Arizona Theatre Company takes the audience on a journey across America through the legendary songs of Woody Guthrie in “Woody Guthrie’s American Song,” staged Nov. 27 through Dec. 18 at the Temple of Music.
The musical is directed by Randal Myler, who also brought ATC audiences “Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues” and “Love, Janis.” This is the show’s Arizona premiere.
“Bound for Glory,” “Nine Hundred Miles,” “This Land Is Your Land” — all Woody Guthrie songs about the open road, fighting for one’s rights and the beauty of nature.
“Now meet the man that brought them all to life,” ATC said in a release. “As he looked for work and his next meal, Woody sang the stories of a whole nation determined to survive the Great Depression.”
“Woody Guthrie’s American Song” is about “discovering and celebrating one of the great Americans who gave our country its voice and conscience,” the release said.
“Woody ‘lived his songs.’ A Dust Bowl refugee himself, he hopped the freight trains, worked and sang in the migrant camps. He traveled the country, listening and writing and working side-by-side with the people,” Myler said. “So, like Hank Williams, listeners sense a deep truth and deep honesty in the songs. A timeless honesty.”
Woody Guthrie was born July 14, 1912, in Okemah, Okla. In 1920, Okemah experienced a boom when oil was discovered nearby. Within a few years, the oil dried up and the town fell into a poverty that was to foreshadow the Great Depression. Soon thereafter, the Great Dust Bowl years forced thousands of farmers and unemployed workers west in search of work. Woody, living with his family in Pampa, Texas during this time, hit the road along with the other refugees. Thus began a life of wanderlust in which he lived with and learned from the working poor, putting their hopes and yearnings into song.
Guthrie found a measure of fame on the radio in California. He further developed his voice as an advocate for the disenfranchised.
From California, he headed to New York, where he met up with many political leftists who shared his ideals of fighting for the rights of the common man. In 1940, Guthrie wrote “This Land is Your Land,” reportedly as a response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”
‘Woody Guthrie’s American Song’
Songs and writings by Woody Guthrie
Conceived and adapted by Peter Glazer
Directed by Randal Myler
Nov. 27-Dec. 18, Temple of Music and Art
Tickets start at $35
Box office: 622-2823