Notes from Meropi and Beto: Ice Factory Festival 2019: Songs About Trains

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“Wabash Cannonball”
Listen to the jingle
The rumble, and the roar

Beto: I really love this song. It’s such an iconic train song, and maybe the most identifiable one that is in the show. When we were thinking about the part of the show that is about what you would expect when you come see a show called “Songs about Trains”, it was pretty obvious to me that this is where Wabash should live. And I really loved how we played it! 

Meropi: Early on in the process of making this show, I was obsessed with trying to use onomatopoeia in the songs and music - in other words, having people actually make sounds that resemble the chug of a train, or a whistle within the song lyrics. That idea quickly fell away, but this is the one song from that category of train songs we were playing with that stayed in the show!
It also just has a ton of words which you have to sing really fast, which is always a fun thing to see performed onstage. :)

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“Poor Paddy”:
In eighteen hundred and forty-one
My corduroy breeches I put on 

Beto: I first learned this song from listening to The Pogues but it is one of the oldest songs in the show, from the 1850s if not earlier. There is something about how this song mixes tragedy and humor. How it laughs at working yourself to death and even then, you get no relief. In many ways, it’s the quintessential train song. And I get to play my bodhran in it, which is one of my favorite instruments to play!

Meropi: I love the way this song changes tempo throughout. In addition to mirroring the melancholy and physical exertion of the workday, it creates a great sense of anticipation and dramatic tension onstage!

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“Lonesome Train”
Lonesome train on a lonesome track
I’m going away ain’t coming back

Beto: When we first started playing around with the idea of doing “Songs about Trains”, a part of the reason I wanted to do it was to play fun music with fun people. This crew right here, we had a hell of a fun time playing these songs, and the opening is a great moment when you see that happen. “Lonesome Train” is just a blast.

Meropi: And a great concert-style opener to the show!

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“Rock Island Line”:
If you wanna ride, you gotta ride it like you find it,
Get your ticket at the station to the Rock Island Line

Beto: Way up there on the list of my favorite moments in this show, and favorite songs, has to be the “Rock Island Line”. There is a reason why we are stomping and clapping and smiling in this photo. It’s also a great example of the subgenre of train songs that are about specific train lines, and how they connect with people, communities, and cultures. It’s a very iconic train song, and I see lots of folks clapping along with us!

Meropi: This is one of the few call-and-response songs in the show. While call-and-response has deep roots in African and African American musical tradition overall, it has specific significance to train music. The “caller” or leader of a section gang (a group of railroad workers), would sing a call, and the workers would respond on a specific rhythm while completing a very difficult physical task. The section gang would use the music to unify their strength toward a single goal, and to stay in solidarity with each other, making sure nobody would be seen as working the slowest. The section gangs who sang these songs became known as gandy dancers.

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“Poor Paddy”
I was wearing corduroy breeches, digging ditches
Pulling switches, dodging pitches
I was working on the railway

Beto: It’s a special kind of theatre nerd that gets excited about being in a show like “Songs about Trains”. You have to act, sing, move around, and in some cases, play an instrument, maybe more than one…and you have to be excited about the fact you are going to do so. Erica Huang played four different instruments in the show, and rocked them all! We had a lotta fun playing Poor Paddy together. She is my kind of theatre nerd.

Meropi: This is one of the few songs that actually talks about some of the tasks railroad workers had to do. I love the story-songs that actually tell us about the lives of the people who worked the tracks!

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“Work Medley/Drill Ye Tarriers”:
And when next payday it came around
Jim Goff a dollar short was found
When he asked, “what for?”, came this reply
“You were docked for the time you were up in the sky!”
And drill ye tarriers drill

Beto: The moment that Brittany Grier joined the team it was like “damn.” The show just started to go into overdrive. This section of the show is so incredible and I love they way the energy flows between us and focuses on Brittney whose movement is an abstract take on the ideas of physical labor and exhaustion.

Meropi: Our Movement & Rhythm Specialist, Joya Powell, has been with the show since the beginning and brought Brittany into the project during a workshop earlier this year. Together they devised a movement score that brought a whole new dimension to the performance. Brittany is also a member of Joya’s company, Movement of the People Dance Company [hyperlink] - be sure to check out their amazing work!

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“I Hate that Train Called the M&O”:
When he was leaving
I couldn’t hear nothing but that whistle blow
And the man at the throttle
Lord he wasn’t coming back no more

Beto: This song always brings down the house. There is something about a good, classic blues song, that it hits your blood from the moment it starts.  It’s one of the most important musical contributions the U.S. gave to the world and influenced pretty much every musical genre in his country that has come sense. Remi really grabbed that idea, and the audience.

Meropi: It’s also somewhat rare to have a song from a female perspective about trains. Yes, it’s your classic “missing my man” song, but is also just so iconic and such a satisfying ride. And of course it also touches on the eternal and universal ideas of love and heartbreak. This song has been with the show since the beginning and remains a huge part of the emotional arc of the show.















Tickets on Sale Now!

Songs About Trains

Created by Radical Evolution

Text by Beto O’Byrne

Developed with Rebecca Martinez, Meropi Peponides, and Radical Evolution’s collaborators

Directed by Rebecca Martinez and Taylor Reynolds

A collection of folk songs, text and movement that imagines the building of the US rail system, Songs About Trains explores the multiethnic history of the laborers who built this country.

July 10th-13th
New Ohio Theatre


Click Here to Read More!

“The Corrido of the San Patricios": the Houston Workshop

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We’ve just gotten back from Houston, Texas where we had the immense opportunity to workshop our piece The Corrido of the San Patricios in the Sin Muros Festival through our friends at Stages Repertory Theatre. We are so humbled to have been invited to present this wonderful and relevant story to the community.

CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM DOING THE EL TEATRO CAMPESINO STOMP!

CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM DOING THE EL TEATRO CAMPESINO STOMP!

We could feel how meaningful this Latinx theatre festival is to the theatre community of Houston, we are so thrilled to have been a part of it. We got to reunite with our dear collaborators from El Teatro Campesino (Kinan Valdez, Chas Croslin, and our maestro Noe Yacoatl Montoya), and together we felt the audience there connect to the piece. We are confident now that we are ready to step into full production, and hope to have more to share on that front soon!

In the meantime, please enjoy some of our favorite memories from our time there.

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L to R: Beto O’Byrne, Georgina Escobar, Jasminne Mendez, and Trevor Boffone after the playwrights' panel at Sin Muros.

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L to R Chas Croslin and Noé Yaocoatl Montoya

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L to R Georgina Escobar and Beto O’Byrne

Radical Evolution and "The Corrido" are heading to Houston!

Photo from workshop at Pregones Theatre (July 2018). Left to Right: Kathiamarice Lopez, Annie Henk, Sandra Soto-Silva, Oscar Cabrera, Carlo Albán, Jonathan Hernandez. Photo by Meropi Peponides.

Photo from workshop at Pregones Theatre (July 2018). Left to Right: Kathiamarice Lopez, Annie Henk, Sandra Soto-Silva, Oscar Cabrera, Carlo Albán, Jonathan Hernandez. Photo by Meropi Peponides.

We are back at it with The Corrido of the San Patricios!

Team members from Radical Evolution (Beto and Meropi) and El Teatro Campesino (Kinan Valdez, Chas Croslin, and Noé Yaocoatl Montoya) are heading to Houston to participate in the Sin Muros Festival at Stages Repertory Theatre! We’re thrilled to be gathering with our compañeros from California once again for this workshop, and to work with local Houston-based actors to continue development of the piece.

More about The Corrido here: http://www.radicalevolution.org/sanpatricios/

And if you or anyone you know is in/around Houston, please come! Tickets are free with RSVP:

Sin Muros and Stages Rep present
The Corrido of the San Patricios
Sat, Feb 2, 2019, 8:00PM
Stages Repertory Theatre
3201 Allen Parkway
(entrance on Rosine St.)
Houston, Texas 77019
click here for info & reservations

Additional Festival Activities with Radical Evolution

Friday, Feb 1, 2:30 - 3:45 PM: Theatre Teacher Professional Development Workshop

Saturday, Feb 2, 11AM: Talkback with Festival Playwrights: Alex Alpharaoh, Georgina Escobar, Jasminne Mendez, and Beto O’Byrne.

Read an interview with Beto about working the play, being from Texas, and more!

SIN MUROS: INTERVIEW WITH “THE CORRIDO OF THE SAN PATRICIOS” PLAYWRIGHT BETO O’BYRNE


Meropi joins panel on solidarity economy in the performing arts at CUNY Graduate Center

Meropi joins panel at CUNY Graduate Center: Solidarity Economy in the Performing Arts: What’s Reparations Got to do With it?

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Talking about reparations is hard. As in, that is all I could sum up at the end of a two hour conversation on Monday night at the Center for the Humanities at CUNY Graduate Center.

There, a pretty impressive group of people - gathered on Monday night to discuss solidarity economy in the performing arts, and how that connects with the idea of Reparations in a larger context. I was invited to speak after submitting an article I wrote, in which I try and figure out what reparations means to me as a non-Black Person of Color. In both the article and at the panel, I grappled with the very real inequities in our performing arts field, and wonder whether there’s any way of getting tackling them through our individual or collective actions. To be totally honest, I was nervous, as a member of the so called "model minority" to be up there, talking about reparations and race and solidarity. After all, what do I know about all this? And wouldn't it be best if I just stayed quiet and agreed with everyone, the way I always used to do?

I figured I had to try, though. It's often all too easy for us "model minority" types to skirt by these really difficult and thorny issues, and when we do, aren't we just re-enforcing the status quo (i.e. whiteness?). And who wants to be doing that in 2018?

So I took the mic, and as soon as I heard my own voice amplified, I stumbled, and fumbled. I stopped, and started and tried to say the things I had meant to say, and maybe managed to articulate about half of them. I stayed honest, though. I was sure about that. And I spoke up. Imperfectly. Like a human. And will keep trying. Imperfectly.

In the end, I committed to decolonizing my own way of thinking, so that instead of asking "is this the most efficient way of doing something”, I ask, "Is this the most humane way of doing it?” It’s a small action step, but one I knew I could do some tangible work on. What about you? Is there something realistic (even if it’s small), that you want to do in your life and/or work to tackle the issue of Reparations? If so, share in the comments so we can inspire and support each other in this work.


Thank you for coming to Pregones!

Thank you for joining us for
THE CORRIDO OF THE SAN PATRICIOS

 

By Beto O'Byrne
Developed with Radical Evolution and El Teatro Campesino
Directed by Kinan Valdez

Saturday, June 14 @ 7 PM
&
Monday, June 16 @ 7 PM

Pregones Theater
571 Walton Ave
Bronx, NY 10451

All proceeds from this work-in-progress presentation were donated to The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights. We are honored to share that our community collectively contributed $1,188 to this important organization working on behalf of immigrant children. 

Featuring: Carlo Albán, Oscar Cabrera, Jonathan Hernandez, Kathiamarice Lopez, Annie Henk, Sandra Soto-Silva
Musicians: Chas Croslin, Noé Yaocoatl Montoya

In 1846, two hundred US soldiers defect from the American army to fight for Mexico in one of the most unjust conflicts of the 19th century - The Mexican-American War. These Irish immigrants came to be known as Los San Patricios, revered in Mexico and Ireland as folk heroes, and considered traitors to the US military. A collaboration between Radical Evolutionand El Teatro Campesino, this play with music explores a little-known legend to ask pressing questions around immigration, citizenship, and what happens when people follow their conscience to actively disrupt political systems.

For more info on the history and development of The Corrido of the San Patricios, click here.
This workshop was made possible in part by the MAP Fund, Supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and by Pregones/PRTT's ASAP Artist Space Program.