Growing up in the 1960s in the San Joaquin Valley might have given some the blues. But for Modesto Junior College theater professor Michael Lynch, it gave him inspiration.
His childhood in the southern San Joaquin Valley town of Coalinga is the basis for his award-winning original play “San Joaquin Blues.” The production debuted in 1982 in San Francisco, where it won Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and Drama-Logue Award honors. It will make its Modesto premiere on Friday, Oct. 21, at the MJC Main Auditorium of the Performing and Media Arts Center on the East Campus. The show will run through Oct. 30.
The revival is being directed by Lynch with its original music composed by Steve Sigel and performed by Cherub and the Devil Dusters.
“It’s very autobiographical. It’s my father and my family, but of course it’s greatly exaggerated,” Lynch said. “It’s very funny, but also very poignant – all the emotions are in the play.”
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The show is set in 1966 after the oil industry dried up in town and the area went into a financial tailspin. The MJC production features a cast of 25 “colorful characters” and a live five-piece country-western band on stage.
Lynch said he brought the piece, which has been performed at different colleges and theater companies over the years, to MJC because the school is celebrating humanities in the Central Valley this year. To prepare for the new production he trimmed and rewrote about a quarter of the play. But despite being set five decades ago, Lynch said people should still see themselves in the show.
“It’s a whole different world, but it still relates to today and how some people are struggling to get by,” he said.
San Joaquin Blues
WHEN: Opens 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21; runs 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Oct. 29 and 2 p.m. Oct. 30
WHERE: Modesto Junior College, East Campus, Main Auditorium of the Performing and Media Arts Center, 435 College Ave.
TICKETS: $11 general; $9 student/senior