For any of us who spent our elementary and middle school years taking a music class in school anytime after 1945, we probably spent some moment singing Woody Guthrie's folk song "This Land is Your Land."
And if you've forgotten all about Guthrie, who died at age 55 in 1967, a local talent is bringing back his memory and music to Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana this month.
I'm glad reader Patti Hiemstra, of St. John, sent me this reminder:
"Hi Mr. Potempa, I'm from the Lake Central High School class of 1978. Our class, and the years prior and subsequent, have given rise to some great theater success stories. One of our thespians is bringing his one-man show home to the region in October. His name is Randy Noojin and in addition to his acting abilities he is also a playwright. Look at his resume. He has roles on television's 'The Good Wife' and 'Boardwalk Empire.' In high school, he was so incredibly talented and well-rounded that we always knew great things were in store for him. His stage show is called 'Hard Travelin' With Woody' and it tells the story of Woody Guthrie, folk singer and songwriter. 'This Land is Your Land' is his most famous work. Your readers, especially the Tri-Town readership, grew up with Randy and would be so interested in reading about his story. Thank you in advance. Sincerely, Patti Hiemstra, St. John"
Thank you for your reminder Patti.
This is a good chance to also remind readers about another "Woody" inspired show by Nick Corley, called "Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie," a 90-minute production now playing at the large Equity theater space north of Chicago called Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, Ill., until Oct. 21. Tickets are $25 to $60. FYI: 847-673-6300
But for a closer option, I've just discovered L' arc en Ciel Theatre Group, directed by Paul and Angie Lowe who bring the region's best dinner theater to life in Cedar Lake, have added two special performances, 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Oct. 21 for our own region claim-to-fame Randy's "Hard Travelin' With Woody" show.
Randy will be performing his show for the Lowes as a benefit fundraiser for LCTG. I'm told the Lowes had the privilege of seeing their graduate perform his show at the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre in August in North Carolina.
Randy holds a master's in fine arts from the University of Iowa's theater department, where he was featured in the Playwrights Workshop. He's also taught playwriting classes at Iowa. The feature film based on his play, "Unbeatable Harold," premiered on Showtime in 2011, starring Dylan McDermott, Charles Durning and Henry Winkler.
I'm told "Hard Traveling with Woody" is Noojin's own portrayal of "America's favorite son and a man of the people." Randy portrays Woody, who attends a union meeting in Oklahoma, where he tells his wonderful stories and sings his own haunting and heartfelt "Woody Guthrie" songs.
"Hard Travelin' with Woody" at LCTG features a dinner theater package at Great Oaks Banquets, plus a cash bar. Adult tickets are $32 and tickets for seniors are $30. Tickets for children up to age 12 are $25. Part of the proceeds are a benefit for LCTG, and a portion will go to the Cedar Lake Food Pantry. For details, call (219) 365-3197 or (219) 374-8000.
Here's what Randy tells me about his "Woody" shows: "2012 is the centennial of Woody's birth and the whole nation is celebrating his life and music. Although the show is set in 1940. It's very much about NOW. It's a fictional union meeting for striking mine workers in Oklahoma in 1940. It touches on foreclosures, unemployment, weather disasters and workers' rights."