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"Johnny Appleweed," New Line Theatre, 2006


"A smart, engaging musical satire . . . Johnny Appleweed has the energy and wit of the early Saturday Night Live. Indeed, thereís a gloriously irreverent sketch-comedy sensibility at work. . . Johnny Appleweed is likely to win you over. It's a giddy delight."

-- St. Louis Post Dispatch

for four
Kevin Kline Awards

 ďJohnny Appleweed is full of excellent melody and excellent humor carried through by highly proficient performers, in this latest entry in the St. Louis Political Theatre Festival. . . The physical direction sparkles, and the band led by Chris Petersen is agile and compelling. The songs are beautiful, and the jokes are nearly all sure-fire. . . It's quite stupendous.Ē Ė Richard Green, TalkinBroadway.com


Sure, marijuana has shown up in a couple New Line shows over the years (Hair, Reefer Madness, Smokin' Santa, The Ballad of Little Mikey, Bat Boy, The Nervous Set, and yes, even Jesus Christ Superstar), but this time we're serious!

Fiercely funny and outrageously original, New Line opened its 2006-2007 season with the world premiere of JOHNNY APPLEWEED, a ballsy political satire of America in the new millennium, at its heart a show about making your mark, about dedicating yourself to something bigger than you. With songs like "Cannabis Dei," "I Tapped That Ass," "What Would Jesus Do?", "A Prayer for Wal-Mart," and "Fucking Up America," this is truly a musical like none other you've ever seen...!

With book, music and lyrics by Scott Miller, it's the first musical ever to make a serious case for the spiritual, existential, and psychological properties of marijuana. Through the lens of this pot-friendly worldview, the show takes aim at issues like American party politics, the War on Terror, the (undeclared) war on America's poor, our American culture of violence, gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, sexual oppression, and increasingly rabid (and insincere) American religious fanaticism, all through the eyes of the laidback, neo-mythic purveyor of pot, Johnny Appleweed, an itinerant philosopher-stoner, who argues that only through the mind-expanding properties of marijuana can we truly see the Larger Truths, so that we can finally solve our problems and move our civilization forward. A heady mix of Hair, The Daily Show, the films of Kevin Smith, Waiting for Godot, and The Wizard of Oz, this is a show guaranteed to outrage while it's got you rolling on the floor laughing.

Johnny -- a kind of Obi-Wan Kenobi for the modern stoner -- is on his way to Washington D.C. to tell the President he's screwing up our country and has to stop that! Over the course of the first act, Johnny meets up with a Christian-Republican closet-case, a lesbian performance artist, Jesus Christ himself, and a perky former televangelist. In Act II, this gang of five finally meets the President and they set about trying to convince him to change his political ways.

hweed.gif (11385 bytes)Johnny Appleweed has one central agenda as a political document, insisting that American democracy only works if its citizens are thoroughly and thoughtfully engaged in the business of the nation. American government is indeed of the people, by the people, and for the people, and too many of us forget those first two parts, that we all have work to do in keeping our democracy healthy and alive. Like many artists, poets, and philosophers who've gone before him, Johnny believes that marijuana is both a facilitator and catalyst for political and social understanding and change. Though marijuana is not the only concern of Johnny Appleweed, the show does suggest that the plant can, in many cases, open users' minds to new ways of thinking and perceiving, new revelations, new and deeper understanding of ourselves and our world, which can in turn help us solve the other problems facing us. Itís no accident that some of the greatest art of the 20th century was created under the influence of marijuana, opening up new, important, insightful visions of our world and existence.

But the roots of Johnny Appleweed go way back. The stage has forever been a place where political issues have been examined. The ritualistic and social significance of the earliest Greek performances in central arenas brought relevance to many controversial topics, a pattern that has not subsided to this day. Like the musicals Hair, Viet Rock, Sarafina!, Cabaret, The Threepenny Opera, The Cradle Will Rock, Pins and Needles, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and many others, Johnny Appleweed is a piece of agitprop theatre (short for agitational propaganda). Back in the 1930s, during the height of the Depression, mainstream theatre got intensely political, with shows like Waiting for Lefty, The Cradle Will Rock, Power, One Third of a Nation, It Canít Happen Here, Pins and Needles, and many others. Once America entered World War II, rabid patriotism overpowered political dissent, and agitprop faded away. But when the 60s arrived with its renewed political and social unrest, theatre returned to fiercely political drama and satire, with shows like Hair, Viet Rock, Cabaret, McBird, US, Futz, and many others. But the materialism of the 80s and the dot-com prosperity of the 90s lessened the public appetite for political theatre once again. Then came the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Bush administration. Now, political theatre is back again, and itís healthier and fiercer than ever.

facebookThe cast of this world premiere production included Aaron Allen (as Mark), Brian Claussen (President Birch), Ember Hyde (Suzanne), Alice Kinsella (Carla), Matthew Korinko (Jesus), Kimi Short (Fannie Mae), and John Sparger (Johnny).  Johnny Appleweed was part of the first St. Louis Political Theatre Festival.


For inquiries about future productions, please email us at NewChaz64@aol.com.




















Want to explore more? We recommend:  

The Johnny Appleweed page on Facebook

The website FaithfulAmerica.org -- the kind of grassroots political organization that the Jesus of Johnny Appleweed would be a part of...

A fascinating article from The New Republic called How Political Psychology Explains Bush's Ghastly Success.

A fascinating article from The New Republic about cursing, What the F***?.

The excellent magazine Sojourners, focusing on politics, faith, and culture in America, and the books The Politics of Jesus, Jesus Acted Up, and the eye-opening Misquoting Jesus

The DVD A Patriot Act, a funny, disturbing live performance by media professor Mark Crispin Miller about the mindset and language of Washington DC. ALSO other great political films and documentaries at CustomFlix.com

Some great political films -- The Day the Earth Stood Still, Wag the Dog, The Candidate, Bob Roberts, Cradle Will Rock, Cabaret, Pleasantville, Land of the Dead, Homecoming, and Absolute Beginners

The Wrecking Ball, a theatre in Toronto regularly commissioning political theatre pieces, and a NewStatesman article on political theatre in the US and UK. Also a PBS History of Political Theatre webpage and an American Political Satire page

Joseph Campbell's brilliant, landmark book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which explores the Hero Myth, one of the foundations of all world myths and religions -- and the basis for the central story of Johnny Appleweed

The TRUTH about marijuana use in America, who uses it, is it addictive, is it a gateway drug, all that stuff... Also, the TRUTH about the War on Drugs from the law enforcement officials who've been fighting it, at www.DrugWarFacts.org

The DVD or video of the funny and eye-opening documentary Grass, about the history of marijuana, politics, and drugs laws in America

The Stoner Rock website and the Stoner Rock page on The Cutting Edge website

A local St. Louis discussion list about marijuana laws and activism, sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

High Times magazine, Marijuana.com, and Marijuana World.com. Also, Doonesbury strips about marijuana, and a marijuana slang glossary. And if that's not enough, here are some links to the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy, Ya'Hooka, Your Guide to Marijuana on the Web, and Politics, Lies, and History from the Reefer Madness site. Also some cool marijuana recipes!

Did Jesus use pot? Check out this article, and also references to pot in the Bible. Also, did our Founding Fathers use pot? See the web article, "American High Society"  Also, a list of some Famous Pot Users, from Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, to Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong

A great website on the Bible and homosexuality

The complete Bushims at Slate.com -- updated daily! Also some terrifying quotes from conservative pundit Ann Coulter. AND throw Dubya around like a drunk puppet with this fun webpage...!

The Jesus of the Week website

Some funky Johnny Appleweed memorabilia, including items with original Johnny Appleweed art by Matt Reedy and Aaron Allen





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