Woody Sez Plays Israel!

[Note: An earlier headline suggested that our Helen Hayes Award winning show was “Making Aliyah” – or emigrating – to Israel.  But this trip is more of a Birthright voyage; a first tour for most of the troupe; no plans have, as of yet, been announced to relocate permanently!]

The acclaimed theatrical portrait Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie stopped in at Theater J last November on its trip around the world, winning co-writer and lead actor David Lutken a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actor in a Non-Resident Production. Woody’s warm reception here in D.C. prompted us to welcome back David and the rest of the cast for a return engagement of Woody Sez at Theater J from Nov. 29 through Dec. 14. We’ve been tracking the show’s triumphant tour of the globe, which is culminating this month in its first Israeli tour, playing in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa through the rest of August. Theater J Artistic Director Ari Roth will be traveling to Israel next week, catching the play in Tel Aviv at Tzavta Theatre before its return to the States.


In a terrific article in The Jerusalem Post last week, testifying to Israel’s identification with this quintessentially American story, David Lutken recounts the many different musical traditions that influenced him in his childhood. “I had some wonderful teachers at school” in Texas, Lutken remembers, “and we sang many songs of all different derivations – folk songs of the southern United States, northern United States, England, Ireland, Russia, all kinds of different things.”

The article also discusses the links between Guthrie and the Jewish people, citing his relationship with his Jewish second wife, Marjorie Mazia Guthrie, and her mother: “Back then Jewish culture was interwoven with music, modern dance, poetry and anti-fascist, pro-labor, classic socialist activism. Guthrie was inspired to write songs that came directly out of this unlikely synergy with his mother-in-law, and he saw similarities between the difficulties experienced by Jews and those of his fellow Okies and other oppressed peoples.”

Woody actor/musician Andy Tierstein, also quoted in the story, noted:

“Woody even took classes at Brooklyn Community College to learn more about Judaism. He and Marjorie used to go to [mother-in-law] Aliza’s house in Coney Island for Shabbes. During that time, he would sing in Jewish community centers and wrote songs about Hanukka and Jewish history.”

We are so excited to bring Woody Guthrie’s music and legacy back to a Jewish community center and to help keep his message of hope alive in our times.
Read the full article in The Jerusalem Post here: http://bit.ly/14uv6j4.