STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Forever infamous for the demented ode to roadkill, “Dead Skunk,” we get to see a revealingly different side of singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III at People’s Light in Malvern.
Of the upcoming regional debut of the one-man show “Loudon Wainwright III’s Surviving Twin,” People’s Light producing director Zak Berkman stated in a press release: “I’m so struck by the way Loudon interweaves his father’s story into his own. Perhaps that’s because it was my father who introduced me to Loudon’s music, as well as the music of many of Loudon’s family members. And every time I hear Loudon’s voice, a part of me hears my father’s voice.
So this generational bridge Loudon creates in Surviving Twin with song, tale and memory is especially uplifting and moving to me.”
“‘Surviving Twin’ was something I wrote about 15 years ago,” the 70-year-old Wainwright said in a phone interview, calling it a satisfying “posthumous collaboration” with his father. The show gets its name from “Surviving Twin,” a snarling and heart wrenching autobiographical song he released in 2001 offering perspective on father and son’s complicated, and often tense, relationship.
Wainwright’s father, Loudon Wainwright Jr. — a writer and Life Magazine columnist who opted not to use the “junior” in print — passed away in 1988.
“The twin-ness is not literally about twins. It refers to the similarity between my father and me, and parents and their children,” he said. “We have the same birthday. We went to the same school. We had the same signet ring. There are unresolved issues between all people. People don’t resolve all their stuff.”
Wainwright, who played singing surgeon Captain Calvin Spalding on three episodes of “MASH” and won a Grammy Award in 2010 for Best Traditional Folk Album, admitted that when he was growing up he didn’t care for being the third generation to carry the name Loudon Wainwright. “It’s not a strange name, it’s a beautiful name,” he said.
However, when he had a son — who is also a singer/songwriter — he opted to name him Rufus, rather than Loudon IV. Wainwright also has two songwriting recording artist daughters, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche. “Being an old father is a hard, hard job,” said Wainwright, who is also a grandfather.
Sure, Wainwright has had fatherly “bumps and scrapes” of his own with his children, but reported that “we’re all getting along fine. We saw each other during the holidays. Rufus and Martha do a Christmas show together.”
“Surviving Twin,” which made its world premiere at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC during their 2013-2014 season, is directed by none other than veteran film and TV actor Daniel Stern. A musical theater production instead a concert, “Surviving Twin” also has a set designer (People’s Light director of design James F. Pyne Jr.), a light designer (guest artist Lily Fossner) and a stage manager (returning guest Jason Pizzi). “Theater and film and TV are collaborative things,” said Wainwright, who collaborated with songwriter/producer Joe Henry on the music for Judd Apatow’s hit movie “Knocked Up” and recorded several songs for the soundtrack of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”
Although this will be Wainwright’s first time on the stage at People’s Light, he commented that “the people there in Malvern are great.”
Want an enhanced experience about this musical mediation on family relationships? “Scoop on Wednesdays: History, Context and Gossip” happens in The Farmhouse Bistro at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 and Feb. 1 before 7:30 performances. Learn about “Surviving Twin”’s rehearsal process, design choices and the world of the show. The cost of $15 includes light fare. Call (610) 644-3500 or make reservations online through the performance calendar.