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The cast of “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” rehearses at the Liberty Theatre.

    The Hailey-based Company of Fools will kick off its 23rd season of theater programming in late June with a theme that harkens back to the heyday of American protest movements with “Woody Guthrie’s American Song,” an ensemble musical based on the famed singer-songwriter’s folk music and writings.

    Guthrie was a traveling minstrel poet known as “the people’s bard,” who wrote on his guitar: “This Machine Kills Fascists.” He was a legendary performer and activist for equality and justice during the McCarthy era.        Directed by Kent Thompson with musical direction by R.L. Rowsey, the production will run June 26-July 15 at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey.

    Guthrie influenced dozens of musicians, including Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Harry Chapin, John Mellencamp, Billy Bragg and Jerry Garcia.

    “He couldn’t stop traveling this country, listening to the working people and trying to understand the world around him,” said Thompson, interim producing director at Company of Fools. “He wrote what he saw with honesty and compassion.  He also was a great patriot—which for him included a healthy dose of protest.”

    “He was the voice of the people, expressing their goals and passions, their fears and frustrations,” Rowsey said.

    The play was praised by The Seattle Times as “an exuberant musical celebration of our nation, our history, and our shared humanity.”

    Peter Glazer wrote the play, which has been produced more than 100 times since its 1988 premiere. The play was arranged by Jeffrey Waxman, who was musical director at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, Calif., where the show was first recorded.

    The New York City production of “American Song” at the Melting Pot Theater Company received two Drama Desk nominations, among the many awards the show has received in its long history.

    Glazer has co-written, produced and directed numerous commemorative performances remembering the American anti-fascist volunteers of the Spanish Civil War. He sits on the Board of Governors of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives and served on the board’s Executive Committee for four years.

    The Company of Fools production of “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” will feature local actors Andrew Alburger, Chris Carwithen and Karen Nelsen, along with Matt Musgrove (from Los Angeles) and Tess Worstell (from New York).

    Production staff includes Lighting Design by K.O. Ogilvie; Costume Design by Maria Gerhardt; and Scenic Design by Company of Fools’ resident scenic designer, Joe Lavigne.

    “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” is presented in conjunction with The Center’s forthcoming BIG IDEA project “We the People: Protests and Patriotism,” which will include multi-disciplinary exhibitions on the theme of activism and protest throughout American history, from the Boston Tea Party to anti-slavery protests and the Vietnam War—and more recent protests for women, civil rights for African Americans and members of the gay community.

    On Sunday, July 8, immediately following the show, attendees can join a post-show backstage tour for a thought-provoking and fun discussion with the artists and enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about the design elements that went into creating the show.

    “Woody’s music starts something rumbling inside you.  Not sure what it is. But it’s real,” Rowsey said.  “We invite the audience to sing along during several songs in the show.”

    For more information or tickets, go to https://sunvalleycenter.org/companyoffools/current-season.

Tony Tekaroniake Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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