I’m tripping over the tangled roots of retirement again… and loving the stumbles. Some folks my age find themselves facing an uncertain future in retirement. They’re limited by their economic, physical and social resources. Their past is history and little on the horizon looks promising. So it’s not surprising that a lot of folks in that predicament turn back in time and try, in one fashion or another, to relive, revive or review segments of their yesteryears that brought them pleasure and pleasant memories.
Then there is another group of folks who feel they have their feet set solidly in the present but relish a return to times gone by and the adventures lived or imagined there. I’d put myself in that latter category. Like one of my favorite songs, ‘Across the Great Divide’ by Kate Wolf, I want to keep crossing borders and boundaries and explore past interests and loves.
I have always had a lifelong interest in folk music. First brought to my attention by the Kingston Trio then Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan, P, P, & M and a whole host of musical artists. Now that genre of music has branched out into a much wider umbrella called Americana music. Musical tastes have moved on with the decades and today what I consider good music might be akin to calling pen and paper ancient but still effective. Nevertheless, the music still touches me like no other.
Granted, there has always been a limited interest in old time music. But that narrowing of the audience has never dissuaded me from telling a story if I am truly interested in it. So it was about a year ago with the subject of folk music, retirement and unrequited love, lost and found. I decided to write a play loosely centered on the concept of new ‘old time’ music. I would call my play ‘Tangled Roots.’
Folk music or more aptly called ‘Americana music’ is as old as this country itself and before that the counties where our forefathers came from. It embodies the American spirit, the Great Depression, riding the rails, an awareness of civil and social causes long before the general public was able to grasp those attacks on freedom and liberty for all.
It includes but is not limited to:
Folk music, Delta blues, Chicago blues, Country Western, Swing, Hillbilly, Zydeco, Appalachian Music, and so forth. It is often bunched together under the title: Roots Music.
I was eager to explore this new kind of play. It would be an intermingling of singing, musical demonstration and an intriguing background storyline for the characters involved. It would be a concert, musical theory class and coming-of-old-age saga wrapped up in a small theater. Black Box would be perfect.
The storyline was simple enough. An aging folk singer who never quite made the grade in Greenwich Village finds employment elsewhere and abandons his dream as a singer-songwriter. He is now facing an undetermined future in his retirement. In his mind there is nowhere to go with his life. His fellow band members are of little help. They’ve grown tired of playing their sets at retirement homes, cheap bars and free summer concerts. There’s no money to be made and little appreciation from their mixed audiences. So along with the conundrum of one’s future life there are no encouraging signs on the horizon for the path presently taken. Add in the first inclining’s of romance and all the elements were there for my storyline.
So it begins and ends with my main protagonist. Music was his life back then and he wonders if he can go back to that carefree period when he was young and hungry and eager to take on the world. He can still play the guitar and sing the songs. He thinks he can still pen a tune if given enough time and coffee. Whiskey and wine won’t do it anymore.
He wants to explore this option but he is all alone. The other band members see a future only replete with repeat performances and shrinking audiences. Most of them would rather spend their mornings at the coffee shop and evenings staring at the tube. Then a mysterious woman steps into his life or at least the fringes of it and another layer of confusion, conflict and contrasting lifestyles is added to the mix.
There is a lot more work to do before my fingertips tap out ‘The End.’ Aside from workshopping the play to work out the rough parts, other production challenges abound. There is the challenge of finding an actor who can sing and play the guitar. Finding other actors who can back him up might even be even harder. Selecting a musical lineup that shows a good sampling of that musical genre will be daunting. Then there is the challenge of securing a small venue like a black box theater.
None of these obstacles changes the fact that the core premise of the play is sound. I believe there is an audience out there for my storyline. Now the fun will be to put the whole package together. I still believe that many folks still care about old time music. At least some of us old timers do.
Now I just have to prove it.