By Harry Duke
The Raven Players bring live outdoor entertainment to downtown Healdsburg with their production of Woody Guthrie’s American Song: A Truly American Musical. Peter Glazer’s adaptation of the writings and songs of “America’s first folk poet” runs this weekend, through July 10.
Raven Players founder Joe Gellura is leading the production, which is not a traditional musical biography or “musical jukebox”. “Guthrie wasn’t much of a musician,” Gellura said, “He admitted he had flown liberally in the old Appalachian and Irish tunes of his youth. The power is in What he said. He was writing in a time of turmoil that makes today’s headlines sound like tired groans. Some of his song lyrics read like an investigative piece from the Democratic Press. He wrote about people trying to reach or keep a place in the large middle class that drove the engine of our economic successes.
No actor plays Guthrie. Instead, three performers (Matthew Witthaus, Tim Shippey and Hans Grin) provide the folk poet’s voice at different stages of his life. Five other performers (Cecelia Brenner, Molly Larsen-Shine, Grace Warden, Lindsay John, and Tika Moon) play various hobos, Okies, saloon keepers, and others that Guthrie has encountered along the way.
Several of the cast double as musicians and join Karl Byrn, Carolyn Dixon and Kendra Levitan in bringing familiar Guthrie tunes such as “Bound for Glory”, “Pastures of Plenty” and “This Land is Your Land” to life. . The instrumentation is folk – harmonicas, banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass, violin.
After two pandemic-related postponements from its original scheduled November 2020 opening, Martin still feels the current political environment adds to the show’s relevance. “As we see the rich, the powerful, the old boys network continue to restrict, or simply blatantly steal our rights, it is important to remember that this land is truly our land, it belongs to you. and to me, no matter our color, religion, political beliefs, gender or sexual identity.And in the true spirit of Guthrie, freedom and equality are always worth fighting for.
‘Woody Guthrie’s American Song: A Truly American Musical’ runs through July 10 at Healdsburg Plaza, Matheson St and Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg. Fri-Sun, 7:30 p.m. Free general admission (bring your own chair/blanket). $25 VIP seats available. 707.433.6335. raventheater.org