Storyteller Jim Pfitzer embodies environmentalist Leopold

Storyteller Jim Pfitzer embodies environmentalist Leopold

October 19th, 2012 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Art

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/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

• 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 ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.