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Olof Ohman, the farmer who found the Kensington Runestone, is shown flanked by two soldiers in a 1927 celebration of the stone’s discovery that took place near Fahlin’s Point on Lake Oscar. About 10,000 people attended the event. (Contributed)

Runestone...the musical?

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The Kensington Runestone has been the center of a heated debate that’s been brewing for more than a century.

Now it’s taking center stage in a whole new way – as a musical.

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The Ohman Stone will be performed as part of the Minnesota Fringe, Minnesota’s Festival of Performing Arts.

It’s based on Swedish farmer Olof Ohman’s discovery of the famous stone on his farm near Kensington in 1898 and whether it’s an authentic artifact left by Scandinavian explorers in the 14th century or an elaborate hoax.

The one-hour play includes a variety of musical numbers, including a Russian-style opera, a love ballad and even a hip-hop piece at the end.

Five performances are scheduled beginning August 2 at the Intermedia Arts Center, 2822 Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis.

It’s being billed as “12 Angry Men meets Hamlet – the musical” and organizers say it’s perhaps the most controversial play ever performed in the Minnesota Fringe.

All the characters, except one, a documentarian, are ghosts who have come back from The Netherworld to help settle the question: Is the Kensington Runestone an authentic 14th century artifact?

The musical’s director and writer, Sheridan O’Keefe, grew up in Minnesota and knew about the Runestone, even as a child.

He said the idea to turn the story of the stone into a musical began after he went to a presentation by geologist and author Scott Wolter, who is convinced the stone is authentic.

Intrigued, O’Keefe started reading books about the stone from multiple authors and a year or two ago decided that the story needed to be told.

“It’s so Shakespearian in a lot of ways,” he said in a video interview posted on “The Ohman Stone – A Fringe Musical” Facebook page. “I thought it was the perfect story to put to music and to acting.”

O’Keefe noted that Ohman, who had a third grade education, was known to be a stand-up, honest man yet scholars from around the world “ganged up” on him by wrongly concluding that the stone was fake. His play, he said, depicts the Ohman family as real people who were unfairly slandered for many years.

“I wanted to show the audience that often, the scholars are not correct and that they don’t have all the information they need to make a decision on the particular thing they are studying,” O’Keefe said.

ABOUT THE MUSICAL

Performances of The Ohman Stone will take place in

Minneapolis as part of the

Minnesota Fringe Festival on the following dates:

August 2 – 2:30 p.m.,

August 3 – 10 p.m.,

August 5 – 7 p.m.,

August 6 – 8:30 p.m. and

August 10 – 4 p.m.

Tickets are $12 or $4 with a festival button. The play is written and directed by Sheridan O’Keefe of Apple Valley who researched the stone for about eight years. Music is by Nicholas Mroczek and lyrics by O’Keefe. For more information, go to www.fringefestival.org. The annual festival includes 169 productions on 19 stages throughout the Twin Cities over 11 days.

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