Sands Hall thrilled to sing Guthrie songs
Sands Hall graces the Nevada Theatre stage periodically in Foothill Theatre Company plays, either in a speaking role or as a director or a writer.
Since her college days at University of California at Irvine, the Nevada City actress hasn’t been in a musical; that is, until tonight, when Foothill Theatre Company previews “Woody Guthrie’s American Song,” which opens Friday and runs through April 11.
“My first one and only musical was in college, “Kiss Me Kate,” Hall said Monday. Although Hall sang in folk venues when she lived in New York City during the late 1970s, she has concentrated since then on acting in nonmusicals and writing novels and screenplays.
“When this show was being considered a year ago, I thought ‘no, no, I won’t do it, I want to focus on writing,'” Hall said. “I wanted to concentrate on my new novel. Then (the play’s director) Lynne Collins asked me to go with her to Sac State last December to see ‘Woody Guthrie’s American Song.’ What happened is I sat there and tears rolled down my face. I decided then I had to do it. My heart pounds to this music.”
That’s because she heard songs by such musical legends as Guthrie, the Weavers, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez during her childhood.
“My parents were good old-fashioned, left-wing liberals. These are songs of the people, very much a part of my upbringing,” Hall laughed.
Since January, Hall has spent about two hours a day practicing the songs in addition to the six-day-a-week rehearsals with the “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” ensemble.
“I’m very glad I got started early. This show is such a beautiful testament to an extremely important person of the 20th century,” Hall said.
The musical tells two stories, according to Hall: the story of Guthrie and the story of a troubadour, someone who has to sing songs and write songs.
“He had something urgent to say about people forced out of their homes, just like the ones you and I have today. They were forced to be incredibly poor. He felt so powerfully about what that would do to a soul, the ache of losing one’s home,” Hall said.
“There’s a great quote. Woody says, ‘Unless we do hear the work songs, war songs, love songs, dance songs of all people everywhere, we are most apt to lose the peace and this world along with it.’ “
Hall is moved by Guthrie, especially his passion to represent all unrepresented people, and his fight with Huntington’s chorea, which took his life far too early. (Guthrie died when he was 55.)
As for being on stage singing as opposed to a speaking part, Hall is having a great time.
“It’s just joyous to raise your voice in song, and we hope that the audience will raise their voices in song with us. I think the audience will be moved to sing, as I was.”
“Woody Guthrie’s American Song” opens Foothill Theatre Company’s 2004 season at Nevada Theatre.
Adapted by Bay Area theater artist and teacher Peter Glazer, the musical features the music and writings of folk legend Woody Guthrie, a perennial champion of the American laborer. Twenty-five songs are heard in “Woody Guthrie’s American Song,” which debuted in 1988.
The Foothill Theatre Company cast includes Hall and Stan Thomas-Rose from Nevada City, Sam Misner from Petaluma, Megan Smith from San Francisco and Victor Ballasteros from Mill Valley. The band is composed of local musicians Rick Toles, Barry Angel and Rudy Darling.
Wednesday’s “pay-what-you-can” performance at 7 p.m. will benefit the nonprofit Hospice of the Foothills. Tickets for this night only cannot be reserved. Tickets can be purchased starting at 5:30 p.m. at Nevada Theatre; audience members determine their own admission price.
KNOW & GO
WHAT: “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” presented by Foothill Theatre Company
WHEN: Friday through April 11. Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Preview tonight at 7.
WHERE: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., in Nevada City.
ADMISSION: $19 Thursdays and Sundays, and $23 Fridays and Saturdays. Preview performance is $12. In addition, $5 seats and discounts for seniors, children 6 to 12 years of age, students and groups of 10 or more are available.
INFORMATION: Foothill Theatre Company box office at 265-8587.
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