KUAF Arts Beat: Navigating the Colorful, Contradictory Past of Folk in "There Ain't No More"

Apr 27, 2017

Ozark folklorist Willi Carlisle and Artist's Laboratory  Theatre director/producer Joseph Fletcher explore the unsung past of folk in a vaudeville-cabaret-operetta, There Ain't No More: Death of a Folksinger.

This one-man show, starring Carlisle, centers around what he describes as "a very white, very male folksinger trying to navigate--politically and personally--the fraught territories of a life in folk song."

Carlisle's multifarious influences for conceiving the play included Bertolt Brecht and the colorful, sometimes sordid lives of numerous folk figures in the genre's heyday of the 1950s and '60s.

The result is a one-hour show on a tiny stage with Carlisle using a chair, a mask, puppets and fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica and accordion, for a performance that balances vaudevillian humor with the sometimes difficult introspection of a life in review.

"So much about folk culture is fanciful. The very idea that a piece of embroidery that somebody [unskilled] did can still be a valuable thing [is] romantic," says Carlisle. "I wanted to be sure that the play was attached to that idea of high romance and perhaps exaggeration."

There Ain't No More fuses fanciful exaggeration with the painful realities to illustrate a turning point in the nation's secret history through the personal dilemmas of one man. 

"All of these things that he thought were true, and how life was and how he's supposed to live his life, gets washed away," explains Fletcher, but by the time of the play, we're seeing everything in retrospect. "He has to reconcile what he's leaving behind. He doesn't want to go, [and] he doesn't have enough time to actually really deal with it, so what he's left with at the very very end- [to find that out] you have to see the play."

Catch two local performances of There Ain't No More before Carlisle and Fletcher tour the show nationally. That's at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at Black Apple Crossing on Emma Ave. in Springdale and 8 p.m. Friday, May 5, at Artist's Laboratory Theatre on College Ave. in South Fayetteville. 

Tickets, plus add-ons for donors who wish to support the artistic endeavor, may be purchased for any show on the national tour via their GoFundMe page.