Rocky Mountain News
May 4, 2001
Montana makes stunning stage
On children's video
How Much Land Does a Man Need
Length: 40 minutes
Price: $27, VHS; to order,
(888) 324-5623 or
This latest GlobalStage theater production is shot on the wide-open stage of the vast Montana prairie. Surprisingly, the actors hold their own against this breathtaking scenery, creating strong, humorous characters to tell this timeless story of the folly of greed.
How Much Land Does a Man Need is a well-crafted adaptation of a short story by 19th century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. The story follows the life of a poor, hard-working sharecropper, Buck, who dreams of becoming a successful farmer of his own land. Buck is accompanied in his quest for wealth by a sprightly narrator, who gives the tale its cohesiveness as Buck's ambitions run amok.
Through a little creative financing and lots of hard work, Buck and his wife acquire their first 40 acres and make a satisfying life for themselves as small farmers. But, hearing of better land to be had, they sell everything and buy a larger, more prosperous ranch. Buck's wife is content to stay put, but her husband, believing that even greater riches can be found elsewhere, sells his half of their holdings and strikes out alone, aiming to become the wealthiest landowner in the country.
Soon, Buck arrives in the land of the Bashkirs, a nomadic band of women on horseback who freely roam the lush terrain. He strikes a deal with them: For only $1,000, Buck can own all the land he's able to walk in a day. Starting off the next morning, the greedy Buck pushes himself to cover more and more distance so that his parcel will include the outcropping of trees, the river and whatever else falls within his gaze. After he barely makes it back to the starting point as the sun sets, the price he pays for his overly ambitious purchase is far higher than he'd bargained for.
While my fourth-grader balks at GlobalStage's use of two characters -- "theatergoers" -- to introduce each play and discuss it afterward, the device helps to distinguish the theater piece from a screenplay. Despite some contrivances to bring theater to video, GlobalStage has managed to create a visually stunning and vividly wrought production that invites its audience to examine an important issue in our consumer-driven, materialistic world. For ages 8 and up. Grade: A
Nell Minow, "The Movie Mom"
CHESAPEAKE FAMILY MAGAZINE
"Older kids will enjoy the latest in one of my favorite series, the Globalstage videos of outstanding theatrical productions. This one is "How Much Land Does a Man Need,"' based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. The actors perform on an open-air stage in front of Montana scenery so striking it makes its own case for the connection to the land. A poor sharecropper is able to buy a small plot of land, but instead of being satisfied, he becomes determined to become the largest landowner in the country. He learns some powerful lessons about greed that is a nice reminder after the holiday season about finding happiness in what we already have."
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"Grades six and up -- Based on Leo Tolstoy's short story, this adaptation is performed by The Perskey Ridge Players and takes place in turn-of-the century Montana rather than Russia. The narrator of the story is a colorful character who not only keeps the story moving along but also talks to Buck. Buck, a farmer trying to make a better life for himself and his wife, Irene, is the main character. The cowboy- like characters and the setting of the story are adapted so that audiences can relate and empathize with Buck and his plight. Buck is never satisfied with how much land or wealth he has acquired, so he schemes and strives for more and more until his greed kills him. Unlike the original short story, written in 1886, this version provides more comic relief with twists of irony. The introductory phase of the video, hosted by 13-year-old Preston Blakeley and his teacher, Professor Elizabeth McNamer, provides extensive biographical information on the author along with photographic stills and other historical trivia. At the end of the video, an analysis of the play is given with Preston and McNamer talking about the moral theme of the story. The video encourages viewer discussion. The accompanying paperback book includes Tolstoy's short story. This is an excellent program for classes to generate discussions about ethical and moral themes in literature." Mercedes Smith
August 6, 2001
Globalstage's ninth live-theatre production features the vast prairie and rocky hills of Montana as the setting for an Americanized adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's short story about a man's consumption by greed. Honest, hardworking sharecropper Buck believes that a piece of land to call his own will make him truly happy. He and his wife eventually procure some acreage, but when Buck learns that other farmers have more than he does, he becomes obsessed with improving his lot. A never-ending quest to acquire still more land leads him to make a deal that will test his greed and his physical strength like never before. He literally dies trying to claim a huge parcel of territory and ultimately ends up with "as much land as he'll ever need -- six feet from his head to his heels." Members of the small, talented ensemble known as the Perskey Ridge Players give crisp and humorous performances in this clever interpretation of the tale. A narrator in a pink tutu who can envision both the past and the future accompanies Buck through his travels (a la the ghosts in A Christmas Carol) and is the catalyst for many funny remarks. Kids will easily grasp the memorable themes here and may even come away inspired to explore Tolstoy's other works. Ages 8-up.
SOUTH FLORIDA PARENTING
Dan & Donna Gephart
"Yeah right, I thought. My kids (ages 6 and 8) are going to sit through a play adapted from a Leo Tolstoy short story. My suspicions proved correct as the kids yawned, talked and generally ignored the short discussion of the Russian writer's life that kicks off the video. But then the play started. And the kids paid attention. The 42- minute video is sharply produced and well-acted. It's a poignant tale that offers a clear lesson on greed. And it's done with the kind of humor that makes it easy for kids to go along for the ride. A former sharecropper named Buck seems to have it all -- money, success and a loving wife. But every time he hears that somebody has it better, he becomes dissatisfied. His relentless search for more eventually leads to his own undoing. This production shot against a backdrop of the Montana prairie, is clearly one of the most impressive I've seen this year. It's a must for children six years and older."