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A new play, commissioned by the city of Westminster, uses music and a historic homestead to tell a tale of family and community.
“It’s based on the history of Westminster, the pioneering and homesteading history,” Rich Neuman said. “It’s the first time something like this has been staged in Westminster and we’re really excited about it. It’s basically Westminster through time, from it’s founding to the current day on this one homestead.”
The play “The Last Apple Tree” debuts Aug. 8 at Westminster’s Semper Farm Open Space, 9215 Pierce St. It’s being performed by Boulder-based troupe The Catamounts, with music written and performed by alt-country band Bonnie and the Clydes.
“We’ve staged it in and around the farm itself, so the audience moves around the farm,” director Amanda Berg Wilson said.
The play tells five different stories from the history of Westminster’s Semper Farm — now part of the city’s open space collection on the northwest corner of 92nd Avenue and Pierce St.
The 160 acre farm was founded in 1881 by Charles and Julie Semper. The couple planted an orchard on their land, eventually claiming township status by running a post office and grocery there. They donated a portion of their land to build Westminster’s first school. They operated their farm for 36 years, until Julia’s death in 1916.
With no children, Charles sold the farm to the George and John Allison and their families farmed the land for 70 years. The Allison’s eventually sold it off — reserving five acres for the city. It’s still the site of a Colorado Champion Apple Tree, with the largest measured girth of any other apple tree in the state.
The story is about how a piece of land changes a family and how the people change the land.
“Charles and Linda Semper were childless but they spent a lot of time creating a post office and a school,” Wilson said. “That became their legacy and they sold it to the Allison brothers. And John Allison cultivated the farm and passed it along to his son who passed it along to his daughter — who passed it along to the city of Westminster.”
Rather than sitting in a theater, the audience moves around the actual farm, from set to set.
“We tell five vignettes, each in a different year — two in the 19th century, two in the 20th century and one in the present day,” Wilson said. “It sort of brings the historical people to life, the people to whom the farm belonged. Each vignette is about 10 minutes and the evening ends with a short concert by Bonnie and the Clydes.”
Wilson said the group has performed site-specific shows before, including a play on three acres of open space in Boulder.
“This is more about the legacy of a piece of land,” Wilson said. “It communicates the idea of that one apple tree that still exists and how a piece of land changes and goes from belonging to a family to belonging to a community.”
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