News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Greater Akron Chamber

Hennes Paynter Communications

Don Drumm Studios


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Arts and Entertainment


One Night With Janis Joplin
One of the first women of rock comes back to life in Playhouse Square
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
The actual Janis Joplin is on the show poster
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

In the 1990’s the younger sister of Janis Joplin approached a theater writer/producer about a musical based on letters from the rock star. The play “Love, Janis,”  debuted in Denver and was later developed at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1999 before it went on to become a hit off-Broadway. This year, the Playhouse is at it again, developing a new production that is attracting theater executives from around the country.  WKSU’s Mark Urycki reports on the new musical, “One Night with Janis Joplin.”

Audio story

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (9:17)


(Click image for larger view.)

Janis Joplin first played Cleveland in May of 1969 at Public Hall.  She returned to the area and performed at Blossom Music Center in August of ‘69, less than two weeks after Woodstock. That was her last time in Northeast Ohio. 

Joplin died of an accidental drug overdose in 1970. The closest thing to a return engagement has been going on this month at the Cleveland Playhouse’s Allen Theatre. In this case, it was Laura Joplin again with the idea.  She and brother Michael approached writer-director Randy Johnson about a new tribute.

“I was listening to “Piece of my Heart” and "Summertime" when most kids were listening to Mary Poppins.  So It was a thrill to meet them; I went away and that night they sent me some material on Janis that no one had ever read or seen before.  It hit me about four days later what the show should be : a celebration of her life and legacy.”

The evolution of letters from Janis
The earlier version, “Love, Janis”, featured an actress reading Joplin’s letters and another singing. In contrast, “One Night” has the singer talking to the audience in between two dozen songs as if in concert.  Johnson says he wrote about half the words and the other half came from Janis herself.  He says the family told him not to read biographies but read to Janis’s own material…

“I would actually send them every page I would write for them to vet so at no point I could never be questioned by the press that I wasn’t telling the truth.  And one day Laura Joplin finally said to me ‘My sister is your head. You don’t  have to send me this material anymore.”


 Blues and soul
“One Night with Janis Joplin” debuted in Portland, Oregon, last year. But since then, Johnson has trimmed a half hour of what he calls “excess material” and changed the ending.

Playing the lead in Cleveland is 33-year-old Mary Bridget Davies, the Cleveland native who also portrayed her at the Hanna Theater with “Love, Janis” in 2005.  Davies like the music choice even more with this play.

“It’s way more up my alley of what I loved about her and her songs… As her career progressed she was turning into a soul singer.  Blues, soul singer, and that’s what I love and those songs just lend to it.   There’s a lot more depth there so you can really pull the audience in with you  and experience it yourself because if I’m not buying it no one is going to buy it out there.”

The Fairview Park native Davies says she first heard Joplin when she was about 5 years old.

“I remember it was ‘Piece of my Heart’ and I was jumping up and down on the couch.  I screamed along with it.  I was so excited I was allowed to be that loud in the house.”

Davies has more than stage experience with Joplin. She just finished touring Europe singing with Joplin’s first band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Johnson and Davies have seen Joplin’s own possessions at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

“It was actually quite moving to see the glasses and the beads and her hand-written lyrics for Kosmic Blues.’  It was quite and experience.”

A painted Porsche
Davies took photos of Joplin’s Porsche with surviving members of Big Brother.

Coincidentally, just before that psychedelic painted Porsche got to the Rock Hall, it was used as a stage prop in the 1994 debut of “Love, Janis” in Denver.   

One touching letter by Joplin at the Rock Hall was to her mother.  The rock star wrote  about sewing her own stage clothes.  Johnson says he used her own drawings to make costumes for the play.

Bessie, Odetta, Nina and Aretha
In between songs “Janis” address the audience about her influences: Bessie Smith, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin.  Sabrina Elayne Carten has to pull off the remarkable task of portraying all of those women in the character of “the Blues Singer.” Johnson says he wanted the audience to hear those influential songs.

“Janis would take one of Bessie’s or Nina’s or Etta’s songs and turn them into her own. So you can hear the original version and hear what Janis turned it into.“ Johnson also uses a song that Jerry Ragovoy wrote for Joplin that she was planning to record but never did.  "I'm Gonna Rock My Way To Heaven" closes the show. 

“One Night With Janis Joplin” has been attracting theater managers from around the country as the show is expected to go on the road. Its final performance at the Allen Theater is Sunday and then it plays in Washington, D.C., next month. 

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Ohio lawmakers propose grants for home construction for disabled people
We have been trying to have a "Visitability Bill" passed for years. Thanks, Greg

Lake County crimes may give Trump immigration fodder
Shoddy reporting at best. "Mixed views" The question that came to my mind was, "How many people did he have to interview to get "mixed views". Do the two peo...

Ohio's U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announces plans to improve Medicare by lowering prescription costs for seniors
Sounds good. I'm living in Florida to escape the snow. So far it's working. I retired from GM in 2000. Keep pushing for all the working people. In the long run ...

The tiny town that time, and elections, forgot may go out of existence
Thank you for this story. I grew up in Limaville, my parents home is there still...unsellable due to the septic/sewer problem. Sometimes I am sorry I left...wis...

Where Ohio'sJohn Kasich stands in the presidential polls
We are fans of Gov. Kasich since he served in the House of Representatives. It pleases us to finally see him as the potential President of the United States. We...

Cleveland hosts the first national Movement for Black Lives conference
What a wonderful experience this was, So much love and understanding, without all of the other distractions that tend to come with organizing for change, this e...

Air Force unit gets training and Youngstown gets rid of some eyesores
Do they have to totally destroy all the beautiful oak and leaded windows, which I am thinking are probably there? Do they just have to destroy them like that? C...

Jewish challah and Native American fry bread at an Akron cultural exchange
Each time I saw the young students relate to each other, I got goose bumps. These young students can and hopefully will teach all of us to live and respect eac...

One of the Cleveland Orchestra's most celebrated musicians bids farewell
I had the honor of studying with Franklin Cohen in the late 80s and early 90s. He is unparalleled both as a clarinetist and as a musician. His deep personal war...

Summa's dress code is not 'etched in stone'
SOME OF THESE POLICIES ARE A COMPLETE JOKE. UNLESS YOU ARE DOING THESE TYPE OF JOBS EVERY DAY, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IS COMFORTABLE AND REASONABLE OR NOT. UNLESS ...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University