Local author Tom Churchill presents new play at WICA Theatre Festival

Posted in Feature, Theater and Dance

July 24, 2013

Whidbey Island Center for the Arts is excited to present an original play with music by author Tom Churchill titled “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night,” from Thursday, Aug. 1 to Sunday, Aug. 4  at its fourth annual Whidbey Island Theatre Festival in Langley.

Playwright Tom Churchill also acts in his newest play "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night." (Photo courtesy of WICA)

Playwright Tom Churchill also acts in his newest play “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.” (Photo courtesy of WICA)

“I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” is an apolitical play about the highly, confrontational political period following World War II and the people who were caught up in it and gave themselves over to lofty causes that promised solutions, but ultimately let them down.

An undercurrent of gritty, witty labor music helps set an amusing yet compelling tone for this play. In it, Churchill tells the story of of the workers of the Industrial Workers of the World, a group formed in 1905 and popularly known as the “Wobblies.”

“I feel that workers’ stories are all too rarely told, or usually told with the taint of ‘mob’ influence behind them to make them sell,” Churchill said.

“Still, the emotional need to tell what I know to be a great story drives me.”

Churchill did extensive research on the lives of his subjects, interviewing people who knew them well, and defended and supported them.

“The work gets more and more imposing; the piles of paper mounting higher and higher; the miles to the next useful library or reading room further and further away,” said Churchill of the monumental research.

“I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night,” he said, isn’t really about Joe Hill, the Swedish-American member of the “Wobblies,” who became a popular song writer and cartoonist for the radical union. The play, Churchill said, has no political agenda, although referencing Hill and his songs in the context of Seattle’s 1947/48 “Red” scare offers the tone of political satire that supports the story of the play.

“We concentrate on the human drama behind the lives of folks who take their causes so seriously that repercussions are almost given in their earnest leanings: You join the Communist Party (or help the F.B.I.) during times of repression ─  then you’re likely to pay consequences down the line; and worse for you if those consequences hurt those closest to you,” Churchill said.

Robert Marsanyi is the musical director for the play. (Julie O'Brien photo)

Robert Marsanyi is the musical director for the play. (Julie O’Brien photo)

Though not a musical, there is plenty of music throughout the show that represents the period, including pieces of popular songs from the 1950’s, including “Do Nothin’ ’til You Hear it from Me,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Blue Moon,” “The Internationale,” and “America the Beautiful.”

The play is directed by Ann Deacon, with musical direction by Robert Marsanyi. The cast includes Loren Churchill, Kira Keeney, Ken Stephens, Rozie Hughes, Rich Doyle, Bryn McAfee, Matthew Gregory, Laura Persaud and Rita Carrow. Dwight Zehm is assistant director and the stage manager for the play is Warren Carrow.

Tickets for “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” are $15 for the 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 1 to 3 shows, and $12 for the 2 p.m. Aug. 4, Sunday show. Tickets are on sale at www.wicaonline.com or by calling the WICA box office at 800-638-7631 or 360-221-8268.


  1. To whom: Would you please say hello to Tom for me; he gave me the gift of dialogue when I was a stiff-docked young punk. He meant the world to me. And I miss his arguably scouring criticism. Bless you Tom, and Sophie.

    Stephen Maes

  2. Hi, Steve, this was just forwarded to me; thanks, so much for
    taking the time to reply, and know that I wish the very best to you
    and your family. We’re doing well, two sons, two grandkids on the Island,
    two other sons in Seattle and Victoria.
    Oddly, I have a new play, the first since Joe Hill, opening shortly at
    Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, on the in-between Thursdays of
    their One Act Festival. I didn’t enter the contest–son Dave’s play was
    entered and his will be on the main venue–but the producer heard of
    mine, read it and liked it enough to put my cast and me in a special slot.
    Pass it on, when you get the notice–and you will soon–and know that
    Soph and I are cruising along. Today I’m playing golf at the Navy
    Base–yah, hey–so it seems some part of me is still cooking,

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