday Inn” and “Big Little Brother.”

“During my recovery in the hospital, I wondered how my creative process had been affected, so I started writing poems,” Kling said. “The poems wanted to be about birds, so I just let them fly, so to speak.”

Years later, Kling’s friend Zupanc called and said that they should do a show together. Before the accident, Kling and Zupanc had done several shows at the Minnesota Children’s Theater. Eventually, Zeitgeist was brought in as the final piece of what the Owatonna Arts Center is billing as a “a tour de force.”

“It’s been a wonderful experience. The piece seems to grow with each performance and has been received enthusiastically wherever we’ve performed,” Kling said.

Kling had done many performances by himself, so he was a little worried about a collaboration. He said many times you can apply all of the right ingredients, but if there isn’t chemistry, it will invariably fall flat.

“In this case the chemistry was there from the get-go,” Kling said. “We get along really well off stage, and there is a great deal of mutual respect. I am amazed at each of the performers’ skills, and Victor has written a beautiful score. It helps when you are very proud of the work, and I am. I look forward to each and every performance of (For the Birds). Everyone also has a great sense of humor. This is imperative on long car rides and late nights on the road.”

In two decades of performing, Kling has traveled all across the United States. He will be in Texas this weekend. While he will take his show out of state, Kling, who was born in Osseo, prefers to spend his time in Minnesota

“I love most of all performing in towns around Minnesota. This is my home, community, family. These are the people that inhabit the stories, and the places the stories belong,” Kling said. “I can’t wait to do this show again. I love performing with these folks, and I have some pals in Owatonna.”

For the Birds joins storytelling with musical interludes, songs and poetry in a one-hour musical and theatrical event. “Crow” delves into family relations. “Canadian Geese” explores marriage and loss. “Rooster” reveals our less noble tendencies, and “Hummingbirds” reminds us not to forget to live.

A press release describes the upcoming performance as a combination of Kling’s insightful words, Zupanc’s colorful musical setting and Zeitgeist’s exuberant performance, “For the Birds” illuminates our human need for inspiration and imagination, and it offers a space to contemplate ourselves as individuals, families, communities and a species. Tickets are $20 and available at the Owatonna Arts Center.

Reach reporter Derek Sullivan at 444-2372, or follow him on Twitter @OPPSullivan

Reach reporter Derek Sullivan at 444-2372, or follow him on Twitter @OPPSullivan

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