Death of a Folksinger

Nov 19, 2017

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Credit Carlisle/Fletcher


On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with writer, actor, and folksinger Willi Carlisle and director and designer Joseph Fletcher. Their one-man operetta There Ain't No More! Death of a Folksinger chronicles an aging folksinger's last performance in front of an audience.

Throughout the performance, this raconteur called "Our Hero" delights the audience with off-color jokes and stories from his past. 

"And because the present is a gift, I encourage you to turn to the person sitting next to you and to tap them, gently, lovingly, if you can muster it, on the shoulder, just so. This is in part to ensure that we  are not ghosts."

Among the play's elements are a collection of folk songs, a confrontation of the American wilderness, and a relationship of "Our Hero" to his troubled past and to death itself.

With five instruments, square-dance calling, and a haunting, heartfelt hootenanny, this production pays tribute to the disappearing legacy of American folk culture. 

This production is a collaboration with “Ozark renaissance folklorist” Willi Carlisle and director and designer Joseph Fletcher. This one-man show is the result of down-home poetry, field recordings, and folklore inspired by the Arkansas Ozarks and took five years to develop. 

Willi Carlisle is a writer, folksinger, and theatre-artist from Nothwest Arkansas. He received a BA from Knox College in Creative Writing and Performance Studies, and an MFA in Poetry at the University of Arkansas, where he was a Walton Fellow. 

Carlisle's folklore and poetry have appeared in The Journal of American Folklore, Emergent Arts, and The Midwest Review. He has performed at The Ozark Folkcenter, The Fayetteville Roots Festival, and at Fringe Festivals across the country. 

Joseph Fletcher is a director, producer, and stage manager. He has a BFA in Theatre from the University of Central Florida. Past directing credits include  Purim-Schmutz, China the Whole Enchilada (NYC), The New Now, La Gran Posada, Alley 38War of the WorldsThe PillowmanCandide, and The Sunshine Boys (Regional). 

He has worked with the Walnut Street Theatre, Cirque Du Soleil, National Tour of Chicago the Musical, The Signature Theatre, Prospect Theatre Company, Theatre Squared, Target Margin Theatre, Hippodrome State Theater, Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and Orlando Opera. 

He is a founding member and managing director for the Artist’s Laboratory Theatre--a nonprofit community-based theatre company in Fayetteville, AR.

Awards for There Ain't No More! include: Best Show- Orlando Fringe; Patron’s Pick- Orlando Fringe; Venue Pick- Tampa Fringe; Patron’s Pick- PortFringe; Excellence in Acting- PortFringe; and, Excellence in Writing- PortFringe.

For more information on the play, visit The Washington Post.

Below are two songs from the production:

This program was made possible through a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and from listeners like you.  

Executive Producer & Host:  J. Bradley Minnick


Producer: Mary Ellen Kubit

Recorded by: Christopher Hickey

Intern: Krista Hancock