A Musical Drama

of a Dakota Plains Family

in Three Acts

Based on the True,

Still Living Saga

of the Alfred Stadems

of Pioneering Norwegian Stock

Tribute by Ronald Ginther,

Grandson to Alfred and Bergit Stadem

December 21, 1992


A Musical Drama


Sons and Daughters of Alfred and Bergit Stadem,

Their Grandchildren

Great- and Great-Great-Grandchildren,

As well as all their beloved Spouses

and Friends,

A Narrator,

a Lakota Indian family,

and various other Participants

Act I

Scene 1.

Behind the set, or standing on either side of it, two winged angels in farm clothes playing flute or autoharp music, beginning softly like a gentle breeze on the man-tall Prairie grass (supposed to give the sound "Tisha! Tisha!" according to Ole Rolvaag of GIANTS IN THE EARTH fame) but soon is lively enough to dance by.

It turns slow and melancholy, as if remembering the mighty ones, the Buffalo, that formerly roamed the Prairie, then by degrees becomes joyful and rich, concluding in notes of trumpet like triumph or celebration, while repeating a few tender themes of the melancholy period as it dies away.

The audience, while entertained by the beauty and intricacy of the flute's rendering, is closely related, warm and affectionate recognition at the crude and rudimentary set (soon to be described). Also, senses are being richly rewarded by the scent of hay and other good barn smells (this can be provided by having some hay bales on hand to scatter between the rows of seats). A few cats, roaming around and getting petted, wouldn't hurt either. No romantic dream, the set is painted, cut out of paper, or presented as actual items, such as:

A sink and counter top that have seen years of heavy duty cooking and cleaning.

A wood stove with a reservoir (or cove, for heating water),

and a woodbox.

A small "two seater" table with red checkered oilcloth and two chairs.

It receives almost constant heavy duty use, so it should look worn,or much used.

Some bowls, big and small, and eating utensils.

A broom and dustpan, also much used looking.

Some dish towels made from flour sacks.

Two wires or ropes (more as needed) run above the set, so that curtains of army blankets erected and easily taken down.

Nothing "modern" except for a small old-fashioned radio

and some opened letters neatly arranged behind it should be seen.

Beyond the kitchen scene is a bit of low wooden fencing, just the corner of it projecting toward the audience.

Cows, sheep, and horses have rubbed it almost to pieces through the years,

and it has their hairs still stuck on it. Off to the side is a painted barn and silo as a backdrop.

"Plain View Farm" is lettered in white across the entire lower side of the red barn

with the little pony painted in white on the front.

The narrator appears at center right of the set, where she can stand (or sit down when she is not speaking).

She is a young woman and her clothes are definitely "store-bought" from the Big City, with gold jewelry, which makes her a great contrast to the set, for she represents the royal daughter of the King of Tyre in Psalm 45 who "will come with a gift; the rich among the people will seek your favor," to do homage to the yet more royal daughter of Zion.

The original Alfred Stadem, a son of the Pilgrims and Puritans in some of his tastes, would not have approved of her and the sophisticated look, even with her scriptural basis;

but, then, she has come from circumstances he cannot know and is about to do him a great tribute which only an the royal daughter of a king can give properly give,

with the dignity and good manners that go with her rendering.

The modern audience need not feel uncomfortable with her glaringly opposite appearance and presence in this rustic setting. When she appears on stage, Alfred Stadem never sees her, nor will any other members of his family in the cast, so there is no embarrassment at all for either party.

The opening music has just died away as the Narrator gracefully and elegantly takes her position. She stands at a podium, with a folder containing her remarks. The podium, other than the Narrator, is probably the most elaborate item on the set and, like the Narrator, comes from the "outside" World. (see Explanation at the end of Text).

Enter the Old Woman, Mama Bergit Stadem. She is dressed as a housewife and mother, her hair mostly white but with patches of faint red, who comes out on the stage and stands in the kitchen.

Mama Stadem moves slowly but deliberately.

She picks up a bowl and leaves the kitchen and pauses, throwing out corn to some wooden chickens and geese set about.

Emptying the last kernel on the ground, which she picks out carefully from the bowl, she moves to the fence corner and leans on it, looking out beyond into the distance.

She wipes her eyes as if that helps to see better. She shows no alarm when an Indian man, his woman, and child come up and stand, waiting. She goes unhurriedly back to the kitchen and returns with a parcel of food wrapped in a piece of flour sack. They take it and go, without a word. Mama Stadem remains, gazing toward the wide world beyond, but utterly content with remaining where she is.

Narrator (speaking for Mama Stadem shakes her head slowly at this point):

"Ven first vi come here to dis countree, oh my! De mange people! Detall buildings! De noise! Da smoke! De Indians and der vagons! Norway too vass like heaven, so bootiful! Only der vass little to eat! My, how quick the people walk here! In New York sister Tena and me got off de ship altogether with the mange people who almost run us over! Dey would not let us go to my bruder Andrew vaiting for us someplace, but vi had to vait a long time altogether in big rooms ver dey all slept or sat on de beds. Den dey call our names. Vi go as fast as these good Norwegian legs can, climb the stairs out of breath, answer all the questions from the officer. If you don't walk fast enough, or maybe you look sick, dey send you back! All the way back, feeding the fish! I vass eighteen-in between dear Tena and Andrew. God is so gud! Vi were let in the countree and vi set off without any English. Oh ja, I forget. Andrew vass den at the seminary. So jist vi two girls took the train to Dakota. Long. It vass a long, long vay to Dakota. Dat's all I remember about it."


"Newly arrived immigrant, teen-aged Bergit began work as a maid in several Dakota homes and learned American ways of cooking and cleaning. But she kept her good Norwegian ways too! She worked hard and even learned a little English to get by. But, best of all, she caught the eye of a young, good-looking Norwegian-American farmer, Alfred Stadem, and the glances they exchanged changed everything--everything that had not been transformed by the great move to America."

Still shaking her head at grand and golden memories, the old woman returns to the kitchen, a blanket is drawn up and the scene is over.

Scene 2.

Mama Stadem, as a young married woman, is in the kitchen. Her wedding dress hangs on a peg on the wall. Children, all girls, are tugging at her apron as she tries to sweep the floor. She pauses to rest, as she is heavily pregnant again. the Chorus comes in around her, singing "Pillsbury Best" - a name emblazoned in red and blue on the bottoms of the smallest and youngest.

The Chorus finishes the song, and Mama Stadem stands apart, a hand on her bulging midriff as she contemplates the movements of life within, her eyes closed, her lips moving in a silent prayer. The Chorus sings, "Oh God, Let it be a Boy!"


"The ways of Providence, particularly with women, are mysterious. God turned a deaf ear yet again to Mama Stadem's prayer to save face or "reputatin" with her talkative neighbors. Little Pearl, Bernice, Myrtle, Cora, and Alida were followed by Estelle - all "Pillsbury's Best" -- but not quite what she requested so urgently with an eye on the neighbors."

Scene 3.

Narrator: "The family of Alfred and Bergit Stadem would move from one Dakota property to another until it settled on the land that was to be their very own Plain View Farm. The hundred or so acres that composed the home and crop land were located four miles north and one mile west of Bryant, South Dakota. With a buffalo mound maybe two stones throw from the yard and enough elevation for Alfred to see three counties, Plain View Farm to his eyes and heart held special promise and a certain distinction among the other farms - at least Alfred thought so, and that was sufficient to make it so. After giving the farm its name, he set out to a plant a protective and beautiful forest of trees and lilacs round the house and yard, fashion grand entrance gates with cement and many-colored stones, dig fascinating and lovely fish pools, and do everything else he could think of to make it a little paradise on earth for his wife and growing family. In their eyes at least, he succeeded beyond their dreams of what a paradise might be -- even if he never quite got running water to go with all the running children."

Children run about the kitchen and the "yard" barefoot as they play various games. The Chorus sings "Barefoot - Song of Spring."

As the children settle down to play quieter games or draw pictures with sticks in the dirt, the Chorus sings "Farm Life." Mama Stadem interrupts the playing children to give one a broom, another a pail to feed the chickens, another a dish pan for water for the flower bed. A school bell sounds in the distance. The girls all hurry to get their books and lunches and march off to school between the audience, Mama Stadem looking after them at the fence corner.

The children come running back home, throwing their books down. Mama Stadem pulls out a big tub into the kitchen. The Chorus sings "Saturday Bath" as the blanket curtain is raised to admit one family member after another, starting with the youngest, the Baby, and working up. Clothes are thrown up over the blanket as the youngster gets ready for her bath. Mama Stadem carefully folds the clothes for the wash basket or goes to pour in more hot water from the stove. At least once the blanket falls unexpectedly, revealing someone in the tub or maybe a bare backside, done for modesty sake in cardboard, sticking out from the tub. Screams and splashes. The blanket is hastily raised.

As each young bather finishes, she (almost always she) come out dressed in her Sunday Best, a Bible in hand and stands "at attention" in the yard. Finally, Mama and Papa come forth, Bibles in hand. They sit down together as in a wagon, with Papa shaking the reins for the imaginary "horses." The Chorus sings "Sunday Service."


Links To Other Pages in Our Websites






@ 2010-13, Butterfly Productions, All Rights Reserved