Particular People
The Music of Donald Ashwander
The Club
February 10 - 19, 2006
Friday - Saturday 10:00pm
Sunday - 5:30pm
Tickets $15
Directed by Pablo Vela
Choreography by Meredith Monk

Box office 212.475.7710

"Particular People," directed by Pablo Vela with choreography by Meredith Monk, is a unique event devoted entirely to the music of the late, great Donald Ashwander, whose compositions range from classical art songs and swinging ragtime frolics to sophisticated theater songs and lyrics.

Composer and musician Donald Ashwander (1929 - 1994) was perhaps best known as musical director and resident composer for The Paper Bag Players, where he entertained audiences for nearly 30 years. Ashwander's diverse and profound contributions to American music have been documented on numerous recordings, including his final 1994 release of "Traditional Patterns." A self-professed "ragtime piano player," Ashwander's compositions and performances were largely responsible for the revival of interest in period ragtime (1897-1917) and the broadening and deepening of content and meaning in new ragtime works. CBS Sunday Morning has cited Donald Ashwander as "a hero of glee."

The cast of "Particular People" features cabaret artists Thomas Bogdan, Lanny Harrison, Nicky Paraiso, Lily Pink, keyboard artist Nurit Tilles, and special guests.

Pablo Vela, Meredith Monk and Donald Ashwander assembled to create "Particular People" as a revue for the West Kortright Centre in East Meredith, NY in 1993. (Monk has a house there, as does cast member Lanny Harrison.) When it was performed that year, Ashwander was accompanist. A year after Ashwander's unexpected death in 1994, the piece was re-created for The Club at La MaMa as a remembrance. Now it is ten years after Ashwander's death, and the piece is being revived not as a memorial but as a celebration.

Donald Ashwander

A true "Son of the South," Donald Ashwander was born in Birmingham, Alabama on July 17, 1929. Growing up in the small North Alabama community of Hanceville, his musical talents were recognized early. He studied during his teens at Sacred Heart College in Cullman and Birmingham Southern. Upon high school graduation, Ashwander boarded the train, headed for New York City and enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music.

At that time, the New York musical scene was rigidly divided between the "classical" and the "popular," both flourishing independent of the other. While immersed in his studies, he attended many concerts and performances, but still found time to frequent out-of-the-way places where jazz reigned supreme. His interest in American music led him to Ragtime, Sacred Harp and other forms of American folk and popular music. Ashwander's life experience in the Deep South, the New York music scene, his worldwide travels and his enjoyment of people from diverse cultures are all components of his thoroughly unique "Americana" music.

Mobile was home to Ashwander from the late 1950's to the early 1960's. While exploring his musical interests, he earned his living through employment as a shipyard worker and merchant seaman. Writing commercial jingles and playing at local piano bars supplemented his income. Ashwander returned to New York City in the mid-60's and began a 28 year collaboration as composer/performer and Musical Director for the acclaimed New York based children's theatre group, The Paper Bag Players. Today, ten years after his death, The Paper Bag Players continue to perform to the rambunctious and irresistible Donald Ashwander music that has given such a distinctive sound to this unique children's theatre.

Donald Ashwander was a prolific composer, making many diverse and profound contributions to American music, both as composer and lyricist. His music Friday Night is in the repertories of The Canadian National Ballet and The Royal Ballet of London. He was honored by the Guide Foundation and received several ASCAP awards. His work with The Paper Bag Players was recognized with a New York State Governor's Award. Ashwander received further recognition with awards from the American Theater Association and The American Alliance for Theater and Education.

Donald Ashwander died unexpectedly on October 26, 1994 while preparing for a performance with the Paper Bag Players in New York City. On January 1, 1995, Charles Osgood of CBS Sunday Morning, gave tribute to Donald in the broadcast's annual "Salute to Heroes" by saying, "What Donald Ashwander wanted was to make life merry...goodbye to a hero of glee."

Pablo Vela has been a member of Meredith Monk/The House since 1975, appearing in many of its major productions. He was Associate Director of Monk's opera "Atlas" and of "American Archaeology #1." He received his theater training at Yale University and, in addition, studied with Viola Spolin (improvisation) and Jacque Lecoq (masks and mime). From 1965 to 1975, Vela taught acting at Goddard College, becoming director of the theater program there. Subsequently, his work as performer and/or director has been presented throughout the US and Canada and well as in Europe and Central America. In NYC, he created a series of cabaret performances including "WB Club WB," a tribute to American film noir.

Donald Ashwander was one of Ms. Monk's closest friends for 23 years. A composer, singer, filmmaker and director/choreographer, she has created more than 80 music/theater/dance and film works since 1964. She has received numerous awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, three Obies (including an award for sustained achievement), two Villager Awards, a Bessie for Sustained Creative Achievement, 16 ASCAP Awards and the prestigious MacArthur "Genius" Award. Her films "Ellis Island" and "Book of Days" have been shown on PBS and at festivals worldwide. In 1968, Ms. Monk founded The House, a company dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance and in 1978, she formed Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble to perform her unique compositions. She has recorded twelve albums, most of them on the ECM New Series.



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