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Saturday, January 3, 2009

At Last, Okemah! Synopsis

AT LAST, OKEMAH! by Adam Selzer and Michael G. Smith
From a concept by Adam Selzer (that he borrowed from Cervantes)

      Harvey Grossman is the quintessential Chicago hipster. Like all good hipsters, Harvey works in a record store by day, and hangs out in other record stores by night. He listens to Danish prog rock and Australian emo. He drinks sake and occasionally wears ironic clothing. He plays in a band called Rock-Maninoff, which takes their listeners on journeys through lush, exotic soundscapes (and also happens to suck). But everything changes the day the record store where Harvey works closes, for this is also the day he finds a vinyl copy of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. Those songs get into Harvey's head the same way that stories of chivalry turned mild-mannered Alfonse Quijana into Don Quixote, the Knight of the Woeful Countenance. After a self-imposed exile during which he listens obsessively to 'ancient ballads about roses growing out of people's brains,' Harvey is reborn as Winston Thomas, the self-styled 'greatest, and most authentic, folk singer of all time'.

      After self-releasing such timeless classic albums as King of the Midwestern Blues, Authentic Ethnic Work Songs and Field Hollers, Live Where The Earl of Old Town Folk Club Used to Be and Sacco and Vanzetti Must Not Die, Winston develops a cult following around Chicago. Goths and metal enthusiasts admire him for playing the English version of 'Twa Sisters' (the really gory one), sociologists are fascinated by him, economists are inspired to forsake their riches, and the folkies are awed by his...well, his commitment, maybe.

      But Winston dreams of more. After breaking into the archives of the Old Town School of Folk Music and feeling a presence in the room 'that could only have been Woody', Winston announces that he is embarking on a holy quest to Okemah, Oklahoma, birthplace of Woody Guthrie, to become mystically anointed, the way Bob Dylan was anointed when he visited Woody in the hospital in 1961. He will be accompanied by his roadie, friend and confidante Miguel Sanchez (who Winston insists is an immigrant worker, though Miguel claims his name is MICHAEL Sanchez, and that he was born in Cleveland), and his trusty guitar and Stetson hat. Along the way, Winston fully intends to right every manner of wrong, giving himself the opportunity to experience every sort of oppression, so that, surmounting them all, he will cover himself with fame and glory....

      However, Winston first insists on waiting for an ethnomusicologist to arrive to document the journey before taking off, so the ever-resourceful Miguel hires a videographer to pose as one. But there will be no ceremony to mark the beginning of Winston's quest: during a show at Chicago's famed Hungry Brain club, Miguel is approached by one Harry Mutosaw, an IRS agent who Winston believes is from the House Unamerican Activities Committee and who, with the aid of Bonnie, Winston's irate ex-girlfriend, intends to bring him down. Winston, Miguel and Jerry narrowly escape from the Hungry Brain like thieves in the night, and the epic journey begins....

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