Popular folk songwriter John McCutcheon is a regular sight at Sonoma’s Sebastiani Theatre, but this week he sings a different tune when he stars in Joe Hill’s Last Will, a one-man play that examines the activist and songwriter on the last day of his life through some of Hill’s most enduring songs.
“No one would be more surprised than Joe Hill that someone is doing a one-man show based on him,” says McCutcheon.
Utah authorities executed Hill 100 years ago over a dubious conviction. Hill was a member of the International Workers of the World union and a prolific songwriter who practically invented the protest song.
“He’s a central figure that almost nobody knows,” says McCutcheon. An influence on icons like Woody Guthrie, Hill repurposed old melodies with new, socially conscious lyrics that are still relevant today. McCutcheon feels an affinity with the character, whom he first portrayed when the show originally debuted in 2011. “The wonderful thing about theater is that, much more so than books or songs, they are real living documents,” says McCutcheon. With an expanded set of Hill’s songs, McCutcheon commands the stage in this stirring show that he says “treads the turf” between live concert and live theater.
Joe Hill’s Last Will is presented on Sunday, June 14, at Sebastiani Theatre, 476 First St. E., Sonoma. 7:30pm. $22. 707.996.9756.