MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Northern Michigan University Theatre and Dance has something to brag about. Their world-premiere production of ‘Above the Timberline’ has won 14 national awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

In an alternate future where the weather of the world has been permanently altered, the son of a famed polar explorer sets out in search of his father, who disappeared while looking for a lost city buried under the snow.

“So originally, Above the Timberline was a graphic novel that was authored and illustrated by Greg Manchess and he did a stage reading of it at the Norman Rockwell Museum that was done with high school students and then his image was in the background with some animation and some stuff like that,” said Lex van Blommestein, Assistant Professor, Theatre Design, NMU. “It was never a play. It was written as a script, but it was never a play. It was basically, the dialogue was taken out and then the narrator read all of the rest of the stuff. Then it got kind of brought to us to a faculty member in the art department. He said are you interested and of course we were. But then, we spent about an eight month process making it into a play script.”

Universities from across the country submitted work digitally. This is the first time NMU has received this much of an honor for their work.

“Well, certainly number one that it was a new work,” said Jill Grundstrom, Assistant Professor and Director of Theatre at NMU. “That’s always a big deal and that’s something that I think the Kennedy Center group really values is pushing kind of the narrative of theater and the experience of putting on something that brand new. That’s really great for students to be able to participate in something like that, that’s fresh. It doesn’t really have a pre-conceived notion to it and we get to all take it and envision something that’s really unique. So that was really one reason there that it was a new work. Number two, I think that because of this level of collaboration that we have on the project, with scenic design and puppets and script development, which meant character development for these students as well, costumes. All of these things together as we watched it go through something that was suppose to be projections on a wall outside because we didn’t know if we were going to be back in the theater yet with COVID into what it turned into, we knew very quickly that this was going to be something KCTF would value in terms of what the organization stands for.”

Grundstrom goes on to say that this honor lets her and her department know they are in the right direction for NMU’s Theatre and Dance Program.