Play ideas come from all sorts of places: news articles, personal histories, even the day job of one’s partner. For playwright Dan O’Neil, the inspiration for his newest work—The Wind Farmer, which bows at Barter Theatre in Virginia through Nov. 11—came in 2009 when his wife was working at a wind-development company in Minneapolis.
“With my general credentials and age, at that time I could have been a field specialist, going door to door trying to buy wind rights from farmers,” O’Neil realized. “That really weirded me out.”
Negotiating a price for wind seemed “so old-fashioned, somehow quaint,” the writer felt. So he started imagining what would happen if he had to deal with a farmer who didn’t believe in global warming—and had a daughter who wanted to escape from country life. The result is a three-character play with an almost Rapunzel-like structure, where pinwheels grow like flowers and wind is king. Will Leo, the field specialist, be able to save Ramona, the unhappy farm daughter?
“Isn’t it interesting,” O’Neil suggests, “that in tales like this, we never really trust the prince?”