The distance between folklore and history is not as vast as many would think. History basically is a way of chronicling events in a time sequence that is specific about the who, what, when, where and why. The information, more or less, has been documented in a way that is 'irrefutable', so to speak. Who can argue with an audio recording of a famous speech like The Reverend Martin Luther King's "I Had A Dream" speech or with the handwritten letters that John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson sent to one another?
Folklore, too, is about chronicling events and customs that have specific value. Only, instead of recording big, cataclysmic or global events, it focuses more upon everyday lives of everyday people. Just think of weather folklore that would dictate when a farmer planted or harvested his fields or rite of passage customs like tying wedding shoes onto the back of the bride and grooms car to show that they are now under one roof.
The two - history and folklore - come together beautifully in the upcoming production of Marin Shakespeare Company's The Complete History of America (abridged) .
Tickling the funny bone of American history is a folkloric way to interpret historical data. This play takes a fast-paced look at what this country's touchstones are in a way that reveals their lighter side. And who can argue with the role of humor in our ability to make sense of ourselves?
The play, made popular by the Reduced Shakespeare Company,attempts in approximately 90 minutes to review almost 600 years of American history, staring with questions that still today incite controversy.
== Who really discovered America?
== Why did Abe Lincoln free the slaves?
== How many Democrats does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Actors (pictured L to R) Darren Bridgett, Cassidy Brown and Mick Mize under the direction of Robert Currier fill the Forest Meadows Amphitheater at Dominican University in San Rafael with a roller coaster of answers. And who's to say these answers are less accurate than any others?
It's important to note here that in history as in folklore, interpretation is everything. It alone tells us what we really think and feel about any given situation. Whoever is telling the story, so to speak, can present the facts, suppositions and suspicions in a way that best reflect his or her cultural values. An Eskimo, for example, might look at ice differently than an Australian because of their relationship to it; their personal experience of the subject.
Even historical scribes, artists and others, such as those credited with writing great historical works such as The Bible were influenced by the times they lived in. Who isn't?
So, take a historical spin across the American landscape - as written by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor in the mid 1990's - and recently updated by Sonoma playwright Reed Martin for this summer's Marin Shakespeare Company presentation, its second of three for its 2011 Summer Season.
Here are the details:
The Complete History of America (abridged)
July 22- September 25 (Preview: July 22, Opening night: July 30).
Forest Meadows Amphitheater, Dominican University,1475 Acacia Ave., San Rafael, CA
Box Office: (415) 499-4488