Monday, January 16, 2012

THEATRE (NON) REVIEW: "A Hammer, A Bell, and A Song to Sing" at San Diego REP

It seems fitting to write about San Diego REP’s newest production, A Hammer, A Bell, and A Song to Sing, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Not only is the peacekeeping activist directly quoted in one of the show’s many spoken interludes, but his push for social change, call for justice, and vision of a better, more peaceful world are at the heart of what A Hammer, A Bell, and A Song to Sing is all about.

Inspired by the work of folk singer and songwriter Pete Seeger and his grandson Tao Seeger (who recently said at an Occupy rally, “If we want to get people talking to each other, we should try to get them singing together”), A Hammer, A Bell, and A Song to Sing aims to celebrate the history of change in America through song, spoken word, and slideshows.

Originally intended to be a Pete Seeger-centric musical, the very man at the heart of the show pulled out just weeks before its opening, as he didn’t feel comfortable with the details of his life being played onstage. While the show still draws some inspiration from Mr. Seeger and his grandson Tao, it primarily focuses on change movements in American history (from the American Revolution, to the womens and civil rights movements, to the Occupy protests of today) and the music that fueled them. And, sprinkled throughout, are some words of wisdom from our country’s most notable visionaries: Ghandi, Allen Ginsberg, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Mead, Cesar Chavez, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since this world premiere production, written and directed by REP Associate Artistic Director Todd Salovey and featuring a trio of first class musicians, is a workshop still in its developmental phase, there are no press reviews, commentary, or critique allowed. Suffice it to say, this is an exciting experimental work and it deserves support from the San Diego theatergoing community.

And, in the spirit of the “workshop” nature of this show, here’s a video that illustrates the creative and collaborative process that went into bringing this inspiring play to life.

A Hammer, A Bell, and PLAYLIST to sing: Here are just a handful of the over 25 songs featured in the show. No doubt you will recognize most (if not all) of them: “We Shall Overcome,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “The Times They Are A Changin’,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier.”

Things to know if you want to go: San Diego REP’s world premiere workshop production of “A Hammer, A Bell, and A Song to Sing” plays at the Lyceum Stage through January 29, 2012. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Wednesdays at 7pm, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. During the run, there is also a Wednesday matinee, Saturday matinee and Sunday evening show. Tickets are $32-$51 (Student discount $18) with discounts available for groups, seniors and military. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (619) 544-1000 or visit

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