Editor’s note: Tonight’s performance has been sold out, a Valhalla spokeswoman announced this morning.
Mark Raddatz took a walk in the woods 20 years ago and the path he’s walked since has never been the same. Raddatz was looking to find his own inner peace on a snowy day in Sequoia National Park when fate found him instead.
“I had just finished a Shakespeare season and wanted to get some peace and to see the trees in the snow,” Raddatz said.
“A little girl walked up to me and said, ‘You look just like John Muir standing there.’ I had been looking for a one-man show to get control of my time and so I finally got around to reading John Muir.”
“John Muir, Watch, Pray and Fight” is a one-man show starring Mark Raddatz as the legendary mountaineer, naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club. Raddatz will perform in Tahoe for one night only at 7:30 pm.m Wednesday, June 26, at the Valhalla Grand Hall at the Tallac Historic Site. More than a year in preparation, this unique show has been presented to enthusiastic audiences across the country for the last 18 years.
The special quality of the performance rises from the fact that Raddatz has composed his script entirely from Muir’s own words. Not a biographical essay or paraphrase of an animal story, this is Muir as he would have appeared and spoken to an audience in his own time.
“I went to the University of the Pacific’s library for the bulk of my research,” Raddatz said. “They have all of Muir’s journals and other papers. Despite his having spoken before innumerable gatherings in the last 30 years of his life, I was assured that there were no actual printed speeches.” After strenuous research in newspapers of the period and Muir’s own papers, Raddatz found three.
Traveling to Stockton, California, where the University of the Pacific’s Holt-Atherton Collections are housed, involved crossing and re-crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains that Muir did so much to preserve. Raddatz took advantage of this to explore and camp where Muir did a century before.
Raddatz said, “I spent every summer of my boyhood in the Sierra and Yosemite,” Raddatz said. “It was good to renew the contact and great place to read Muir.”
Of this project, Raddatz said, “During my lifetime, I’ve noticed popular culture has tended to tame John Muir, to rub the rough spots smooth and portray him as a warm and fuzzy eccentric — someone to take to our hearts, but not take too seriously. This was no Disney character chatting with the birds and squirrels; what Muir had to say back then is startlingly meaningful even now.”
Former Sedona Performing Arts Guild president Bob Blaustone summed up the performance: “You meet John Muir; you see the robust, devoted naturalist who doggedly took on the United States government to save our natural resources. Mr. Raddatz certainly knows Muir. His portrayal is thoughtful, thorough and humorous – all to make a very entertaining evening.”
Mark Raddatz studied acting with Jeff Corey and has appeared with the Grand Canyon Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Sedona, the Southwest Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare Walla Walla, and various other companies. Raddatz was the producing artistic director of Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Sedona, where he directed many plays including the Arizona premiere of Sandra Deer’s “Sailing to Byzantium.” Despite all his accomplishments, Raddatz loves playing John Muir.
“He was a storyteller who often goes off on tangents,” Raddatz said. “This play has a subject and a conflict, so it hangs together quite well as a dramatic piece and a historical piece. It’s a real pleasure to dust it off.”