I found it amusing when Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee created Jerry Springer: The Opera in 2003, but I didn’t think there would be much of a market for turning TV shows into musical extravaganzas. Movies? Sure. But TV? Then we got the Addams Family musical and plans for one based on The Honeymooners. But I draw the line at an America Unearthed musical. Sorry, there’s no way I’m paying to see that. However, since I don’t get to decide these things, we’re getting one anyway.
Minnesota writer-director Sheridan O’Keefe is dramatizing Scott F. Wolter’s investigation into the Kensington Rune Stone for the aptly-named Minnesota Fringe Festival. Despite its name, the festival is a performing arts show, not a conspiracy theory gathering.
O’Keefe told the Sun This Week newspaper that he consulted informally with America Unearthed host Scott F. Wolter about the play, titled The Ohman Stone, and based the play’s main character, heroic investigator Brian Storm, on Wolter.
O’Keefe said that he became interested in the Kensington Rune Stone after attending a talk by Wolter eight years ago, and the two quickly became friends. O’Keefe, like novelist David Brody before him, felt compelled to turn his friendship with Wolter into art and to put Wolter’s ideas into fictional form. O’Keefe describes his musical as a cross between Hamlet and 12 Angry Men, but with a significant comedic dimension. (Make of that what you will.)
The musical will feature a “hip-hop Hallelujah” chorus at its conclusion, according to a casting call published in May.
In the musical the Wolter character descends to the underworld and interrogates the ghosts of the major figures in the Kensington Rune Stone story. O’Keefe explains that he wrote the musical to expose the nefarious agenda of organized academia, which (as we have heard so many times) is suppressing the truth: “I think this is going to be one of the most controversial shows the Fringe Festival has ever done — it doesn’t put academia in a very good light.”
In O’Keefe’s May casting call he offered more specific details: “It will be edgy and controversial and we pull no punches with the academic community who harshly judged and demeaned the poor Swedish immigrant farmer Olof Ohman who found the Stone on his land. It is a 116 year story that has almost a cult following. It is a story about religious bigotry and redemption.”
Religious bigotry? That sounds like a Scott Wolter Templar-Cistercian goddess-worship claim to me.
O’Keefe is particular outraged by what he sees as an academic hit job on Olof Ohman, the discoverer of the Rune Stone. “Scholars accused Olof Ohman of being a con man,” he told the Sun This Week. “The way they treated the Ohmans, the way they slandered Olof, who was an honorable man with nine children, the way they tainted the Ohmans’ name was completely unjustified.” The scholars in question were Erik Wahlgren and Theodore C. Blegen, who both believed Ohman had carved the stone himself, a position partially supported by secondhand testimony from the descendants of those involved. Others have proposed different candidates, but Ohman’s grandson Darwin Ohman has pushed the story that scholars were defaming his grandfather. The younger Ohman has worked closely with Scott Wolter and also served as a consultant on The Ohman Stone.
The play is scheduled to debut August 2.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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