Sometimes it is important to recognize long-time friendships and the accomplishments of such friends.

Sue and I, along with our friend Janis, took in a performance of HEPHZIBETH, WOMAN OF IRON at the Pequot Lakes High School Theatre. This one-woman show was written and performed by Lauren Nickisch, who I have known for four decades now – and Sue and Janis know her as well.

The play is a story about Lauren’s great great great great grandmother – and to my RANGER friends, you will recognize the name. That person of so many generations ago was HEPHZIBETH MERRITT, the mother of the Merritt Brothers, who were so instrumental in the iron mining industry of Northeastern Minnesota. In 90 minutes, the audience learns about Mother Merritt, the adventures of her husband and their sons, and a good deal about life in the late 1800s.

She researched her family history to come up with the play. It took her a year, and then some. With the help of many, the show came to fruition. She’s performed it several times throughout Minnesota. Sue and I saw her perform it for the first time down at St. Cloud State a good 25 years ago.


But for me, this is a good deal about Lauren, too.

Lauren taught for a long time in the Brainerd schools – led an idea called WINDOWS ON…. Which was a musical revue for elementary school kids (oh, she didn’t do it alone – but she was there….) She plays the flute in the Heartland Symphony. She’s active on stage as an actress (SO many roles) and she’s directed many shows, and she’s been vocal coach for many shows. She’s active in the arts community around here, serving on several boards that deal in the arts. She and her husband C.J. have been a part of AARON BROWN’s Great Northern Radio Show many times.

lauren and CJ

On a personal level, I met Lauren pretty much when I first came to Brainerd in 1976 – playing in Heartland Symphony, and in playing in a few pit orchestras for plays she was in. She and my wife Sue worked together so very much on many musical events (for instance, the WINDOWS ON programs) … and then we all have done shows together. Lauren has been an encouraging factor in my own work on stage – a positive, teaching voice, a person who has helped me grow as an actor in many ways.

The dream – to see HEPHZIBETH, WOMAN OF IRON continue to grow. To my friends on the Range – she’s done it a few times up there, but hey, wouldn’t it make sense to have her come and do it for MERRITT DAYS in Mt. Iron?   See what you can do about that …. Or as Lauren talked about today in her after-show conversation with the audience, maybe a documentary, or a movie …

So, I am proud to count Lauren as a friend. Her great great great great grandmother HEPHZIBETH MERRITT would be just as proud.


(photos from Lauren’s FB page . . .)