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Monday, November 22, 2010

SL ARTS & LITERATURE: “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” an SL Holiday Tradition

Traditions are a funny thing, especially holiday traditions. You never know quite how a tradition starts, how it perpetuates itself, and who might share that same tradition with you. In November 2008, as the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday approached, Shandon Loring had a wild idea to present folksinger Arlo Guthrie’s Alice's Restaurant Massacree on Thanksgiving Day in Second Life. With no expectations of a large audience, Loring prepared Guthrie’s 20 minute song/monologue/political riff complete with a replica of the church described in the song, and sent out a few notices. Many fans of Arlo Guthrie consider Alice's Restaurant … a “must hear” part of the American turkey-full holiday. That first year the Library was over three-quarters full, inspiring annual encore presentations including this year’s presentation on Wednesday, November 24th at 7pm SLT at the Seanchai Library at Info Island International. Like all presentations at Seanchai, this one benefits charity: donations will be accepted for War Child North America.
Based on real incidents from Guthrie’s life, and presented dubiously as completely factual, Alice's Restaurant Massacree was originally recorded for Guthrie’s 1967 album in front of a live audience. It is the story of a garbage dump closed on Thanksgiving, a stern “by the book” officer of the local constabulary, 8x10 color glossy photos with circles and arrows, as well as Guthrie's commentary with the draft. The retelling of the series of events is decidedly anti-establishment, and Loring’s presentation is inspired heavily by Guthrie’s own original sardonic, under-dog delivery. “I try to stay faithful to the spirit of the original without copying it,” said Loring, “It’s really a tribute to Arlo Guthrie and to that unique style of storytelling that he so precisely represents.”

Arlo Guthrie, son of legendary Folk singer Woody Guthrie, drew the events of the song from the events of Thanksgiving Day 1965 which he spent in Stockbridge, Massachusetts along with his friend Rick Robbins. The two drove to Stockbridge to spend Thanksgiving with friends Alice and Ray Brock, who lived in a church they had reinvented as a home. Guthrie and Robbins assisted their friends in cleaning out the church of accumulated detritus, packed it all in a VW microbus and headed for the city dump, which was closed. The two drove around till they found a remote site to dump their load, but were subsequently discovered by local officials, charged and fined $25 for littering. Guthrie exaggerated the part about getting arrested for comic effect. In the song he is taken away in handcuffs and put in a cell with hardened criminals. In the song, Guthrie also avoids the draft and did not have to serve in the Vietnam War because of his littering arrest. In reality, he was eligible, but wasn't drafted because his number never came up. The song was considered an antiwar song, but unlike most protest songs, it used humor to speak out against authority.

Storyteller Loring annually tricks out his presentation of Alice's Restaurant Massacree with a Thanksgiving Dinner “that can’t be beat” and the signature VW microbus complete with litter. Additional presentations of Thanksgiving literature and traditional fall tales will round out the evening’s program. Guests are encouraged to follow along with Loring by typing in local chat and virtually singing along “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.”

Alice's Restaurant Massacree and Other Thanksgiving Legends, will be presented live in voice on Wednesday, November 24th at 7pm SLT at the Seanchai Library. The event is free with Donations accepted to benefit War Child North America.

~Caledonia Skytower, Reporting
"Any ink is good ink, even if it is virtual."


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