Mary Jane, Where Are You?

 “Mary Jane: A Musical Potumentary” is soon to be released for general distribution.


Looking for fashion inspiration? If your tastes turn toward the outrageous, look no further than the Humboldt made film, “Mary Jane: A Musical Potumentary,” where classic hippie, corporate button-down, heavy metal, reggae-flavored, Earth Mama, even Bollywood styles come together.


The fabulous costumes express a variety of cultures; audience members have been encouraged to show up to screenings decked out in their favorite. But, since its world premiere at the Eureka Theater in Eureka, California on June10, 2016, you’d have had a hard time doing that. The film has been difficult to find.


The soundtrack release party was held at Richard’s Goat Tavern and Tea Room in Arcata, California in February 2015. There were short runs of the film at various Northern California locations throughout 2016 — the Carlo Theater in Blue Lake, the Minor Theater in Arcata, the Hempfest in Garberville — and the film was awarded Best Musical at the Oregon Independent Film Festival last year. Early this year, there was a flurry of activity at Dell’Arte in Blue Lake and environs, keeping the film in the public eye.


According to Artistic Director Michael Fields, our wait is almost over. The eagerly-awaited general release is about to happen.


“Mary Jane: A Musical Potumentary” is the latest iteration of the famed Dell’Arte stage production, “Mary Jane: The Musical,” first staged during the Mad River Festival in 2011 and reinterpreted twice since. Documentary filmmaker, John Howarth, saw that first production and, according to Fields, promptly offered to make a film.


Howarth is also the director of another heartfelt local documentary, a profile of Ferndale, California artist Jack Mays called “One More Line.”


The Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in tiny Blue Lake is a world-renowned cultural resource in Humboldt County. In a June 2011 article in the “SF GATE,” writer Christine Delsol called the Dell’Arte School “wonderfully wacky yet strangely sage” and claims it as the training ground for “one third of Cirque du Soleil’s touring company members.”


Fields has been affiliated with Dell’Arte in Blue Lake almost since its inception. He began in 1976 as an actor in their College of the Redwoods summer stock ensemble and has long been involved in their evolution of the “theatre of place.”


Theatre of place focuses on creating “plays about and for the community where you live,” as the Dell’Arte website puts it. Fields appeared in their very first production, “Korbel,” a staged soap opera which evolved over the years through six episodes about one town.

“Mary Jane: A Musical Potumentary” is, perhaps, the ultimate “theatre of place” production. The play’s ambitious aim, as Fields said, was to give musical voice to “all sides of the marijuana industry” in Humboldt County as California approaches legalization. He explained that the original idea for the play did not have a coherent viewpoint, so Dell’Arte invited 14 local writers, including several Humboldt State University faculty members, to submit vignettes that expressed the many opinions about cannabis legalization. Fields suggested that the array of viewpoints expressed in the film can “help people make their own decisions.“


The story revolves around one 60s era, back-to-the-land type hippie who finds economic stability and a cultural home growing Humboldt’s most famous crop. She raises her son in that hothouse (in more ways than one) environment. With legalization on the horizon, both her neighbors and strangers find they have great interest in the possibilities for the future of cannabis in this rural county.


The show has lavish musical numbers. Hippies, Rasta wanna-be types, and Earth Mamas extol the healing, peaceful side of the herb. The Bollywood sent-up tells of the long history of human-cannabis interaction. Ed Asner graces the film as head of a corporate team nearly drooling over the money that could be made. Heavy metal guys with guns defend destructive, illegal grow sites on protected public lands.


While the soundtrack is available through all the usual outlets, where is the DVD?  Fields is confident that general release of the film will happen this fall, though the exact date has not been set. Right now, several distributors are interested, and re-mastering and reformatting are underway. Decisions still need to be made about things like whether to include extra features such as video production notes and commentaries. Once the distribution arrangements are finalized, expect the film to be available in multiple formats.


Not looking to adopt a whole new style based on the film? Well, Halloween’s coming soon. This film can definitely provide inspiration for a costume. My personal favorite scene expresses the heartbreak of unrequited love between a male and a female cannabis plant, forever kept apart. Now, if I can just figure out how to dance wearing a full-sized potted cannabis plant….

Emerald contributor since July 2015


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