published Friday, October 19th, 2012

Storyteller Jim Pfitzer embodies environmentalist Leopold

  • photo
    Jim Pfitzer is shown in a scene from "Aldo Leopold — A Standard of Change." The one-man show will be presented at Barking Legs Theater on May 31.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


• What: "Aldo Leopold -- A Standard of Change."

• When: 7 p.m. Wednesday.

• Where: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga University Center auditorium, 752 Vine St.

• Admission: Free.

• Phone: 425-5916.

When Jim Pfitzer read Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac" when he was a teenager, he felt as if he'd found himself.

The U.S. forester, conservationist, philosopher, educator, writer and outdoor enthusiast, who died in 1948, had created an ecological restoration experiment on a worn-out farm in Wisconsin with his family.

Leopold's book of essays, published after his death "resonated more deeply than anything I had ever read," Pfitzer said. "When I read some of those essays, everything I was ever confused about made sense. It made me think that the way you feel is not only OK but good and right and worth pursuing. It gave me permission to be what I was."

Today, the Chattanooga storyteller is touring the one-man show about the author and environmentalist that he researched and wrote. "Aldo Leopold -- A Standard of Change" will be offered Wednesday at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Pfitzer said the play opens as if Leopold's ghost walked on the stage more than 60 years after his death to enter his Wisconsin shack and chat with the audience.

"He's remembering a lot of things he was passionate about, [examining] the effects of his legacy and his writings, and looking with hope at what is to come," he said.

The performance includes Pfitzer's complete recitation of one Leopold essay, big chunks from two others and numerous references to another.

Sticking to a prescribed script, he said, "is different than storytelling."

By the end of the nearly one-hour performance, Pfitzer said, he hopes the audience will think about Leopold's ideas, read his book and consider the ramifications of his ideas for today.

In addition, he said, he wants people unfamiliar with the environmentalist to know the human being behind his words and for people who are familiar with him to gain a new perspective on him.

"He was very real and down-to-earth," Pfitzer said. "He was not just the guy in the shack."

The shack -- at least one wall of it -- and several props that might have been found there serve as the setting for the performance.

Contact Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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