The year is 1932, and 25,000 unemployed World War I veterans occupy Washington, DC, to petition the government peacefully for promised relief. The response? Drive the veterans out with bayonets, bullets, poison gas, and fire!
Featuring the music of Woody Guthrie and his contemporaries, Why Do You Stand There in the Rain? tells the story of the Bonus Army March: a national campaign for food, work, and justice—a true story for here and now, told in the words and songs of those who were there. Rain will receive its US premiere at Pepperdine from Tuesday, Apr. 2, to Friday, Apr. 6, in Smothers Theatre, Malibu.
Why Do You Stand There in the Rain? was commissioned by Pepperdine, written by Scottish playwright Peter Arnott, and presented in its world premiere by Pepperdine students in summer 2012 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it won a prestigious Scotsman Fringe First Award for "innovation and outstanding new writing" and was a finalist for three more honors, including Amnesty International's Freedom of Expression Award.
Cathy Thomas-Grant directs the multi-talented Pepperdine student cast of 16, who play and sing original music and special arrangements by Scottish composer and actor John Kielty under the musical direction of Pepperdine music major Andrew Gladbach.
The documentary-style play features the iconic wartime anthem "Over There," as well as the songs of Woody Guthrie, Bessie Smith, Lead Belly, and other contemporaries. This rich tapestry of tunes underscores the story of the World War I veterans whose march on Washington led to the formation of the GI Bill and may have been the first Occupy protest in the nation's capital.
Twenty thousand ragged and desperate veterans and their families from all over the US set up "Hoovervilles" in 1932 around the nation's capital to lobby Congress for the early release of a promised compensation package for their war service.
Congress voted no, and President Herbert Hoover called upon Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur and Major George S. Patton to drive the veterans out of the capital. Armed with bullets and tear gas, 1,000 infantry and cavalrymen pushed the veterans out of Washington, burning everything they owned.
Through the support of Creative Scotland, Arnott took up residency at Pepperdine's Malibu campus for two weeks in February and March 2012. During the trip, he spent time working with students to develop the play and met with members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, serving as a representative of the Scottish theatre community to foster greater theatrical links between Hollywood and Scotland.
Arnott's visit marked the first part of an unprecedented educational and cultural collaboration between the University and leading members of the Scottish theatre industry. Following his trip, 28 students from the theatre department traveled to Scotland in summer 2012 for an eight-week artistic and educational residency. They spent time in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and the Highlands meeting theatre artists, cultural practitioners, academics, and fellow students. The project culminated in the presentation of two productions at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe: the world premiere of Why Do You Stand There in the Rain? and the UK premiere of Naomi Iizuka's Anon(ymous).
Arnott's work has been produced in Scotland, Moscow, and New York. He received the prestigious Creative Scotland Award in 2007, and his play The Breathing House won the Theatrical Management Association's Best Play Award in 2003. His most recent main-stage work, The Infamous Brothers Davenport, opened at the Lyceum Theatre in 2012.
Pepperdine has been performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 1985. Recent productions under Thomas-Grant's direction have included works by David Mamet; Frank Galati's adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath; and Eve Ensler's Necessary Targets, which won the Critics' Choice in the Metro.
A Q&A with the cast and director will take place after the performance on Wednesday, Apr. 3. Tickets, priced at $15 for the public, $10 for full-time Pepperdine students, and $12 for Pepperdine faculty and staff, are on sale now through the Pepperdine Center for the Arts Box Office at (310) 506-4522. Tickets for the general public are also available through Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787. For more information, visit the Center for the Arts Web site.