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Steve Krahnke
IU Department of Telecommunications

Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

IU, community members to present Woody Guthrie musical as benefit for local charities

WHAT: Woody Guthrie's American Song, a musical benefit for Mother Hubbard's Cupboard and Mental Health America of Monroe County
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 5, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 6, at both 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Church, 2120 N. Fee Lane.
TICKETS: Tickets are $15 and $10 (for kids and seniors) and are available at the Buskirk-Chumley Box Office at 114 E. Kirkwood Ave. or online at (click on "box office").

Jan. 26, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Members of the Bloomington and IU communities will come together to present Woody Guthrie's American Song, a family-friendly musical that shares some of folk singer Guthrie's life as well as key moments of American history.

Woody Guthrie event

Ticket proceeds from an upcoming production of "Woody Guthrie's American Song" will benefit two local charities.

Performances are Friday, Feb. 5, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 6, at both 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. All performances will take place at the Unitarian Universalist Church, and all proceeds will benefit Mother Hubbard's Cupboard and Mental Health America of Monroe County.

Woody Guthrie's American Song (adapted for off-Broadway by Peter Glazer in 1989) is a fully staged, multimedia production that combines Guthrie's own words -- drawn from his journals, letters and public statements -- with 23 of his songs, in what director Steve Krahnke calls "a vivid picture of life on the road, on the margins, or as Woody puts it, 'on the backside of your big city.'"

The audience meets a wisened Woody Guthrie who is reflecting on his life's journey of self-discovery, looking back at himself as the young folk singer who traveled from Oklahoma to Texas to California, trying stints as a radio personality, a New York City troubadour and political activist along the way.

The play features a live, six-member band, and a simple, evocative set that includes photographic projections from 1930s Oklahoma, Texas and California; early 1940s Oregon and Washington; and New York's "skid row" during the war years.

Krahnke, a senior lecturer in the Indiana University Department of Telecommunications who also directs the National Program Development for Radio and TV Services, said a number of local families star in the production. Twin brothers Bill and Darrell Breeden play Cisco Houston and Woody Guthrie; Laura and Maggie Jesseph play a variety of characters Woody meets on the road, while their brother, Charlie Jesseph (a current IU student), plays Guthrie as a young man, and their cousin John Jesseph plays mandolin in the band.

Six members of the Loftman/Cusack family perform in the show: Guy and Connie Loftman; their daughter, Eve; her husband, Sam Cusack; and his parents, George and Maryann Cusack, all play a variety of dust-bowl refugees, bar rats and migrant workers in the production. In addition, the cast features Jane McLeod, a professor in the IU Departments of Sociology and Human Biology and the director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Sociology; Laura Wanner, Mary Boutain, Licia Weber and Mitch Rice, the systems administrator for IU's Office of Public Affairs and Government Relations.

"Bill and Darrell Breeden tear it up in 'Don't Feel at Home on the Bowry No More' and Charlie and Laura Jesseph evoke an old time hootenanny radio show in 'Oklahoma Hills,'" said Krahnke, adding that the Loftman/Cusacks recreate an impromptu concert in a migrant worker camp with the iconic Guthrie songs "End of My Line" and "Grand Coulee Dam."

The entire cast joins in to sing the powerful "This Train is Bound for Glory," which tells the story of Guthrie's trip across Death Valley in a boxcar full of borax and "liars, cheats and big-shot gamblers." By the time they cross into California, the cast is in the midst of a full-blown thunder and lightning storm, with Guthrie exhilarated by all the change and calamity the world has thrown his way.

The band is directed by Dan Lodge-Rigal, and features Richard Torstrick, Matt Zink, John Jesseph, Mark Stonecipher and Kevin Reynolds.

More information

Woody Guthrie's American Song:
Mother Hubbard's Cupboard:
Mental Health America of Monroe County: