He had a sign on his guitar that said This Machine Kills Fascists. He was a writer and a radio personality. Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg and many other great musicians have acknowledged his influence on their music.
Those are some of the new things I learned about Woody Guthrie when I attended the Winnipeg Fringe Festival show Woody Sed. Before hearing the very talented Thomas Jones take on the personas of almost twenty different characters from the music icon’s life I only knew Woody Guthrie was Arlo Guthrie’s father and that he had written the song This Land is Your Land.
From the excellent play Woody Sed I learned Woody had a tumultuous life. He inherited Huntington’s Disease from his mother and passed it on to two of his children. He lost a sister and a daughter in separate fires and his father was also injured in a fire. Due in part to his disease and his need to wander and try new things none of his three marriages lasted. He fought in World War II. He was often penniless and homeless and spent the last decade of his life in health care institutions.
Despite his troubled personal life Woody is considered one of the most significant figures in American folk music. A quote from Woody Guthrie that Thomas Jones repeated numerous times throughout his fringe show was “Take it easy but take it.” I am not sure in what context Woody said this, perhaps in a song he wrote, but to me it means ‘Don’t give in to fear and anxiety. Live life to the fullest.’
The Guess Who on the Wall
Connecting With Burton Cummings
All That Jazz in Kansas City
Filed under Music, Theatre
What great stories! My husband Dave is a Fringe Festival team leader this year and I just love the interesting stories he comes home with each night about the variety of co-workers and theatre patrons he interacts with during each shift. He could write a fascinating play about all the experiences he’s had. One night for example a homeless person came by needing money for what he said was a life or death situation and Dave gave him ten dollars. A theatre patron watching the interaction reimbursed Dave. Dave has had to call the police, administer first aid and listen to lots of interesting life stories. However his long volunteering hours means we haven’t fringed as much as we usually do during Winnipeg’s Fringe Festival.
We have seen a few plays however.
FOR centered on a dining room table where two couples reveal more than the audience might have hoped they would about themselves during dinner. It reminded me a bit of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf. Nicely acted and entertaining although the subject matter is pretty heavy, it starred my boss Grant Burr, the editor of the The Carillon where I write a regular column.
Channeling Kevin Spacey is about a hapless young man whose life is pretty grim. He gets through the day mimicking actor Kevin Spacey in his various movies roles, till halfway through the play when he decides to make a character change to Al Pacino. Good acting but if you aren’t familiar with Spacey and Pacino’s film roles you might be left a little bewildered.
I loved Tara Travis in her last fringe play about Henry VIII’s wives but this year’s offering Searching for Dick: A Paranormal Comedy was too personal, too strange and didn’t showcase the actress’ talents enough for me, although the black light stuff she did was cool. Tara baked brownies during the play for us to eat but I didn’t have any. Her venue wasn’t air-conditioned and I desperately needed some cool air by the end of the play and couldn’t wait in line for my treat.
The Telephone was a light-hearted operatic treat. I knew all the cast members through hometown connections. I took my 86-year-old Dad who wanted to have a fringe experience and he enjoyed it too. Although set in the 1950s the play’s lessons about the use of phones and their interruption in our personal lives was certainly current. The performers were all professional and talented.
Other posts about plays…...
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter
The St. Boniface Basilica was a brilliant choice as a setting for the musical Quo Vadis. I attended the performance on the night of July 22 which just happened to be the forty-six year anniversary of the tragic fire that nearly completely destroyed the huge Winnipeg cathedral in 1968. All that remained of the old church after the fire was the majestic front piece. That stone facade which is now more than a century old, provided the backdrop for the Fringe Festival production of Quo Vadis.
This was not your regular fringe play. It had a huge cast with many trained and talented musicians among them. The story is taken from a Polish novel by Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz. It is set in 64 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. It recounts the love story of a military man and a young Christian woman, who along with others of her faith, is slated for death because of her beliefs.
The musical was written by Olaf Pyttlik. Olaf and his wife lived in my condo building this last year while their home in Wolseley was being completely gutted and renovated.
Not only did Olaf have that project on the go, but in May he opened a new restaurant in the Exchange District called Across the Board. Pyttlik also owns and operates a successful audio production company called daCapo. And somewhere in between remodeling a house, opening a restaurant and running a business, he found time to write a musical and stage it at the Fringe Festival. Does this man ever sleep?
The performers in the Quo Vadis production obviously loved what they were doing. The music was beautiful and inspiring. The storyline was easy to follow. It was a great evening of entertainment made all the more special because the music we were hearing was brand new and was having its debut at the Fringe Festival. An added bonus was that we were outside on a lovely Manitoba evening. The breeze was dancing in the actors hair and birds were calling and winging overhead.
If you haven’t already seen Quo Vadis- go! If it’s sold out, you can just sit down on the Basilica grounds and listen to the wonderful music.
Note: The musical mentioned Christians being devoured by wild animals in the Colosseum. When I toured the Colosseum in Rome our guide told us that never happened. Quo Vadis also made reference to Christians hiding out in the catacombs.
Our tour group in the catacombs
When we visited the catacombs in Rome our guide told us that’s just a myth too.
Other posts about the Fringe Festival……
Small Affair A Big Success
Godspell and Shadow Spaces
Not So Dandy
The first 2014 Winnipeg Fringe play we saw was Dandy. There were some dandy things about it. Bremner Duthie the solo performer is enthusiastic and puts his whole heart into his show. He’s backed up by three talented young men from the jazz program at the University of Manitoba. Bremner’s voice is obviously a well-trained one. He knew his material well and the audience found his ode to an item of clothing called a ‘dickie’ especially humorous.
There were some things however about the show that weren’t so dandy. Bremner had trouble always singing in tune. The narration didn’t really tell a connected story. I did figure out that the main character lost the love of his life and then lost himself in alcohol. The message of the performance was not clear. Bremner waxed eloquent about the way the clothes we wear can transform us and can impact the way people see us. However he also talked about the importance of inner beauty.
Bremner was sarcastic about the clothes the audience members were wearing and chastised my husband who was fooling around with his flashlight. Flashlights had been handed out to the audience so they could use them to shine a spotlight onto Bremner.
There were several too long sections where Bremner just sat looking in a soulful way at the audience and a couple fairly long off stage costume changes.
By the way Bremner thinks the ultimate fashion sin is wearing sweat pants, so if you don’t want him to poke fun at you don’t wear them to the show.
Bremner does strip down at one point and I was a little nervous everything would come off but I need not have worried. He kept his Superman underwear on.
Great fringe shows I saw last year……….
Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter
Fringing Some More
Without a doubt Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter was the best show I saw at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival this year. It engaged me completely and left me in tears. Alison Wearing is a gifted writer and captivating story teller and in her Fringe show she uses photographs, music and movement to share her memoir. When she was twelve Alison learned that her father, a Trent university professor, was gay and was moving out of their home. It certainly wasn’t easy for a young adolescent girl in the 1980s to adjust to such a major change in her family life but Alison tells her story without a sense of victimhood. Her mother supported Alison’s father in his desire to continue to play a major role in their children’s lives, something commendable when one considers that it wasn’t till 1996 that the federal government passed Bill C-33 which added discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to the Human Rights Act making it illegal in Canada. In two successive anecdotes about Christmas, Alison suggests sometimes life was more normal and traditional with her Dad than with her Mom.
Alison loves both her parents and speaks with pride of their gifts and accomplishments as well as her gratitude that they have allowed her to share their family’s story so publicly. She clearly admires her father’s courage in ‘coming out’ when he did and is glad he has found happiness in a partnership with another man that has lasted for many decades.
Her stage play is a re-telling of the first section of her book published by Alfred Knopf. I am looking forward to reading it. As a teenager Alison went to great lengths to hide the fact her father was gay. She expressed her happiness that times have changed so much her own son doesn’t have to give a second thought to his grandfather’s sexual orientation and can talk about it freely.
I saw the last performance of Alison’s show in Winnipeg but she is moving on to the Saskatoon Fringe and if you live there I encourage you to go.
If you enjoyed this post you might also like………
Winnipeg Fringe Festival – The First Play
Fringe Festival- Second and Third Play
Fringing Times Four
I’ve seen two more plays at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.
To find out what Till Death Do We Part and Crumbs are all about check my Destination Winnipeg site.
I went to my first Fringe Play last night. It was Thom Pain written by Will Eno and performed by Grant Burr, who just happens to be the editor of The Carillon the regional newspaper I’ve worked for as a weekly columnist for many years. Check out my thoughts on my Destination Winnipeg blog.