The Wonderful World of WOODY

Something wonderful’s taking root in our theater. It’s not only the amazingly timely and timeless musical biodrama of Woody Guthrie’s life and times, Woody Sez. It’s more. It’s the way we’re moving from one splendidly realized show to the next. Something so satisfying about the way this current season’s unfolding. Although, to confess, as we go from show to show and strength to strength, it doesn’t feel all that different from last season’s hop-scotching from one great production to the next. But then again, I’m not impartial. I’m invested in everything! But everything can’t be wonderful always, can it? (Though that’s what we strive for!) So I ask, what might you be thinking of how our season’s been unfolding; has it really been so uncommonly good? Or is it business as usual at the theater? How special is Woody Sez, or am I just especially susceptible, in these days after the Hurricane, with its uncanny resonances to the Dust Bowl; in these days of intense economic hardship for so many, coupled with uncommonly divisive fissures in our society. Woody’s speaking loud and clear to me. Well, I’m eagerly awaiting your comments.

More deep impressions to follow from us, but now it’s time for you…

22 thoughts on “The Wonderful World of WOODY

  1. In continuing with my tendency find more than one theme in the plays we have seen, the most recent play “Woody Sez” continues this trend. Clearly “Woody Sez” initially fits into the theme of “The Ethics and Exigencies of the Artist” but it also overlaps into the other class theme, “Staging War: Impact & Aftermath”. It was very interesting to see how Woody Guthrie viewed the war through his lens as an artist in his music as well as his experiences with the merchant marines. It gives the audience another view of how World War II affected him and others.

    In comparing “Woody Sez” with “One Night with Janis Joplin”, there were a lot of similarities between these two “artist” plays. Although I initially thought that this play was not going to be as enthusiastic in terms of audience participation, after the play I was surprised on how the audience sang along with several songs, most notably the conclusion with “This Land is Your Land”. I also really liked their “audience participation” with playing the spoons on the first row’s knees.

    I really enjoyed this play, and even more so with the political jokes. They would have been funny to begin with, but especially in light of election week, they went over quite well, as noted by the cast. It definitely goes along with the notions that were expressed in the post show discussion that Woody Guthrie’s music and ideas are still relevant and continue to carry over into our time.

  2. Woody Sez: The life and Music of Woody Guthrie is a very interesting and educational take on the political and personal life of a historical spokesman. The characters did an amazing job personifying the real life historical figures. Even though I did not know much about the life of Woody Guthrie, it was easily relatable to experiences of the younger generation. During the post-production discussion audience members discussed at length how the past seems to come full circle. Also during the discussion, one gentleman had questioned, “Who is the spokesman for this generation?” It was at that moment that I began to think about who I view as a spokesman for our generation. There are many possible options, but as mentioned many come from our current world of hip hop and rap. Some of my favorite musicians make amazing political pieces that really speak to our generation.

    One of my favorite aspects of the production was when Woody’s childhood was discussed. It was very sad to hear about the mental health of his mother and how she had attempted to kill his own father and family in different fires. This sad nature reminded me of One Night with Janis Joplin when it was realized what a terrible childhood she led due to her peers. It is so interesting to learn the history of historical figures and what they overcame to become famous and to be remembered forever. I sincerely enjoyed the production and other productions of this nature because it is very educational and entertaining at the same time.

    • It is interesting you bring up that particular post discussion question: “Who is the spokesperson for our generation?” This question really resonated with me as well after the production. When another person responded mentioning hip hop and rap artists as the ones carrying the torch for our generation, I was a bit confused. I initially inquired which hip hop/rap artists could he be referring. As one who listens to hip hop and rap music, it’s important to understand that this is a large genre of music we’re speaking of. There’s mainstream hip hop and rap music that essentially objectifies women, glorifies thugs/drug dealers/gangsters, and commonly embeds a message that life is about fast money, cars, clothes, parties and “hoes.” This is not the music that resembles any work of Woody Guthrie, and I hope this is not the music that those who say hip hop/rap artists are the “spokespeople” of our generation are referring to.

      On the other hand, there is sub-genre of hip hop music that focuses on creating awareness and imparting knowledge; many refer to this sub-genre as conscious/political rap. It’s impelled by the conviction that fundamental social change comes through knowledge of self and personal discovery. Many would say our generation conscious rappers would include artists such Tupac Shakur, Lauren Hill, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Eminem, B.o.B or even J Cole. Unfortunately, the audience for this type of music is typically underground and the sales for this type of music are not nearly as lucrative as those in mainstream hip hop. So, when one mentions hip/rap music artists as spokespeople for our generation, I truly hope they are speaking of those in conscious rap rather than those in the mainstream. Personally, if one wants to refer to a rap artist carrying the torch for our generation, I would certainly agree that Lupe Fiasco does exactly that. It is very important to note this distinction though.

      • I’m glad this important distinction between mainstream hip hop/rap and non-mainstream was made. I do believe that many of the artists mentioned above are definitely carriers of our generation and “spokesman/women”. It is sad, however, to see that many of them have passed away or have been shun from mainstream music due to their controversial lyrics. As we saw in the play, Woody Guthrie faced many of this type of exclusion himself, yet he is still remembered as one of the most patriotic artists of his time. I am curious to know how many of the artists mentioned above will one day be remembered with such love and admiration.

    • This question does pose many interesting thoughts when you think about it. We are living with these inspirational songs all around us now and it is strange to think that someday we will look back and those songs will reflect some of the most significant times in our life. I think it it particularly interesting to look at our “spokesperson” from different genres. As an individual that listens to a lot of country, it is hard for me to consider rap or hip-hop musicians. At the same, I think that depending on what genre of music you are listening to, you will hear a different message, or a similar message that you connect with differently. The evolution of music since Woodie Guthrie has made this “spokesperson” distinction that much more difficult because there are so many individuals in the performance industry these days. I look forward to looking back on this realization and actually pinpointing an individual.

  3. Mind blowing… These two words were all that came to my mind as I exited the theater after viewing the play “Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie.” As one of the younger audience members I was particularly fascinated by the large variety of musical instruments that was played throughout the play. From instruments such as the guitar and banjo to the harmonica and mandolin, “Woody Sez” provided a musical experience like no other! This was simply authentic music; no form of technology, no auto-tune, nothing but the artist and the instrument! I truly appreciated the genuine music within the play because it is honestly something that is fading in the younger generations.

    Woody Guthrie was beyond doubt an influential figure of his time. In the midst of the Great Depression he was the brave voice that genuinely wanted to speak the truth; the truth about current state of American society. After having the opportunity to view both play productions, “One Night with Janis Joplin” and “Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie”, one could easily draw comparisons. Both plays explored the life and struggles of the artist through music. Another more interesting comparison I drew was the similarities in the lives of Woody Guthrie and the “Invisible Man”. One of the more thought provoking scenes in the play, in my opinion, was during the first act when one of Woody’s performances was suddenly cut short. The stage manager escorted Woody off the stage and told him “you’re getting paid to sing good songs like “God Bless America”!” Similarly in the play “Invisible Man”, the invisible man was reprehended for simply thinking. He was told “we hired you to speak not to think!” I believe this is an important comparison because it reflected the societal pressures of compliance with the status quo. Whether the time period was during the Great Depression or the World War II era, citizens who challenged the norms were negatively labeled as “nuisances” to society. Given the current election results I can genuinely say that I have never been more proud of these brave “nuisances” or “radicals”. Thanks to artists such as Woody Guthrie and other trailblazers, people in my generation are no longer intimidated by the standards of the status quo! We have and will continue to let our voices be heard.

    Woody sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie ended with Woody’s song, which is now one of America’s most famous and inspirational songs, “This Land is Your Land.” This production couldn’t have come at a better time than last week!

    • I thought it was really interesting that you compare Woody Sez with the invisible man. I only thought about the similarities in Woody Sez and Janis Joplin because the big components of the plays were music. But I loved how you made the comparison about the invisible man’s quote how “We hired you to speak not to think!” and Woody Sez’s quote about “You’re only allowed to sing songs like “God Bless America”!” This comparison also made me think about the social pressure in the past and not being able to freely talk about his or her thoughts. But Woody Guthrie and “The Invisible Man” both fought for the their rights and one could infer those effort and struggles might have changed the United States right now.

  4. The cast of Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie has been performing together around the world for over 20 years, and their performance demonstrates this. The music flowed beautifully with the script, the actors were relaxed in their roles, and the performance felt very organic and real to me at the same time. The plain, yet hard-hitting language used in Woody Guthrie’s songs made him an effective spokesperson at a time when poverty threatened a huge portion of the country’s people, especially those living in the Dust Bowl. His disillusionment with both political parties struck a chord with me, especially in the aftermath of a presidential election in which many Americans expressed discontent with both the Democratic and Republican parties.

    I instantly drew a connection between one of Woody’s songs, “Reuben James,” and Abram’s obsession with naming in Our Class. Woody sings, “What were their names, tell me what were their names? / Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?” Woody recognizes, as Abram does, that naming is an essential way to pay respect to those who die in tragedy and allow them to live on. Too many of those he traveled with were not called by their true names or adequately acknowledged; the term “Okies” was used pejoratively instead as a blanket term for those unfortunate enough to be caught in the dust storms. Much of Woody’s family tragedies also involved fire, much like the arson that engulfed all of the unnamed Jews in the village in Our Class. Calling attention to those names can occur through forceful letters and oration, which Abram used, or song and performance, which Woody used.

    The play’s structure compared most similarly with One Night with Janis Joplin, however. Both plays told their stories chiefly through music in a celebratory manner, while also taking the time to dip into the hardships and personal tragedies of the artists. Both also stressed audience engagement – the audience stood up and danced with Janis and Aretha, and Woody solicited audience members for coins in his hat as he sang. Breaking the fourth wall was a necessary device to help the audience feel truly included in the concert-like setting and feel comfortable with singing along to the music. Both plays also focused on the early years of the artists and their rise to fame, rather than exploring their later lives in detail. I found this a powerful way to portray both artists, since their childhood stories set the groundwork for the people and artists they would eventually become. I also thought the simple sets worked well in both productions. By keeping the focus on the artist instead of changing scenery, the music became a way to set the tone for the production.

    • I actually thought that was really interesting too, that he didn’t associate very well with either party. I wonder if he would feel the same today. But I did really like how he had his own ideas about what was just and fair, and was incredibly patriotic at the same time. I think artists like that are hard to come by. And I also thought the fire was a bit strange. I wondered if there was some symbolism there I wasn’t getting or just an odd coincidence. His mom’s involvement with fire during his youth I’m sure had a profound impact on his life.

  5. “Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie” was another exhilarating performance. I found it fascinating the way the play was arranged, with songs really telling the story and the words of Woody helping to explain his life. It is necessary to note the excellence of the musicians and their ability to play numerous instruments; this added to the thrill of the show and captivated the audience’s attention.

    It has been very interesting to see different performances delve into the theme of “exigencies of the artist.” “Woody Sez” really explored the early life of the artist and his travels as an adult and how that shaped him. I enjoyed the light-heartedness of the play, as it focused on the happier, more influential moments of Woody’s life and less about dark material. This connected the show more to “A Night with Janis Joplin.”

    The staging was simple and the set was unique, but it definitely conveyed the message and provided a nice background to tell the story of Woody. I especially liked the photos that hung on the stage. When the lights went dark at the end of the play and the images of Woody, his family, and the farm were lit up, I found it a fitting end. I thought it was great that we were left with a very real portrayal of Woody and lasting images to go along with the messages in the play.

    Finally, I found many of the direct quotes from Woody to be very moving and even telling of the time. It was interesting, however, to even see how these words connected to today. I also loved the numerous renditions of “This Train is Bound for Glory,” as the sung stuck with me and, to me, conveyed much about the play.

  6. Woody Sez is an enjoyable mixture of history and biography through and accompanied by the folkie and bluegrass musical goodness of Woody Guthrie. The set is not fancy and does not change—the key components of this show are the extremely talented players who can pluck tunes on multiple instruments, sing in delightful harmony and even add a little dance move or two to boot. Many (older) members of the audience sang along with multiple songs, and nearly everyone sang to “This Land Is Your Land”, beckoning for a little piece of the participation that Woody’s music narrates and beckons for. Mirroring this is the quote: “I realized the difference between wanting something to stop, and wanting to stop it”, a difference which of course has everything to do with action, participation.
    This show reminds one of the importance of music as a form of free speech for change and activism. The power it has to inform, excite, unite and uplift. Within the context of Woody and his compatriots it is clear that protest, activism and even radicalism can also be deeply patriotic and uphold the American value of freedom in a deeply complex and rich way.
    Many of the recurring themes of struggle that Guthrie’s music touched upon have parallels today, some closer than others. The following were a few I noted: the economic hardship of many American’s and the inability for politicians across the spectrum to address it thoroughly, the widespread joblessness and search for work that leaves many vulnerable—including vulnerability to companies that profit off of the poor, like payday lenders. Also, the plight and struggle of poor, migrant workers, the difficulties of poverty more generally, war and war profiteering, bank foreclosures. I would like to return for a moment to the theme of war: this was a new “side” that I had not seen much of in my theater going experience-namely, the side of the citizen in an invading country far from any of the actual fighting. This is such a common experience for Americans it was interesting to see the mixture of critical thought and confusion and empathy portrayed in the short address of the war. (Even though the show covers Guthrie joining the military, this was a very light coverage). One last comment on this portion, the song “The Sinking of the Reuben James” in which the player/musicians repeat the refrain, “Tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names,
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?”. This has an echo of the same defiant and personal remembering of tragedy that was expressed by Rabbi Abram when he listed his murdered family members by name.
    Prior to this play I had not realized the extent of the tragedy that plagued Guthrie’s life from his childhood until his own death. Learning of his own personal struggles helps to understand his empathy, sympathy and commitment to the struggles of many groups. Tragedy haunts Guthrie’s life, drives his connection to other’s struggles and fuels much of his prolific music and writing. It also spurred him to travel, to run from the tragedy within, and this led him to become involved with the political struggles and lives of others without.
    Overall this was a fantastic addition to the already impressive Theater J season. I enjoyed the show and I hope to make it down to one of the Sunday Hootenannies.

    • I think Kerry points out a key message from this play; music is more than just entertainment but also a medium to advocate change and critically evaluate society. This performance showed, through Woody’s music, the ability of music to, as Kerry said, “inform, excite, unite and uplift.”

      In watching the play, I focused on enjoying the music and did not pay as much attention to the theme of patriotism, even though it was quite evident. In looking back on this, I think the patriotic elements coupled with lyrics based in activism played a huge role in the show. Woody was more than just a musician, and as we talked about in the talk-back, he was a leader. I find it exciting to think about what musicians today will be seen as leaders and revolutionary in the music in the future.

      I would also like to commend Kerry for her extensive and very interesting connections between themes from the play and parallels today. I think Kerry accurately picked out some of the most important connections, including the economic hardship of many Americans. I believe it is necessary to try and connect this play to our time as it helps the audience engage in the material.

  7. Thursday night’s performance of Woody Sez was absolutely incredible. The combination of stringed instruments, song, and dance was an experience like no other. While I sat in the audience I felt like I had been taken back to the 20s where rap, hip-hop and techno had never even existed.

    Prior to this play, I was not familiar with Woody Guthrie or the many, many songs he produced. Despite my lack of familiarity, numerous times I found myself singing along and clapping to the beat of the music. I couldn’t help but praise the talented musicians on stage because it is so seldom that you see that type of music this day in age. It is actually quite sad that the majority of the bands in the 21st century use a computer to amplify their instruments and modify their voice. David Lutken’s performance, on the other hand, was a completely different story.

    Another aspect of the play that I really enjoyed was how timely the themes in Woodie Guthrie’s songs matched our present days lives. We still struggle with the loss of a loved one, the war, lack of jobs, and disease, and people still express this hardships through song, as Woodie expressed through his blue grass music. During the talkback one student mentioned how sad it was that we are still facing these same problems almost a century later, and I couldn’t agree more. It is quite startling to think that our country still faces the same obstacles and it really makes you question the problems we will face ahead.

    As I mentioned during our mid-term review, I would like to pursue this theme of “overcoming” and I think that Woodie is another great example to highlight in my paper. As we heard during the play, he lost his mother and two children of Huntington’s Disease and I think it is interesting to explore how those moments influenced the type of music he created at particular times in his life. Even through he faced some significant obstacles, he was able to turn those problems into something positive and create extremely inspirational songs that are still a hit today.

  8. Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie is a brilliant and entertaining show that cleverly structured Woody Guthrie’s songs to tell Woody’s life stories and history of that time. Compared to most of other plays that I have seen this fall, this show had a simpler stage setting and fewer actors. It was fascinating for me to see that all of the actors could skillfully play multiple instruments and sing beautifully, and they used the power of music to carry out the whole show.

    Woody Guthrie didn’t have a very happy childhood, and this resulted in his insecurity and his constant seeking for the meaning of his life. He spent his early year traveling and he had many opportunities to interact with working class people. Finally, Woody found his meaning and he’s going to use his voice, his music to advocate. One quote by Woody was very inspiring, “I want to sing my own song, follow my own voice.” I see a lot of similarities between the show Woody Sez and One Night with Janis Joplin, and one aspect I like about both of the shows is that they emphasized on the upper sides and inspiring moments in the two characters’ lives.

    All of the songs were very well chosen for the show and assisted to tell Woody’s life stories. I personally have never listened to Woody Guthrie’s songs, and I was really surprised that his songs paid so much attention to details in life. The song that left the biggest impression on me was “Dust Storm Disaster”. When I was listening to this song, I felt like I followed the music and travelled through the land that he described, and saw the scenes depicted in the song. I saw the dusty sky, I saw the crying children and I felt Woody’s anxiety and frustration. I recall from One Night with Janis Joplin that Janis said, “songs are feelings”. Woody Guthrie used his songs to express feelings and shared his feelings with the audiences.

    I love everything about this show, music, dance, humor, quotes, and the flow. Actors cooperated with each other very well. They used a lot of interesting instruments and instrument playing techniques to make the show enjoyable to watch. It is also very interesting to know that nothing was specifically written down in their script, like which note they should play or how they should dance. The show is based on some improvisation, and every night it is a new performance.

  9. Woody Sez is an experience that is aimed at being as informative as it was inviting. Upon entering the theater, I was instantly drawn to wonder about the subjects of the grainy black and white blown-up photos that hung above the stage, and my foot tapped subconsciously to the “twangy” tunes of the musicians who claimed they were warming up. That is how I began to slip into Woody’s world last Thursday. Through the story of Woody’s life it is clear that his art was fueled by his trials both as an artist and as a survivor of the Great Depression and World War II. Woody is singular as an artist for the eloquence and straightforwardness of his message through song. Woody Guthrie’s music has a beautiful kind of simplicity that allows his message to resonate with every person it reaches. This was apparent during the post-show discussion. I was surprised that Woody Sez was so warmly received by European of various nationalities despite the many songs that are laden with lyrics about American patriotism. Furthermore, although they are decades old, Woody’s songs about economic struggles also strike a chord with many Americans facing similar hardships today.

    There were a few details shared between the plays showcasing Woody Guthrie and Janice Joplin’s lives. Each show started with a warm inviting atmosphere that used music to wrap its arms around the audience and engage the listeners. Each play also showcased the trials of musicians and described their lives in artistic ways that kept the shows from being exclusively biographical. They also showcased multiple sets of extremely talented musicians to support the lead actor and add body to the music and story. Finally, both emphasized the feelings that are an integral part of the composition and performance of music and the power that lies in a soulfully sung word.

  10. In many ways I found this play, this experience, to be slightly distracting because of the multiple moving elements in the play. As beautiful a play as it was, I found the grandeur, the spectacle sometimes outweighing the story that the actors were trying to portray. I am not saying that I did not enjoy the play, not at all. I simply feel as though there were points during the performance when I was unsure whether to yell “hell yeah!” or let the actors keep moving forward with the performance. It was an odd bias I had during this full play. I was in awe of the fact that these actor/characters could sing the way they did, act in multiple roles, and play as many instruments as they could. It was awesome but I began to move in and out of the play thinking about how much effort was involved in learning all of the songs and cues for the play.
    It was at once a concert and a history of life in America from the 1920s to the 1960s as seen through the eyes and heard through the songs of Woody Guthrie. As we saw Woody grow up and face hardship, we too saw the difficulty America was having: Dust Bowl, Great Depression, WW2. And we similarly saw how these outside forces affected a single man and how he deals with it as a musician, a man, and an American. This story combined with the overarching political themes and songs to create a more interactive play than I was ready for. A damn fine play, but an unexpected one.
    As with many of the plays we’ve seen this season, this one had a protagonist, rather a cast, that broke the 4th wall and, at times, made an effort to include the audience in the spectacle, as seen during the scene in which a young Woody Guthrie is singing and begging for money on the street. All of this was so well crafty and warm, not pretentious, at the same time. It was somewhat interactive in a similar way that the Rocky Horror Picture Show was, except with none of the weird sci-fi sex stuff. There was a sense that in these interactions and asides to the audience Woody was a reflection of us as an American people.

  11. I really enjoyed this play! The timing was perfect, it wasn’t too deep or too light, and the music was good! I really enjoyed getting an exposure to an artist who I was extremely unfamiliar with. More than just turning me into a fan, I really began to respect the life of the very-real artist who wrote “This Land is Your Land.” The actors clearly loved their jobs and had a lot of musical talent to match their enthusiasm. I loved how they interacted with the audience and did tricks with their instruments. It really made me feel like they were having fun, which made me have fun too.
    This play is easy to compare to the play we saw a few weeks ago about Janis Joplin. While both plays used music to share the background stories of the artists, Woody Sez had a lot more political commentary, rather than introspective musing. The biggest key difference wasn’t in the plays themselves but in the audience members. I’m not sure if it’s the type of music each sings or the type of fans they draw, but Janis Joplin seemed to get the crowd more excited than Woody did, although not for a lack of trying.
    I wondered how well the play would have been received had Mitt Romney won the election, however. A large portion of the songs were in support of unions and had serious “99%” undertones. I’m not sure if it would have been received even better, or if some of the scenes in the play would have made for awkward political realizations. Regardless, it was certainly good timing for a patriotic play about a gifted song-writer.

  12. I really enjoyed this play! The timing was perfect, it wasn’t too deep or too light, and the music was good! I really enjoyed getting an exposure to an artist who I was extremely unfamiliar with. More than just turning me into a fan, I really began to respect the life of the very-real artist who wrote “This Land is Your Land.” The actors clearly loved their jobs and had a lot of musical talent to match their enthusiasm. I loved how they interacted with the audience and did tricks with their instruments. It really made me feel like they were having fun, which made me have fun too.
    This play is easy to compare to the play we saw a few weeks ago about Janis Joplin. While both plays used music to share the background stories of the artists, Woody Sez had a lot more political commentary, rather than introspective musing. The biggest key difference wasn’t in the plays themselves but in the audience members. I’m not sure if it’s the type of music each sings or the type of fans they draw, but Janis Joplin seemed to get the crowd more excited than Woody did, although not for a lack of trying.
    I wondered how well the play would have been received had Mitt Romney won the election, however. A large portion of the songs were in support of unions and had serious “99%” undertones. I’m not sure if it would have been received even better, or if some of the scenes in the play would have made for awkward political realizations. Regardless, it was certainly good timing for a patriotic play about a gifted song-writer.

  13. Last Thursday I had the opportunity to watch the play “Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie” with an amazing group of talented artists who not only added to Woody’s songs but also portrayed important figures in his life.

    The first time I heard about Woody Guthrie was when I saw him painted on a mural in Downtown Berkeley (California). The mural, which is part of La Peña Cultural Center, is titled “Song of Unity”. There, Woody is among many other artists and change makers who together represent the united struggle for social justice through art and activism. The mural combined artists from both North and South America including artists such as Victor Jara, Agusto Sandino, Bill Wahpepah and Malvina Reynolds.

    Although this play was mainly about Woody Guthrie’s life, his songs truly showcased the struggles and injustice that the American people were experiencing during a time of war and poverty. Even after they tried to censor his lyrics, he still stayed true to his music and with it gave voice to many of the families who were continuously forgotten. Even today, his songs resonate with the lives of current Americans and the struggles that our generation is having. Woody’s songs had and still have the power to create social and political awareness among Americans.

  14. It was nice to see elements of social justice incorporated into popular folk culture, and that music had a place in celebrating communitarian values and hope for a better world rather than more selfish or destructive themes. It makes me wonder about the potential of the arts for advocacy of certain issues, or an integral part of our culture and societal awareness. Too often when we talk about music or movies, I find my friends or classmates refer to it as intellectual property- art as dollars and cents rather than something bigger- something profitable to be sure, but not something solely for a profit.

    Hearing the international theme of workers sung was nice, and I was surprised to hear Scottish audiences knew the song so well to sing along. But I know that history wasn’t one big socialist sing-along either. Well, it’s true that the owners of radio stations and all kinds of people in power didn’t appreciate Woody telling it as it is. But what I’m more concerned about is how Woody’s place among leftist social circles changed over time; I’m sure he went through different phases of popularity during his life. It’s true that Woody says, “Right wing, left wing, chicken wing,” but I would have appreciated a deeper look into the the sense of confusion the actors/performers said that Woody experienced later in life. I don’t think Woody’s alone. Many of us are confused and alienated by politics or trends in political thought.

    The parallels between this show and One Night with Janis Joplin are clear. However, aside from just the format, I get the feeling that the central figures of both plays are similar in some sense. Janis only felt the love when performing before audiences; Woody was constantly traveling, traveling, traveling- to the detriment of his partners and family life. He seemed to be the quintessential wandering artist. A similar image is that of the mystic who is supported by the various communities he visits during his travels; and in exchange for room and board, he provides society with something it otherwise couldn’t produce. So we’re presented with this archetype of a person who has lived a great life- perhaps a life just as great as the ‘successful man’ but a life that would be unsustainable or a failure in the ‘successful man’s system. I do wonder how good a job our American society is at supporting our wandering artists who notice and express things others do not. The best-case scenario is encapsulated in a line of Woody Sez, “I used to work until I found something better to do.”

  15. Everyone’s comments have really seemed to reflect my sentiments on the play. I really enjoyed this production although I didn’t know anything about Woody Guthrie prior to attending. His life’s commitment to speaking out against the “oppressor” really resonated with me, and his values reflect a lot of my own values. As I said in the post-show discussion, it was particularly interesting to see this while being in DC and being involved in advocacy, seeing how the issues Woody fought in his time are still relevant today. In a way, it felt at the time very disheartening that we are still working on the same issues years later. However, thinking about it in the grand scheme, there still has been a lot of progress made, and certainly I agree with those who have said that progress happens cyclically in terms of the issues we as a nation and as a globe face. In a way, this reminds me of my experience watching Our Class, because it was depicting a horrific tragedy from several decades ago, but I personally was able to tie it into the mass atrocities I learn about at my job at an advocacy organization working to end crimes against humanity in Congo, the Sudans and Central/East Africa.

    I really enjoyed seeing Woody Sez because not only did I get to learn about an artist who I knew little about, despite his important role in many movements I support, but it caused me to think about my own role in the world. Despite Woody’s hardships with his mother, with money, and more, he remained committed to making the world a better place until the end. That inspires me and it was a pleasure to see that in a play, especially one with such lovely music.

  16. I thought the experience at “Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie” was like sitting in a fun lecture class because it was both educational and entertaining. I never heard about Woody Guthrie before but I heard his songs on radios and his songs sounded so familiar for some reason, especially the song “This Land is Your Land”. This play definitely made me more interested about Woody Guthrie. I loved how the audience reacted and interacted with the performers especially the old couple that was sitting next to me. They were holding hands and sang along to the songs they played. I thought it was very charming and for the first time I realized how powerful this theater experience is! It brings back memories, bond relationships, and provide serenity. What a great experience!
    At the end of the play, during the after-show, one of the audiences, an older gentleman, shed tears and shared how this play brings up memories. I thought Janis Joplin and Woody Sez are like time-machine that brings the audience back to 1950’s and I felt like I was accidently sucked into the time-warp and sitting at one of Woody Guthrie’s concert. As I saw the faces of the audiences it truly felt like the older audiences were turning back to their 20s and 30s and their enthusiasm was overwhelming.
    As I was exiting the Theater J, I thought about myself in the gentleman’s age and going to a play of my favorite artists. Today’s experience truly broadened my perspective towards the theatrical experiences and learned about American singer-songwriter, Woody Guthrie.

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