Playwright Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith focuses on the last thoughts of Woody Guthrie in his new play with music, "Woody Guthrie Dreams," directed by Isabel Milenski, that will be presented by Theater for the New City from September 8 to October 1, 2011. As Huntington's Disease takes hold of his mind and body, Guthrie looks back on his life through dreams, revisits long-forgotten memories, and reminisces on his musical achievements, including the songs he played across the nation with Pete Seeger, Cisco Houston, and Lead Belly. He also revisits his whirlwind romance with Martha Graham dancer Majorie Mazia, his second wife. Guthrie battles his own fears, insecurities, and debilitating illness, all the while throwing himself into a wild attempt at creating a better world, one sung chorus after another.
As a witness to some of the most turbulent eras of the twentieth century, Woody Guthrie was pivotal in illuminating the American consciousness about contemporary sociopolitical changes through his music. In fact, music was the driving force behind all of Woody Guthrie's travels and endeavors. "There are several ways of saying what's on your mind...one of the mainest ways is by singing," he said. He saw the significance music had to inspire people, tell their stories, ease their hardships, and awaken social change. Guthrie believed, "A folk song is what's wrong and how to fix it." In the spirit of Guthrie's philosophy "Woody Guthrie Dreams" utilizes music as the primary channel of illustrating Guthrie's reflections and memories.
Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith began researching the life and music of Woody Guthrie in 2001. His investigation would take him to Oklahoma, Texas, and California, where he met Ramblin' Jack Elliot, widely considered to be the greatest interpreter of Woody Guthrie's music and referred to by Bob Dylan as "King of the Folksingers." In writing "Woody Guthrie Dreams" Smith made several visits to the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives in New York, where he met renowned folk music impresario Harold Leventhal. Smith also interviewed Guthrie's contemporary Pete Seeger. Smith conducted extensive research in the Smithsonian Folkways collection in Washington D.C., finding unreleased recordings of Guthrie's most frequent collaborator, Cisco Houston.
As an accomplished musician and actor, Smith and his long-time colleague, Caleb Stine (who will play Cisco Houston) have collaborated on the musical arrangements for "Woody Guthrie Dreams." Stine and Smith have developed lively and varied arrangements to 23 of Guthrie's most famous and most obscure songs. This historically significant music, which has inspired generations of musicians to follow, from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen to Wilco, is brought to life by an eclectic cast of twelve to the music of a full band, consisting of guitar, uptight bass, banjo, fiddle, and voice.
For mroe information, visit www.woodyguthriedreams.com or www.flanagansmith.com.
Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith (playwright) graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) theater program, starring in Aleksandr Ostrovsky's "Diary of a Scoundrel," a production that was the winner of the American College Theater Festival and was later staged at the Kennedy Center in 1997. Two years later Smith founded the Living Room Company, a theater group dedicated to performing dark and funny productions in nontraditional settings. From 1999 to 2005, the company produced dozens of works in warehouses, living rooms, kitchens, basements and rooftops. For the Living Room Company, Smith wrote, directed and produced "Fuck You! Let's Bake," a production which led to the creation of Food Network's "Ace of Cakes and "BOX," which played at the New York City Fringe Festival in 2001. Smith also starred in the company's "Rum and Vodka," "Smalltimore," "The Art of War," "Pig in Shit" and Peter Handke's "Kaspar."