Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Love, Janis

In another blog post, I mention that my brother and sister-in-law visited us over Labor Day weekend.

During our planning, Johanna expressed interest in visiting the Haight Ashbury historic district in San Francisco. She was intrigued by what she learned and I wanted to visit the area too so we planned to go on the next day.

While we were talking about what else to do, I remembered that my friend Melissa's friend Cathy Richardson was playing Janis Joplin in a Broadway production called Love, Janis. We did some research and bought tickets to go to the Sunday evening show.

After a breakfast of whole wheat blueberry pancakes, I donned my best hippie shirt and we were off.

We parked in front of the Grateful Dead House at 710 Ashbury.

And were excited to see the house at 112 Lyon Street where Janis Joplin once lived in Apartment #3.

It was fun exploring the nearby shops on Haight. John and I ate lunch at Asqew Grill. Johanna bought shirts and posters. We were excited about the upcoming show that night.

Cam says Janis Joplin has one of those voices no one should try to cover but the first time I really got into one of her songs was listening to Stephanie Walsmith and The Nadas perform "Me and Bobbie McGee" to this day, it is my favorite Janis song because of hearing Stephanie sing it live.

I wanted to go to Love, Janis to learn more, to support Cathy Richardson and because Johanna was excited to go. Of course, as soon as I purchased tickets for the Sunday evening show, I clicked on Cathy's schedule and realized she was playing the 3:00 show that day.

I didn't really know anything about the format of the show going in but was quite pleased. It turned out to be based on the book, Love, Janis by Laura Joplin in which Janis' little sister shares actual letters Janis had written to her family over the course of her career combined with exerpts from interviews she had given.

I learned about how Janis felt different, misunderstood, and out-of-place in high school and college. She said that at the University of Texas in Austin once she was voted "Ugliest Man" on campus. We heard about how when she was offered the opportunity to leave all that for San Francisco, she jumped at it. How she hitched a ride there to try out as the vocalist for a band.

She shared her insecurities, uncertainties, financial difficulties, triumphs and loneliness. She talked about pets she had and how much their company meant to her. We learned how she used alcohol and drugs to quell stage fright and get her through the low times. Heard her haunting response to Jimmy Hendricks death at 27 of a drug overdose. How she said the public liked their blues singers sad and in the end they liked them dead. The very next scene broke the news of her own death at 27 of drugs. Johanna said Jim Morrison of the Doors died at 27 of drugs around that same time. Later, Cam reminded us of John Belushi too.

Two different women played Janis. One spoke, sharing her letters with emotion, expression and that southern twang. The other performed the songs that coincided with where Janis was in her story. We were impressed with both performers and the band. I enjoyed getting to know Janis better, sharing in her adventures and being there with Jo. Maybe I can get Cam to go back to see Cathy's performance before she leaves later this month.

1 comment:

marymaddux6272 said...

Correction: When I first published this posting, I referred to Jimmy Belushi dying young. Cam clarified that it was John Belushi we had discussed.