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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Dust Bowl sweeps into Marquette with ‘Holy Days’

Kansas in the 1930s was greatly affected by the Dust Bowl crisis and the Great Depression — historical events college students may not know enough about. Sally Nemeth’s drama, “Holy Days,” chronicles the struggles of one family as they fight to survive the challenges that are out of their control.

Marquette theater students prepare for their upcoming show "Holy Days". Photo by Aaron Ledesma/ [email protected]

Opening tonight at the Helfaer Theatre, “Holy Days” hopes to leave a lasting impression on audiences.

There are not nearly as many farmers in America as there were in the 1930s, but the similarities between the characters of “Holy Days” and modern Americans can be easily spotted, making a production set 75 years ago relevant in 2011.

Taking place in 1936, Rosie, Gant, Will and Molly have decided to stay on their land while many others migrate to find work elsewhere.

The Dust Bowl period, also known as the Dirty Thirties, was a result of years of drought combined with extensive farming without proper techniques to protect the soil. It affected thousands directly and indirectly through unemployment, foreclosure, poverty, homelessness, sickness and even death.

Facing personal struggles, as well as challenges affecting their entire family, the characters of “Holy Days” live their lives the best way they can.

“This show is really important,” said Katie Callahan, a sophomore in the College of Communication. “Back then people were struggling to grow their crops on their land. Now it is the same thing but in a modernized form. People are struggling every day.”

Callahan plays the role of Rosie, a woman who, like the rest of her family, puts on a façade to stay strong for the sake of others.

Rosie and her family are ordinary people struck by a disaster that has left them fighting for everything they have. Nemeth’s play caught the attention of director Debra Krajec two years ago while she was designing costumes for another theater company’s production of “Holy Days.”

Krajec was curious to see how students would relate to and portray the simple, yet hard-working characters found in the play.

“I was impressed with the treatment of this slice of our American history that doesn’t get a lot of notice these days,” Krajec said in an email. “I saw the parallels between what our forbears went through and what a lot of people are going through today.”

Nemeth’s work is minimal. The script isn’t packed with lines after lines of dialogue. Much of the acting comes from the cast’s facial expressions, body language and the unspoken subtleties that accompany the lines they do have.

“The script is only around 60 pages,” said Tim Braun, a senior in the College of Communication. “There are a lot of moments where we are just living daily life on stage. It’s just to give the audience a glimpse of what life was like back then.”

Braun, who plays Will in “Holy Days,” said a lot of studying and time was put into preparing for the roles of Rosie, Gant, Will and Molly.

Along with research done by the cast, the all-student design team has been hard at work for months preparing for this production. The dedication behind everyone’s role in the production proves not only the importance of “Holy Days” but also speaks to the abilities of the cast and crew.

“‘Holy Days’ is a show of hope. The hardships and battles the characters go through in the show lead to hope,” Callahan said.

Marquette theater students prepare for their upcoming show "Holy Days". Photo by Aaron Ledesma/ [email protected]

The characters are resilient, and the cast puts their all into portraying that. Through everyone’s efforts, “Holy Days” will leave audiences entertained, educated and with a message of strength and endurance.

“Holy Days” opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. Performances run Nov. 10-12 and 16-19 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 13 and 20 at 2:30 p.m. All performances are at the Helfaer Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online at for $19.

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