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Providence and The Bottom of the World: Jo Harvey and Terry Allen to perform Friday

November 7th, 2013 under Features


MARFA – “There’s been a change of plans,” said Jo Harvey Allen in her jovial Southern drawl. “We’re gonna have to do what we’ve been calling the ‘Shakespeare with hash browns’ show at another time.”

‘From Marfa to Terry Allen,’ presented by Marfa Live Arts and originally slated to include Irish actress Kate O’Toole, was changed due to an illness in O’Toole’s family.

The show must go on Friday evening and Mrs. Allen will still perform, reading excerpts from her latest book, written as a gift for her grandson and based on her 1998 one-woman play “Homerun,” and with her husband, Texas country music icon Terry Allen, filling the unexpected vacancy.

“It looks like I’m now Kate O’Toole,” laughed Mr. Allen, who recently released his eighth studio album, “Bottom of the World,” to critical acclaim.

Mrs. Allen’s book is culled from interviews with women whose lives revolved around baseball, including Doris Murphy, who was portrayed by Rosie O’Donnell in the 1992 feature film, “A League of their Own.”

Terry and Jo Harvey Allen

Terry and Jo Harvey Allen

“I’ve always loved the feeling of baseball,” Mrs. Allen explained. “I don’t have much knowledge of the sport, but whenever I’m driving around with a game on the radio or while the boys are watching one, I get sucked in to the sound. It’s the sound of the American Dream. I knew I just had to write a play based on that sound.”

The pace of the pastoral game, she says, adds to the feeling. Being the only major sport without a time limit, along with the way a chance breeze coming from left field can change the course of the entire game, Mrs. Allen believes the game is a true to testament to the American spirit.

“The game proves that once you commit to something, providence comes into to help you,” she said, citing German writer/philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose works reference divine providence in response to the boldness and fearlessness of a person challenged in pursuit of a passion.

“The stories these women told me are all stories of ‘home,’” Mrs. Allen expounded. “Not only the literal baseball concept of home, but as a metaphor.”

One woman interviewed for the play, for instance, was consumed by the game until an on-field accident led to a lifestyle change and an appreciation for things outside of the game.

“Every summer this woman, a house keeper, would care about nothing but baseball and would neglect everything else,” she said. “One day she was hit in the head and the blow damaged her. She considered that last play a homer, though. It took her back home. Back to her kids and her real life. It turned her around.”

Mrs. Allen’s show, however, will not completely revolve around the book.

“It’s not only gonna be these women’s stories. I’ll be reading more personal work as well,” she said. “It’ll be a combination of poems, parables, and stories. Even scary stories!

“They’ll mostly be funny stories, though,” she added with a laugh, “and a lot of them are just plain strange!”

As for Terry Allen, the prospect of a show and visit to Marfa is something he’s looking forward to.

“So damn far, every time we get an excuse to go down, we do it,” he laughed. “Hell, we’ve even gone down without having an excuse! It always seems like everything just settles and we get to take a deep breath in Marfa.”

Mr. Allen, with a sudden and unplanned show popping up, will be performing songs from his Bottom of the World, his first full-length studio recording of new songs in 14 years.

“When people ask why it’s been this long, I just say ‘I haven’t been in a coma, I’ve just been doing other things,’” he chuckled. “But I had this group of songs that I felt needed to be a record. I love getting in the studio and working.”

The record, sparse in instrumentation without a rhythm section and fully acoustic, recons back to his 1975 debut, Juarez, and (as is common for a Terry Allen record) features a re-recorded song from the album, “Four Corners.”

As for his return to Marfa, Mr. Allen is excited, despite the reason for his inclusion into the show.

“I was really looking forward to seeing Kate read,” he said. “I hope sometime they could do that. It would be a great evening. But I always love coming down to Marfa and I’m really looking forward to playing.”

“It’s unfortunate that Kate couldn’t make it,” Mrs. Allen echoed. “But Terry and I are happy that we get to come and perform again.”

‘From Marfa to Terry Allen’ will begin at 8pm Friday at the Crowley Theatre. Also performing will be locals Meliza Brandin, Tim Crowley, and Harry Hudson, all reading short pieces.

There is a $10 cover at the door, and all proceeds will benefit the Marfa High School and Marfa Live Arts’ student playwriting in-school workshop, which will take place in February.

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