‘Mary Jane: The Musical’ Reflects Northern Cali Marijuana Scene


Sharon Letts
“Mary Jane: The Musical” is led by DAI’s founding artistic director Joan Schirle as first-generation grower, “Mary Jane, The Diva of Sativa.”

Mary Jane: The Musical, illuminating the weed culture of Northern California’s Emerald Triangle, is returning to the stage, playing three weekends June 21 through July 8. The show, presented by Dell’Arte International, now features four new songs, reflecting current changes in community attitudes on the price of cannabis, cultural divisions, and who benefits from the black market and who benefits from making it legal.

What began as a back-to-the-land movement after 1967’s Summer of Love has morphed into a hot topic of national interest. Cannabis has become the economic engine of Northern California, with $2.6 billion following annually through the Emerald Triangle, comprised of Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino counties. Environmental norms and local law enforcement have been challenged by the explosion of marijuana cultivation.
Humboldt County has been home to Dell’Arte International (DAI) for 38 years. Its theatre ensemble is known internationally for the development of “Theatre of Place,” bringing the community closer to the stage, and the stage closer to the community.
Mary Jane: The Musical premiered in 2011, exploring the role of cannabis in its own back yard, through songs by a dozen composers and staging by longtime director Michael Fields. The musicals reveals the positive role of cannabis in the local economy, as well as its medicinal value. But it also shares the dark underbelly of the industry, where grow houses, violence, and polluting cultivation methods have become a scourge to the Green Belt of Nor Cal.

Sharon Letts

Mary Jane clearly hit a community nerve, playing to standing room only crowds at its premiere at DAI’s summer 2011 Mad River Festival. Last fall, the production opened the Humboldt Hempfest, an event hosting music and dance, as well as forums on cannabis politics, dispensary woes, federal-to-state legalities, and even the unionization of those who work as bud trimmers prior to sale.
Sung in concert style by a cast of 14 singers, actors and musicians, Mary Jane: The Musical is led by DAI’s founding artistic director, Joan Schirle, as a first-generation grower, “Mary Jane, the Diva of Sativa.” The star of the show shares the good, the bad, the funny, and the sad sides of cannabis in original songs born of the local culture, proving that whether you think Mary Jane is an industrial pollutant or a magical mystery, there’s still a song to sing about it.
Song styles range from reggae to show tunes to heavy metal, with a Bollywood grand finale; choreography is by Laura Munoz. Original songs penned by Tim Gray include “This Bud’s For You,” “Emerald Ball,” and “Why Is Whiskey Legal (And Pot Not)?”
Other scores were contributed by Eldin Green, Joyce Hough, Scott Menzies, Lila Nelson, Joani Rose, Tim Randles, Zuzka Sabata, and Joan Schirle, with musical arrangements by Tim Randles. The musical is directed and was developed by Michael Fields.
Mary Jane plays three weekends at the Rooney Amphitheatre, 131 H Street, in idyllic and historic Blue Lake, California. Tickets are available by phone from the DAI Box Office at (707) 668-5663, extension 20, or online at www.dellarte.com/show.aspx. A $2 service charge per order is added to credit card sales.

Sharon Letts