Ever since my musical outlets all sort of collapsed this spring, I’ve been listlessly pacing in my one bedroom apartment wondering exactly what the hell I’m supposed to do. To be sure, I love my job (guitar tech) and my wife (hot redhead), not to mention the music I’ve already made (good) and the amazing instruments I work on day-in, day-out. (lots) Still, with no band and no shows, something just isn’t right in me, as if there’s a spark missing from my mind or a spring from my step. I’m sure you can relate.
So, when I got a call from my good friend Edd Key about a certain project he was working on, I promised myself I’d say yes no matter what it was–I just needed to get out there! Lucky for me, this one was a total no-brainer.
Edd invited me to participate in This Land, a production that draws from the writings and music of Woody Guthrie to tell a story that’s as much about the characters he created and what he witnessed as it is about the man himself. Acting, puppetry and live music all combine to weave a tapestry of rambling railways, lonesome choruses and dust bowl depression. Trust me: this show is brilliant.
Under the direction of Greg Carter, the cast and crew of this show have already pooled their collective talents to produce something rife with both substance and beauty. We’re only in our second week of rehearsal, and I can honestly say that this show is going to be at once inspiring and heartbreaking.
As I mentioned earlier, my role in all of this is as a musician, backing up the vocalists on acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, dobro, lap steel and a few other instruments as well as leading a couple of songs on my own. In total, there’s a catalog of 30 songs I’m learning, every one of them a national treasure.
Our rehearsals usually run 4-6 hours a day, 5 days a week–an intense workout! The sessions usually start with vocal exercises and time for hashing out songs, and sometime during the second hour the actors get to explore their scenes with Edd and I providing the musical backdrop. Thankfully, these people make it easy to keep up, with plenty of laugh breaks thrown in for good measure.
Every one of these cast members is professional and talented, but what really moves me is their kindness and sincerity. There’s a camaraderie that runs through these rehearsals, with everyone throwing in their ideas and reactions. There’s also a deep respect for the source material, and many of our sessions either start with or break down into a discussion of where Woody was coming from when he wrote a song or a journal entry. To be honest, I’ve never worked in such an open and encouraging environment; it’s a safe space.
I’m already so proud of what we’ve accomplished in this short time, and I can’t wait for all of you to see and hear this labor of love.
We start at Erickson Theatre Off Broadway on September 6th! You do not want to miss this one.
-Michael James Adams