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Leopold’s Message Still Heard

Storyteller Jim Pfitzer presented his original play, “A Standard of Change,” as a part of the Ninth Annual Belmont University Environmental Lecture Series on February 5, 2014. There were about 100 people in attendance. It is a one-man, one-act play and the setting is Aldo Leopold’s famous shack, a weekend retreat on his farm in Wisconsin. The play explores the experiences and insights that led Aldo Leopold to write A Sand County Almanac published one year posthumously in 1949.

Pfitzer hits the highlights and themes of A Sand County Almanac— thinking like a mountain, the good oak, the fierce green fire, and the land ethic—trademark essays that resulted from Leopold’s deep reflecting about his own actions and those of other people. These essays come from Leopold’s years of experience in land management.

Pfitzer got the clothes and the pipe right, but a coffee pot and some sound effects would make the story come alive even more. Leopold’s morning routine of waking at 3:00 a.m. to document the birds he heard singing is a signature image of this man. This is possible now since Stan Temple and Christopher Bocast have put together a cacophony of birdcalls that Leopold listed one June morning in 1940.

This play has, and will continue to, evolve as the actor adds more detail. At first, Pfitzer, who lives in Chattanooga, had trouble getting support from the Aldo Leopold Foundation. They had seen people come and go imitating Leopold but few panned out. Pfitzer proved different, however. He did his research in the archives and even spent the night in Leopold’s shack one cold November night. He will probably be performing “A Standard of Change” for years to come. Pfitzer has already performed it in 28 states.

“This is the thing I have to do,” he said. “There are multiple messages in this play that need to be heard.”

Pfitzer built this replica of Leopold's Wisconsin shack for his play, "A Standard of Change."

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