Quote of the Day: This is the story of a woman who lived ahead of her time and outside of expectations in every way. Kim Schultz, playwright and performer of The Root Beer Lady, on stage at the History Theatre in St. Paul, MN through February 19, 2023.
Minnesotans are proud of their national treasure of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). I’ve been near, but not in, it having spent some time on the North Shore, and I’ve been to Ely. I’d like to go back, and yes, take a canoe adventure. I might not do the extreme trip that some take, but it sure would be nice to explore the area and all its beauty. Several family members have been there, and go back every so often. My sons went on a Boy Scout trip. They also want to go back.
When Dorothy Molter was 23 years old, her dad brought her to the BWCA. She also fell in love with the place. They stayed at the Isle of Pines resort on Knife Lake. She returned for several summers, then stayed on to help owner Bill Berglund. The four cabin resort was remote and getting supplies there was challenging. Restrictions on float planes and other motorized transportation made it even harder. Dorothy persevered. Kim Schultz paints such a vivid picture of Dorothy’s life and adventures on her island that I could imagine it happening. The image of her dragging Bill on a toboggan through a blizzard to get medical help was especially memorable. She talks of foraging, hunting, fishing, chopping wood, doing whatever she could to carve out a living.
Although reporters tried to label her the “Loneliest Woman in America,” she begged to differ. She had visitors in the thousands every summer where she sold supplies, and sometimes offered first-aide. She graduated from nursing school before moving permamently to the Isle of Pines. She stayed at the resort through the harsh winters. She was truly a fascinating woman. Kim Schultz brings the story of the famed Root Beer Lady to life in a beautiful and memorable way.
The house was nearly full for the performance last Saturday night. When we arrived, many people were lingering in the lobby as they waited in line to purchase the delicious Dorothy’s Isle of Pines Root Beer. Yes, we bought some too, and enjoyed it during the show. (beverages allowed in the theater for this performance). The show runs about 85 minutes with no intermission. It is a lovely way to immerse yourself in the BWCA experience. Sound effects (Katharine Horowitz) really added atmosphere, along with projections (Kathy Maxwell) of Dorothy and the gorgeous wilderness. Scenic Design (Chelsea M. Warren) gave you the feeling of being in the cabin with Dorothy. Lighting design by Chris Johnson, and costumes by Sarah Bahr. Addie Gorlin-Han did a lovely job directing this wonderful show, written and performed by Kim Schultz. This is one you don’t want to miss! It could also work well as a touring show (hint, hint).
You can see The Root Beer Lady at the History Theatre in St. Paul, MN through February 19, 2023. The History Theatre website also has a collection of photos that people sent in of the BWCA and many with Dorothy. They’re fascinating to look at and many people provided stories. You can also visit the museum of the BWCA and collection from Dorothy Molter and her reassembled cabin at the Ely museum.