PETE SEEGER’S THE INCOMPLEAT FOLKSINGER
The Incompleat Folksinger is an absolute delight from start to finish. I’m a huge Pete Seeger fan. I’ve read the book the show’s based on. I saw Seeger live – twice. This show did justice to who the man was, as well as what made him so wonderful as a live performer. The stories are interesting and intimate. Mark Hellman effortlessly pulls the audience into singing different parts of one song after another, without even seeming to try. This is a loving tribute to a great artist and a man of integrity. I left the theatre feeling inspired and bonded with everyone there. – TJ Dawe (author/performer MEDICINE, SLIPKNOT, BURN JOB, MARATHON)
Pete Seeger was a folk singer, social activist, and a key figure in the mid-20th century global folk music revival. He sang in defence of the poor, the oppressed, and the exploited; and always to enliven and encourage, to delight, and to tell tales. Pete Seeger’s The Incompleat Folksinger (adapted by Ross Desprez and Mark Hellman from the book of the same name, pub. 1972), shares, in Seeger’s own words and the music of many, his inspirations, his conflicts with bosses, government committees and the mass media, his favourite songs, stories, and instruments, and the kind of learning that comes from listening carefully. “Participation. That’s what’s gonna save the human race.” (P.S.)
This unique full-length solo performance combines theatre, story telling, music, and audience participation in the form of a huge singalong (for which Seeger was perhaps most famous), taking the audience on a journey spanning 35 years and featuring all or part of 29 songs. Seeger reflects on his involvement in the formative events of the 20th Century: the Great Depression and the Union Movement, World War II and the Cold War, his persecution by House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), his participation on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, protests against the Vietnam War, his advocacy for global peace and universal human rights, and the birth of the environmental movement. Along the way, we meet some of his greatest inspirations, including Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays, Leadbelly, Martin Luther King, and the love of his life, Toshi Ohta.
By singing along with the show, the audience in turn becomes other ‘characters’ in the story: from a small group of striking oil workers in Oklahoma City, to a bunch of soldiers jamming in a latrine in Alabama, to a thousand people jammed into a hotel ballroom in Israel days before the Six Day War, to half a million people gathered on the mall in Washington DC to protest the Vietnam War. By the finale of “If I Had a Hammer” the audience joins in as a mass choir, embodying the principle that Seeger lived through his life and art: “The Power of Song”.
Originally produced by the Other Guys Theatre Co. (Ladysmith, BC) in 2015
Performed by Mark Hellman. Directed by Ross Desprez. Musical direction by Tobin Stokes. Lighting design by Rebekah Johnson. Dramaturgy by Sandy Cumberland.
Overview Video – Act1/Act2 (11:45)
Bookings and Information: MARK HELLMAN 250-382-7048
REVIEW EXCERPTS 2015 – 2017
FIREHALL ARTS CENTRE, Vancouver, BC
…a beacon on the horizon that calls out to our better selves to respond, to act….this show, an old-style hootenanny, will get you humming and singing and clapping and tearing-up at just the right times: you’ll thank yourself for taking it in.
– Baird Blackstone, BrokenLegReviews(blog)
…Hellman shines…playing a five-string banjo and a 12-string guitar, and getting the audience to sing along with classics like “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, “Guantanamera”, and “We Shall Overcome”. Seeger fans and folk music die-hards will love the songs….I can’t remember a play that had me singing along so much.
– Kathleen Oliver, Georgia Straight
I loved this show….The play is not just about Pete Seeger, but about politics, folk music preservation, fascinating events in American history, and finding the courage to constantly be fighting for what you think is right.
METRO STUDIO THEATRE, Victoria, BC (premiere)
….beautiful tunes, accomplished storytelling and an immense heart… The Other Guys Theatre Company has a hit on their hands…I foresee a future of touring this production widely in North America and beyond, much as Seeger toured the world as the troubadour of generations of fair-minded people.
– Janis La Couvée (blogger)
….it’s so real. It became this huge singalong…I’ve never been to a piece of theatre like that.
– David Lennam, CBC Radio
... some seriously heavy lifting… Hellman approached it as a marathon rather than a sprint, imbuing some of the quieter moments with the poise of a pro…. The audience often joined Hellman in song, adding support to his banjo and guitar work on folk staples Union Maid, Wabash Cannonball and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. Hellman communicated Seeger’s folksy charm with a raised eyebrow or under-his-breath chuckle, but there was little in the way of acting on this night. Which isn’t to say Hellman wasn’t well-prepared: The amount of memorization needed to pull off this performance was exhausting to think about, let alone attempt.
– Mike Devlin, Victoria Times-Colonist
AUDIENCE COMMENTS, 2015 – 2017
FIREHALL ARTS CENTRE (Vancouver, BC)
“Never before – after the Saturday matinee performance of The Incompleat Folksinger by Pete Seeger, the audience erupted into song, and did their own encore! So incredibly wonderful and moving. A real tribute to the performance of Mark Hellman, and everyone involved in this splendid show!”
“….transcendent is the correct word for your show. We were all deeply engaged and moved by your performance…one of our members declared that every song had busted his heart open.”
“You were the epitome of Seeger and you recreated his times and struggles wonderfully. And we all sang along, some a little more successfully than others! A young theatre student next to me was enthralled. It was all new to her—what a great experience.”
“…very much a community-spirited audience, in response to the nature of this fine show. There was no fourth wall. Sing, Sing loud. Community and connection. We need this show!”
“…just wanted to say thank you for “The Incompleat Folksinger”. It is a lovely intimate journey within the spirit and music of Pete S.”
“We saw “Incompleat Folksinger” last night at the Firehall Theatre and loved it. Mark Hellman was perfect in the role and the writing was excellent. I grew up in NYC and went to my first Seeger concert when I was 13. At 16 I was a work camper at University Settlement Camp in Beacon, NY, where Pete and the camp counselors played folk songs for us every Tuesday evening (how cool is that!!). His father-in-law was the camp gardener. Singing with Mark last night brought the past alive and connected it firmly with the present. The show should be taken to a larger venue–or made into a TV version. Finally, children should see this show! The songs contain great ideals that children should be exposed to; they’re not overwhelming but they are memorable. Thanks for reading all this and thanks to you.”
MALASPINA THEATRE (Nanaimo, BC)
“Just wanted to send congratulations and thanks for a wonderful show tonight! It was so entertaining, instructive, inspirational and an amazing solo performance. What a tour -de force. Thanks again for providing the Harbour City Singers the opportunity to see and participate in the show…”
EVERGREEN CULTURAL CENTRE (Coquitlam, BC)
“We saw The Incompleat Folksinger by Pete Seeger, and what a great, great show….music is the great connector. Pete knew that, and as the things he sang about are going on now, (with different people starring in the same sad stories) music can bridge the gaps.”
UNO FESTIVAL OF SOLO PERFORMANCE (Intrepid Theatre, Victoria, BC)
“It was the absolute best theatre I have seen all season and I have season tickets to four companies and go to many other shows. FABULOUS !”
“I just saw one of the best productions I’ve seen in a long time. I LOVED The Other Guys Theatre Company’s production of The Incompleat Folk Singer; the staging was simple, effective; the singing was incredible and the story was even better.”
METRO STUDIO THEATRE (Victoria, BC, premiere)
“Just want to say how great your Pete Seeger production is. Mark did a fabulous job and the text and song selections were performed so well. My sister and I just loved this show. Plus we got to sing!!”
“I was there in the audience on Friday night, and loved every minute of it! And everyone I talked to in the audience…were equally delighted and impressed. Congratulations to you and all involved! I think you have a great show on your hands, and a very timely one. Pete lives on!” (Shivon Robinsong, Director GETTIN’ HIGHER CHOIR)
“I came home and my heart was so wide open, that I stood on my porch and as I sang those words “if I had a hammer, I felt all that inspiration flood through me. This, if anything…is tremendous service to the world. A show inspired by a man whose life service was about opening human hearts.”
“There were times when your spoken tone and timing sounded very much like Pete – closing my eyes it was very easy to picture him and feel the gravity of the life he was living. Congratulations…”
“Bravo last night…! Such an inspiring show, and I’m just buzzing from it. I’ll be looking this fellow up and his music now!”
MEANWHILE, WHEN NOT PERFORMING AS PETE SEEGER, MARK HAS A NUMBER OF OTHER PROJECTS OCCURRING SIMULTANEOUSLY:
ARTSTARTS – ARTISTS IN THE CLASSROOM ON LINE DIRECTORY
Short term workshops and long term residencies in schools in the CRD and throughout Vancouver Island. Mark is ready to assist with applications for funding and all other aspects of project administration. The following links will take you directly to the AICD–you can find Mark under ‘theatre‘, ‘storytelling‘, ‘Interdisciplinary‘ or ‘Vancouver Island and the Coast‘. More info on Applied Arts page.
TRACKS OF THE TROUBADOUR
Developed originally for BC’s 150th Anniversary as part of the festivities at the Royal BC Museum, TRACKS OF THE TROUBADOUR is a free-wheeling one-man musical tribute to the late, great folksinger and folk song archivist Phil Thomas. It is also a personal encounter with BC song writers, story tellers, history keepers and social commentators dating back 150 years, and a grand guided musical tour from the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver Island.
Listen to sample tracks here:
Introduction – Are You From Bevan? – Chief Douglas’ Daughter – Greenchain Blues – My Name Tis Vernon Fetterley
Mark entertains on a variety of instruments: guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, and even the occasional banjo–a hit with family audiences, private parties, schools and seniors residences. For more information go to contact page.