Playwright Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith focuses on the last thoughts of Woody Guthrie in his new play with music, “Woody Guthrie Dreams,” directed by Isabel Milenski, that will be presented by Theater for the New City (TNC) from September 8 to October 1, 2011.
TNC is located at 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th streets) in the East Village near the L train stop on 1st Avenue, the 6 train stop at Astor Place, and the N/R trains at 8th Street. Shows are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00PM and Sundays at 3:00PM.
Tickets are $20 Thursdays-Saturdays and on Sundays you pay want you can. You can buy tickets online by visiting www.theaterforthenewcity.net or call the Box Office at (212) 254-1109 to reserve tickets.
As Huntington’s Disease takes hold of his mind and body, Guthrie looks back on his life through dreams, revisits long-forgotten memories, and reminisces on his musical achievements, including the songs he played across the nation with Pete Seeger, Cisco Houston, and Lead Belly. He also revisits his whirlwind romance with Martha Graham dancer Majorie Mazia, his second wife. Guthrie battles his own fears, insecurities, and debilitating illness, all the while throwing himself into a wild attempt at creating a better world, one sung chorus after another.
As a witness to some of the most turbulent eras of the twentieth century, Woody Guthrie was pivotal in illuminating the American consciousness about contemporary sociopolitical changes through his music. In fact, music was the driving force behind all of Woody Guthrie’s travels and endeavors. “There are several ways of saying what’s on your mind…one of the mainest ways is by singing,” he said. He saw the significance music had to inspire people, tell their stories, ease their hardships, and awaken social change. Guthrie believed, “A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it.” In the spirit of Guthrie’s philosophy “Woody Guthrie Dreams” utilizes music as the primary channel of illustrating Guthrie’s reflections and memories.
Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith began researching the life and music of Woody Guthrie in 2001. His investigation would take him to Oklahoma, Texas, and California, where he met Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, widely considered to be the greatest interpreter of Woody Guthrie’s music and referred to by Bob Dylan as “King of the Folksingers.” In writing “Woody Guthrie Dreams” Smith made several visits to the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives in New York, where he met renowned folk music impresario Harold Leventhal. Smith also interviewed Guthrie’s contemporary Pete Seeger. Smith conducted extensive research in the Smithsonian Folkways collection in Washington D.C., finding unreleased recordings of Guthrie’s most frequent collaborator, Cisco Houston.
As an accomplished musician and actor, Smith and his long-time colleague, Caleb Stine (who will play Cisco Houston) have collaborated on the musical arrangements for “Woody Guthrie Dreams.” Stine and Smith have developed lively and varied arrangements to 23 of Guthrie’s most famous and most obscure songs. This historically significant music, which has inspired generations of musicians to follow, from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen to Wilco, is brought to life by an eclectic cast of twelve to the music of a full band, consisting of guitar, uptight bass, banjo, fiddle, and voice.
The play’s website is: www.woodyguthriedreams.com. Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith’s personal website is: www.flanagansmith.com.
Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith (playwright) graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) theater program, starring in Aleksandr Ostrovsky’s “Diary of a Scoundrel,” a production that was the winner of the American College Theater Festival and was later staged at the Kennedy Center in 1997. Two years later Smith founded the Living Room Company, a theater group dedicated to performing dark and funny productions in nontraditional settings. From 1999 to 2005, the company produced dozens of works in warehouses, living rooms, kitchens, basements and rooftops. For the Living Room Company, Smith wrote, directed and produced “Let’s Bake,” a production which led to the creation of Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes and “BOX,” which played at the New York City Fringe Festival in 2001. Smith also starred in the company’s “Rum and Vodka,” “Smalltimore,” “The Art of War,” “Pig in Shit” and Peter Handke’s “Kaspar.”
Outside of Living Room Company, Smith worked as a burlesque emcee, directing several works, and wrote “Pirate A-Go Go.”. In 2004, Smith directed Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” in Patterson Park, Baltimore as part of their Shakespeare in the Park series. In 2005, he wrote “Woody Guthrie dreams before dying,” which was produced by Living Room Company and presented at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson in several workshop performances. Smith collaborated with Robert Anton Wilson on the revival of Wilson’s play “Wilhelm Reich in Hell,” produced in 2004 by Son of Semele Ensemble, currently considered Los Angeles’s premiere avant-garde theater group.
In 2005, Smith moved to Brooklyn to focus on writing fiction and performing as a songwriter and folk singer. His first EP titled “All the Cars My Friends Stole” was featured as a “New & Noteworthy” release on iTunes in the spring of 2010. He is currently working on a full length studio album with members of Wye Oak, Arbouretum and the Baltimore Afro-beat Society. Smith’s most recently produced play, “It Ain’t No Sin,” premiered in Theater for the New Citys’ Dream Up Festival in August, 2010.
Smith writes, “Theater for the New City has given me a unique opportunity to put together a big show on my own terms at a historic theater in the heart of downtown New York. The creative freedom and artistic license they are allowing me in pursuit of my vision is incredibly liberating.”
Director Isabel Milenski’s career began at Long Beach Opera with the production of Iacopo Peri’s “Euridice” at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of opera in 2000. Other productions with Long Beach Opera have included “Jenufa,” Milhaud’s “Trois Operas Minutes,” the West Coast premiere of Richard Strauss’ comic masterwork “The Silent Woman,” Virginia Woolf’s only play, “Freshwater,” along with Handel’s “Semele.” Ms. Milenski is the Artistic Director of Hofstra Opera Theater in New York.
This year “Don Giovanni” marked the third opera she has produced and directed at Hofstra. Earlier productions include Monteverdi’s “L’incoronazione di Poppea” and Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus.” Ms. Milenski made her Lincoln Center debut directing Juilliard’s “The Marriage of Figaro” in 2010. Other productions include “Cosi Fan Tutte” and “The Turn of the Screw” at Cincinnati Conservatory, which won a National Opera Association award. In Cincinnati she also co-directed Argento’s “The Voyage of Edgar Allen Poe.” She has also directed a pyro-techic-filled rock opera, “The Fire Odyssey,” an adaptation of Homer’s “Odyssey” in collaboration with The Crucible in Oakland, California. Other productions include Smetana’s “The Bartered Bride,” Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene,” “The Pirates of Penzance” and Ravel’s “L’enfant et les Sortileges” for Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids.
Milenski was awarded the Directorial Fellowship from San Francisco Opera’s Merola program in 2003 where she has returned in consecutive years to teach and direct. Her innovative approach to training singers dramatically takes her across the US. She has taught and directed for the San Francisco Opera Center, Cincinnati Conservatory, Penn State, The Juilliard School, and will join the faculty of Manhattan School of Music’s Summer Voice Festival this summer.
Caleb Stine (Music Director) is an independent artist based in Baltimore, Maryland. From 2006 to 2011 he has self-released five albums. During that period of time, Stine and his ensemble group The Brakemen recorded two CDs, toured and served as the house band for the successful series Stoop Storytelling at Baltimore’s Center Stage Theater. Their live shows featured an electric blend of American Roots music that The New Yorker dubbed “steady and powerful.” In 2008 Baltimore Radio station WTMD paired Stine with the rapper Saleem Heggins for a documented songwriting collaboration that culminated in the album “Outgrown These Walls,” which The Baltimore Sun called “truly compelling.” Stine provided the musical score for two documentaries and an independent feature. Stine is the host of “Round the Mountain: Acoustic Roots.” In its four-year run this annually sold-out concert series has featured numerous regional folk musicians.
Sarah D. Seely (Choreographer) is the Artistic Director of From The Desk of Sarah Seely, a dance theater troupe, and the Company Manager for “Woody Guthrie Dreams.” From 2001-2004, Seely acted as the founding director for the Baltimore-based dance company called movement/addiction. In only three years, movement/addiction performed in such prestigious venues as The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Hippodrome Theater, and The Patterson in Baltimore, MD as well as The Publick Playhouse and Dance Place in Washington, DC. In 2004, Seely’s evening-length work, “blink twice” which combined dance with motion sensors and interactive video appeared in its entirety on Maryland Public Television and Seely was interviewed about the process of combining dance with computer technologies by FOX news. After moving to New York in 2005, Seely began her dance theater venture, From the desk of Sarah Seely, which was recently the subject of a documentary film by RADAR and The Workbook Project. For From the desk of Sarah Seely, Seely wrote and directed “How to Disappear Completely” (Creative Alliance, Baltimore, MD, Merce Cunningham Studio, NYC and Triskelion Arts, NYC), which was heralded by the Baltimore City Paper as “the political love child of theater and modern dance”. In 2010, Seely collaborated with producer, Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith and ragtime pianist, Ethan Leinwand to create “So Mr. Person, how did you do it?” a dance theater drama about corporate layoffs, which had a sold-out run at The Joyce SoHo.
Recently returned to New York City from touring her solo show, “Which brings me to you…,” Seely produced “It Ain’t No Sin” by Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith in Theater for the New City’s Dream Up Festival last season.
Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith will play the title role of Woody, Jennifer Restivo will play Majorie, and Caleb Stine will play Cisco Houston. The supporting cast members are Ben Curtis, Kelvin Hale, Erica Lutz, Stephanie Wright Thompson, Benjamin Jaeger-Thomas, John Gray, and Oona & Aimee Laurence.
Choreography is by Sarah D. Seely. Set design is by Jian Jung.
“Woody Guthrie Dreams” will play at Theater for the New City from September 8 to October 1, 2011. TNC is located at 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th streets) near the L train stop on 1st Avenue, the 6 train stop at Astor Place, and the N/R trains at 8th Street. Shows are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00PM and Sundays at 3:00PM. Tickets are $20 Thursdays-Saturdays and on Sundays you pay want you can. Visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net to purchase tickets or call the Box Office at (212) 254-1109 for ticket reservations.