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Know the West

Broadway, mountain-style

  Bitter environmental conflict inspires demonstrations, op-ed pieces, sometimes violence. In the Mattole Valley of Northern California, fights over logging and salmon have generated something else entirely: musical comedy. Activist David Simpson and his choreographer wife, Jane Lapiner, both San Francisco Mime Troupe veterans, launched a theater group, Human Nature, to try to ease tensions between environmentalists and loggers. Their first full-scale production, "Queen Salmon," was a gently satirical take on the conflict. Human Nature has now moved beyond local questions. Its latest production, "Wolf at the Door," takes on wolf reintroduction. It tracks three sets of characters: the Canadian wolves captured for the Yellowstone release, a man and a wolf out of Norse myth, and a morally confused environmentalist and his wife. The show has played mostly to audiences sympathetic to its conservationist goals and doesn't really set out to change minds. "We're pricking the bubble of human pretense," Simpson says, and reminding environmentalists of the irony inherent in humans trying to help nature.

"Wolf at the Door" visits Bozeman, Mont., Oct. 29, Missoula, Mont., Oct. 30 and 31, Lewiston, Idaho, Nov. 4, Boise, Idaho, Nov. 5, and Conifer, Colo., Nov. 8. For information, contact David Simpson at P.O. Box 81, Petrolia, CA 95558 (707/629-3670).

*Gabriel Ross