Participatory theater workshop set in Wykoff July 8

Meghan Grover, Sarah Meister, Amelia Hefferon, Amanda Fredrickson
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

It’s July, but Sarah, Meghan, Amanda and Amelia are defrosting through applied theater.

“It’s a summer project in which four grad students from New York use theater and storytelling to explore the urban and rural divide all around Minnesota,” stated Defrost Project member Sarah Meister.

The troupe will be making a stop in Wykoff Monday, July 8, at the Wykoff Methodist Church, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., courtesy of Eva Barr, DreamAcres Farm and The Defrost Project.

A relatively new company, the four members — Meister, Meghan Grover, Amanda Fredrickson and Amelia Hefferon — are all students in the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Master’s program in applied theater, or using theater as a tool for community building, education and social change.

“We bonded over our interest in working in rural communities and our shared connections to Minnesota. Amanda grew up in Roseau and later lived in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Meghan attended the University of Minnesota, and I attended Carleton College and later lived in St. Paul,” said Meister. 

“The kind of theater The Defrost Project does invites folks to share, question and process in a way that looks and feels very different from traditional meeting or conversation,” she said. “We hope to spark dialogue, curiosity and problem-solving through imagination, play and storytelling.  For groups used to processing or planning in one way, applied theater can help to break out of ruts, invite new possibilities and encourage folks to process in multiple ways – verbally, in writing, by making images, through games and more.  The event is a three-hour participatory theater workshop that explores the benefits and challenges of living in Wykoff and what it means to be a rural Minnesotan.  We’ll explore those questions through games, theater, storytelling and fun.” 

Barr has made it her mission to engage the public in exploring the reasons why they love their small towns and what they can do to foster conversation between neighbors about those reasons and sharing values; she has led several initiatives to bring local people together to discuss how to make the communities flourish, including through theater, forums and participation in Wykoff By Design, Wykoff’s planning group meeting to find a purpose for the former Wykoff and Kingsland school building. 

Meister observed that it is through Barr’s interest in doing so that the quartet is coming to Wykoff for The Defrost Project’s program tonight. Grover connected with Barr years ago when she was a student at the University of Minnesota and beginning to think about the intersection of arts, farming and rural spaces. 

“As soon as we knew we were coming to rural communities in Minnesota, we knew we had to call Eva,” Meister said. “We’re so grateful that she’s connecting us to the community and hosting us in her space.  As people who currently live in an urban place, New York City, we’re doing our own growing and shifting as this project progresses.  No two communities we’ve engaged are alike – we can’t wait to discover what makes Wykoff Wykoff.  Also, we’re eagerly awaiting pizza night at DreamAcres Farm and visiting Mystery Cave.”

Wykoff is one of five stops on the quartet’s tour of Minnesota. Granite Falls was July 1, then Wykoff, Milan on July 13, Roseau on July 15, and Puposky/the greater rural Bemidji area on July 19.  The group also has a public sharing of the workshop in St. Paul on July 20. 

The workshop is designed for adults, or high school age and older.  Younger folks are certainly welcome to attend, noted Meister, but the workshop isn’t geared toward them. 

“No theater experience is required to attend – just bring yourself as we use theater as a tool for community-building in this active, three-hour workshop packed with games, stories, theater and fun,” she said. “We can’t wait to be in Wykoff – thanks for having us.”

For more information, log onto Instagram at and search for @thedefrostproject.