Dig Deeper - Bringing History to Life Onstage

Laurie Flanigan Hegge, a playwright, lyricist and actress living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wrote the book and lyrics for Hormel Girls.  In addition to Hormel Girls, commissioned by the History Theatre in St. Paul in 2007, she has created several original musicals based on real-life historical events including: Twenty Days to Find a Wife (2009), See Jane Vote (2006), and Loose Lips Sink Ships (2001).  We interviewed Laurie for the Hormel Girls Audience Guide and here's what she had to say about bringing history to life onstage... Cassandra: You did a significant amount of research for Hormel Girls. How do you transform original materials like newspaper articles, scrapbooks, and interviews into a story onstage?

Laurie: The research, which in the case of HG included a lot of first person interviews, impacts every inch of the writing. You hear a story and think “that will be an incredible song.” Someone tells you they used to travel with a chicken in a shoebox and suddenly a character emerges. This play couldn’t be this play without the research and the original Hormel Girls who offered their stories up to me. If you mentioned an aspect of this show, or a character trait, I could trace that detail back to a photo or an interview or a real person. I am wholly dependent upon that original source material when I write. That said, this play is a fictional account of the real caravan. In theatre, our limitations define us... The original caravan had at least 60 girls at any given time. So how do I represent that entire experience with only six women? That’s the job of the playwright. It’s fun to solve those problems. Characters may be based on or inspired by real people, but in the end, they are invented, just like the dialogue is invented. But it’s fun to talk to an audience and say “oh yes, that really happened.” Often people don’t believe it. Here’s a fun note: There was a real Bud, and he saw the original production. I sat behind him in the theatre. *Spoiler alert* When the romance happened, he turned to the person next to him and said “I don’t remember that.” But he enjoyed his fictional self making off with the girl in the end.