Kate Nowlin’s deep Minnesota roots are being intermixed with her craft as she stars in “The Blood Stripe,” a psychological thriller she co-wrote that is now shooting upstate.
“We are in northern Minnesota right now. We’re in Cook, Minnesota, on Lake Vermilion. … We will do two weeks up here and one week in the Twin Cities,” said Nowlin. “I was born and raised in the Twin Cities, I was doing shows at the Children’s Theatre from a young age. But I would summer on this lake. My mom and dad [Marit and Forrest] would bring me and my sisters up to Lake Vermilion where my grandmother lived year round. … Her name was Alpha Smaby [a former legislator and famous Vietnam War opponent, an author who died in 1991].”
The dark, character-driven psychological thriller is about a Marine struggling with PTSD after her third tour of duty in Afghanistan. The Marine is not finding peace in returning to her husband, who has problems of his own.
“The Blood Stripe” is being directed by Nowlin’s co-writer and husband, whom she met at the Yale School of Drama, actor Remy Auberjonois, whose lengthy acting credits include Mr. Albin in “Weeds” and Dr. Emerson on “Mad Men.” He is the son of René Auberjonois, an actor who seems to have been in everything and he’ll be in “The Blood Stripe,” too. He is best known for portraying Father Mulcahy in the film version of “M*A*S*H,” and Chef Louis in “The Little Mermaid,” says Wikipedia.
Nowlin’s father-in-law “has been [indispensable] in terms of his feedback and response. … We’ve got the bones but once we get the people up here we want it to live and breathe, so that’s the fun.”
She said the story is designed around Camp Vermilion, a Lutheran church camp.
“When we were introduced to this property a few summers ago, Remy and I looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got to do something here.’ Once we had the location and started creating the story, we were doing a lot of research into veterans, people coming home, and it led us down the road to PTSD.
“There have been a number of stories about men returning [from war] and now it’s time to tell a story also about women coming home, women warriors doing all the things that men have been doing. I wanted to honor that, investigate that and shed some light on the impact of trauma on the soul.”
She experienced PTSD in 2007 after she was grabbed by an assailant armed with a gun while she was walking to a subway station in NYC after work. He dragged her to a parking lot.
“I had to fight to not get dragged further into the parking lot. I held my ground and didn’t go. I had been watching Oprah not that long before where they talked about if you are ever held up, never go to the second location,” said Nowlin. “That’s why I think I’m here today, and so did the Brooklyn DA. I had an incident that must have lasted no more than five minutes, that rocked, shook my sense of self and security in the world. … I wasn’t able to leave my house at night. I did the difficult but invaluable work to reclaim my life.”
Nowlin seemed unfazed about revisiting that trauma at a place that has been such a source of peace and happiness to her. She talked about infusing Minnesota into every aspect of this movie.
“We’ve been talking to Minnesota-based singer and songwriter Mason Jennings about music and elements of the story because we would like him to [contribute] to the soundtrack. We were listening to him as we wrote the movie,” she said. “[Lake Vermilion] is a beautiful place so we are going to try to bring music, poetry, humor and light [to the movie]. We are recruiting Minnesota-based actors and artists we know and love. One is a poet named Louis Jenkins.”
Nowlin’s grandmother’s name, Smaby, is music and poetry to me because one of my all-time favorite Minnesotans is Jan Ingrid Smaby, former host of TPT2’s “Almanac.”
“Jan is my aunt, my beloved aunt,” said Nowlin, who informed me that Jan and her husband, Alan Lipowitz, recently moved to Colorado.
We’re trying to arrange to meet when “The Blood Stripe” is shooting at the Black Forest Inn.
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