When playwright Samuel D. Hunter imagined the setting for A Great Wilderness, he envisioned something like Riggins and the Seven Devils area near the wilderness of his childhood. Do you know the area? Tell us more about it. For those of you who have no idea what backcountry Idaho is like, here’s a brief download to help you imagine the specific location of the play.
Riggins is a town with a population of roughly 410 people in west central Idaho on the Salmon River. It’s a popular hub for rafting, kayaking, fishing, and hunting as it’s near Hells Canyon Wilderness. The Seven Devils Mountains, part of the Blue Mountain Range, sit atop the canyon. Many of their peaks top 9,000 feet and are named things like “He Devil,” “She Devil,” and “The Ogre.” (Evidently the land seemed like an epic, mythic, and even biblical place to more people than just Sam.)
Temperatures in the summer, when the play takes place, climb to the 80s during the day and drop to the 40s and 50s at night. It rains less than an inch per month in Hells Canyon during the summer and fall—making forest fires a dangerous reality. Wildlife in Hells Canyon includes black bears, cougars, elk, deer, mountain goats, big horn sheep, bald eagles, and more. Trees tend to be softwoods, also known as conifers, such as Douglas-fir, Western White Pine, and Western Larch.
Director Braden Abraham describes the Idahoan wilderness as a “geography imbued in the American psyche as a place of limitless possibility, individualism, spiritual and religious revelation, freedom, but also a savage place that is unforgiving of failure.” What role does the setting play in A Great Wilderness? How does the intimacy of the Leo K. Theatre contribute to our perception of the setting? Leave your thoughts below.