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Gerald Pelrine presents "The Tale of Stickeen"


Gerald Pelrine died from a heart attack at the age of 64 on January 15, 2020.

Gerald Pelrine as John Muir

Gerald Pelrine's riveting rendition of Stickeen is available on the 1999 John Muir Tribute CD.

When John Muir and an adventurous dog are trapped among the cracks and crevasses of a glacier amidst darkening skies and a driving storm, their struggle for survival is as profound and dramatic as tales from Shakespeare or the Bible.

In John Muir's most popular book (and most requested topic in public), he recounts the inspiring story of being hopelessly trapped on an Alaska glacier with the small dog Stickeen.

The result is the powerfully transforming realization that all living beings, and indeed all life - share a common soul.

Rich with references from Shakespeare, the Bible, and his beloved countryman Robert Burns, Mr. Muir's powers of poetic description are never greater than when describing the stormy grandeur of Alaska as backdrop to this epic tale.

Gerald Pelrine offers his critically acclaimed characterization of Muir as lecturer reliving the experience and the lessons learned: the great crevasse of the glacier as symbol of "the valley of the shadow of death." little Stickeen perched atop its rim, the joy of deliverance, and his shattering view of eternity seen through the eyes of "the silent, philosophic Stickeen."

GERALD PELRINE is an actor, writer, folk singer, and puppeteer who lives "up North" in Door County, Wisconsin. He has written and performed for Wisconsin Public Television and performed on tour across the U.S. For a number of years his theater work focused on folk singing and storytelling. In 1988 he first portrayed John Muir in "The Mountains Call My Name" presented by the Heritage Ensemble at the Peninsula State Park Amphitheater in Door County.

On the potential of STICKEEN* to earn a place among the classics of world dramatic literature Pelrine says:

"Classic tales don't start out carved in polished marble. Cain and Abel, Romeo and Juliet, and Aladdin with his Lamp were all once stories simply told, sometimes of an actual event, or perhaps an invention of their creator. Eventually they are recognized as possessing uniquely powerful characteristics, and they gain a new status. Generations, cultures, even civilizations rise and fall honoring the truth and clarity of such works. After 120 years as a popular "dog story" and Mr. Muir's most popular book, scholars such as Ronald H. Limbaugh are taking the tale to another level with discussions of its sources and inner content.** Noted actors such as Lee Salisbury and Lee Stetson have given it a prominent status in their repertoire.*** I predict its next level of illumination will be as an example of the somewhat buddhistic or "New Age" view of the interconnectedness of all life; this philosophic approach to understanding life is currently gaining ascendance at the occasion of the new millennium. As a teaching of the oneness of all beings, I believe it is what great Zen masters have long referred to as 'a finger pointing at the moon.'"

Resources on Stickeen

* Stickeen by John Muir
**John Muir's "Stickeen" and the Lessons of Nature, Ronald H. Limbaugh, University of Alaska Press, 1996
***Stickeen, John Muir's Classic Tale, audio cassette, performed by Lee Salisbury, Haven Books Audio, North Hollywood CA, 1999
***"Stickeen," Lee Stetson, audio cassette, 1988

Critical Praise for Gerald Pelrine's portrayal of John Muir:

"Muir is played winningly, with bravura brogue, by Gerald Pelrine, who is at his peak here, warmly delivering anecdotes from Muir's writings." Mike Drew, The Milwaukee Journal

"An outstanding and inspirational evening of theatre." Chan Harris, The Door County Advocate

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! The students were mesmerized the entire time. Gerald Pelrine is an actor of the highest calibre. Your play not only breathed new life into John Muir, the students were left feeling a moral sense of responsibility towards planet Earth. You have accomplished in one day what we have been striving for all year." Mimi Wohnrade, Special Projects Coordinator, Gibraltar Area Schools, Fish Creek, Wisconsin

"I would like to commend you for making John Muir a real human type of individual." James F. Krems, Principal, Rosholt High School, Rosholt, Wisconsin

"My favorite bit on the John Muir Tribute CD. is when actor Gerald Pelrine tells the story of 'Stickeen.'" Gary Bogue, The Contra Costa Times

Gerald Pelrine

Gerald Pelrine (June 13, 1955 - Jan. 15, 2020) was an actor, writer, folk singer, and puppeteer who lived in Door County, Wisconsin. He wrote and performed the Heritage Ensemble (20 years), the American Folklore Theatre and its successor Northern Sky Theater in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, and for Wisconsin Public Television and performed on tour across the U.S. For a number of years his theater work focused on folk singing and storytelling. As his friend and college Frederick "Doc" Heide said, "One of Gerald’s greatest gifts as an actor was his stentorian voice, which could soothe like a mother’s caress or penetrate like a javelin fashioned from thunder." He wrote and starred in numerous one-man shows over the years. Gerald was most proud to have played General Sherman, John Muir and Clarence Darrow. He died from a heart attack at the age of 64 on January 15, 2020.

In 1988 Pelrine portrayed John Muir in "The Mountains Call My Name," first presented by the Heritage Ensemble at the Peninsula State Park Amphitheater in Fish Creek. The next year he co-authored a play entitled "Mule For Breakfast Again" based on the Civil War writings of former Wisconsin Governor George W. Peck. Both works became studio productions of Wisconsin Public Television.

Pelrine earned a B.F.A. in Theater Studies from UW-Milwaukee in 1980. He lives quietly in Sister Bay with wife Patrice, daughter Genevieve, and little friend Daisy, who Pelrine describes as "undoubtedly the reincarnation of Stickeen."

For more information, see Gerald Pelrine.

Return to Other Live Presentations of John Muir

Living People Influenced by John Muir

About John Muir's Stickeen

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