BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The Dakota Stage in downtown Bismarck has been in the city for over 30 years, delighting the city with plays using local actors. And true to their roots, this month’s performance hits close to Bismarck’s roots.

Not only does the story take place in and around Bismarck, but the playwright himself — Ev Miller — was born and raised in the area.

Miller himself attended opening night at the stage last week, but it wasn’t his first run-in with the Dakota Stage players. According to the play’s director, Amanda Perry, she’s been speaking with him before the performance to ensure everything, from the characters to the staging, is in line with his vision.

“It’s been really fun getting to know him,” said Perry, “and it makes me feel more confident in my work, too, because I’ve been able to bounce ideas off of him. I get to know where he was coming from when he wrote the play, and that gives me a more in-depth ability to direct the way he had intended it to be.”

The play itself tells the story of the Miner family, who are struggling to keep their farm afloat during the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. But it isn’t just forces of nature that are concerning father Layton: his sons express desires to pursue their own paths, and a string of misfortunes threaten to push him over the edge. It’s been described by both the playwright and director as a story of desperation, consequences and above all, perseverance.

“Life,” explained Miller, “isn’t always an upper. Life takes Spartan endurance. But you have to take the bad with the good. And I think that’s something that in our modern way of life, that we don’t see. If things aren’t always on a high, we always want to change them. So we get a new house, get a new wife, a new car, just so life can be more exciting. My mom and dad never expected life to be exciting. They expected it to be life.”

The beliefs of Miller’s family indeed play a major role in the development of the characters in “A Dusty Echo”: after all, they’re one and the same. In a question and answer segment following the opening performance, he stated that the Miner family’s story was based on his own childhood experiences.

“Dad and Mom lost the farm,” recalled Miller. “It was a life that didn’t have a lot of luxury, like the Miner family. But while I didn’t have a lot of luxury…I never went without, either. It was a good life. You could say that A Dusty Echo wrote itself. It just….went. Almost like I wasn’t doing it. It was just a play from the heart.”

He also revealed the fates of his real-life brothers on display in the performance, who went on to have careers in farming and machine work.

And as for the youngest son in the play, who sought higher education? It turns out that he loved school so much, that he ended up growing up to be a teacher himself…who also happened to become a playwright in the future.

The Dakota Stage will feature further performances of “A Dusty Echo” on May 19-21 at 7:30 p.m. and May 22 at 2 p.m.