Bridger Hangs Up His Buckskins

Bridger Hanging Up His Buckskins

by

Melissa Tatum

 

“Bridger has written and performed the American Iliad and Odyssey;

it is the story of the settlement of the American west in verse.”

                    Dr. Paul Fees,

Former Senior Curator, Buffalo Bill Historical Center

 

 

After thirty-eight years of performances all over the globe, why has Bridger made the

 

decision to hang up his buckskins? Perhaps a well-known lyric from Bridger’s Heal in the

 

Wisdom best answers the question:  “there is a reason, there is a rhyme, there is a season, and there is

 

a time”.

 

The last performance of Bobby Bridger’s highly-acclaimed one man shows of his

 

epic trilogy, A Ballad of the West is scheduled to take place at Fort Bridger, Wyoming on July

 

4, 2011. Whereas Bridger retired performances of his one man show of Pahaska in 2006,

 

the epic balladeer  will offer a free final performance of Seekers of the Fleece and Lakota for the

 

general public at Fort Bridger State Historical Site in Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Several days later

 

Bridger will present the very last performance of Seekers of the Fleece exclusively for the annual

 

gathering of the National Bridger Family Association . After that concert the balladeer will

 

deliver his beaded buckskin costumes and coyote headdress, as well as CDs, DVDs, books,

 

posters, and other memorabilia on indefinite loan to the Fort Bridger Historical Association for

 

museum display.

 

“There have been other efforts to capture what the west really meant to those who once lived it. And I am certain that, in the future, there will be others who strive to climb over that emotional-historical mountain searching for the other side of time. But I sincerely doubt that anyone will so completely capture the spirit of time and place as Bobby Bridger has done in Seekers of the Fleece. It is a triumph over time and space as all spiritual synthesis must be.  And, when such an experience is achieved, it has

(as the Indians know) a healing spirit that reaffirms the best of what we are and what we can be.”

                                       The Healing Spirit, Lakota philosopher Vine Deloria, Jr.

                                    Introduction to the first publication of the lyrics of

                               A Ballad of the West in Four Winds magazine in 1981

 

“I’ve devoted most of my creative life to completing A Ballad of the West and that

 

dream is now accomplished,” Bridger says when he is asked about ceasing performances of

 

his acclaimed works. “In the past year alone I’ve released a five-hour multi-disc boxed DVD

 

set of the trilogy, an hour-long documentary film, and an autobiography chronicling the

 

evolution of A Ballad of the West. I’m sixty-five years old now and it is time to work on other

 

things while I can. For example, I have another major musical that I’ve repeatedly had to

 

shove to the back burner for decades in order to properly develop A Ballad of the West. We

 

did two separate workshops of Aldebaran and the Falling Star at the National Theater Institute

 

back in the 1980s and I produced several chamber piece stagings of the piece before work

 

on the full-company productions of A Ballad of the West in Wyoming took my focus from the

 

space musical. Now, however, my son Gabriel has studied voice, opera, and musical theater

 

for years and we intend to complete a recording of Aldebaran and the Falling Star together as a

 

team. I also want to write and produce more recordings in the contemporary folk style and

 

also to paint and sculpt. I’m already structuring an outline for a new album now and hope to

 

have it out by the time of that last performance of Seekers of the Fleece and Lakota in July

 

2011.”

 

Consequently, those interested in seeing Seekers of the Fleece or Lakota performed

 

before July, 2011 should be informed that now would be the time to do it. Bridger decided

 

to make this announcement a full year ahead of time to give theaters, western museums,

 

university classrooms, and house concert series enough time to arrange a last performance

 

of the one man shows. After July, 2011 the books, CDs and DVD’s of concert versions of A

 

Ballad of the West will have to carry the work forward.

 

“Bridger is a Shakespeare of the American west.”

                George C. White,

                                Founder, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center,

                                           First Chairman, Sundance Institute

 

Bridger is particularly interested in performing his last tour of the one man shows

 

where they truly began –in people’s living rooms. In 1974 Bridger took his historical epic

 

ballads to the Creek Theater in Austin, costumed himself in the beaded buckskins of mountain

 

men and American Indians, and molded the work into a starkly unique trilogy of one man

 

shows. After a successful fifteen-week run of Parts One and Three of the trilogy, Seekers of

 

the Fleece and Lakota, Bridger embarked on what was in those days a journey into unexplored

 

territory –as an epic balladeer costumed as a mountain man performing theater in people’s

 

homes. In June 1973 Bridger headed to Wyoming as a traveling balladeer performing his

 

theatrical one man shows in tiny towns, on Indian reservations, in people’s barns, on

 

their front porches, but more often than not, in their living rooms. By the early 1980s

 

Bridger had criss-crossed America many times over and created a unique niche for himself in

 

the world of folk music and theater.

 

Bridger has carved out a unique and captivating place for himself in our culture. A dramatist and a songwriter, an actor and a singer, a historian and a contemporary recording artist; Bridger speaks with and sings with the many voices of the west, old and new.

A Ballad of the West makes you listen, makes you learn and makes you dream.”

                                                                                                                                          Alan Menken,

                                                                                                                               Playwright/Composer, Little Shop of Horrors

 

When Bridger took his theatrical performances into living rooms throughout

 

America in 1975 he already had been working on A Ballad of the West for twelve years. In

 

1963, after having learned of a possible relationship with mountain man Jim Bridger, he

 

began an exploration of the American west that has directed his five decade career as a

 

musician and singer/songwriter. After writing, producing, and recording in Nashville and

 

Hollywood for Monument and RCA Records, by 1970 Bridger had completed his first epic

 

ballad in heroic couplets. The work was based on the life of Jim Bridger and titled Seekers of

 

the Fleece, Part One of A Ballad of the West. By 1973 Bridger completed a second epic ballad

 

titled Lakota that is based on the life of Lakota Holy Man Black Elk and the Indian Wars.

 

Around this time Bridger came to the realization that the recording industry would never be

 

receptive to the new form he had created; indeed, after Bridger’s old friend (and the narrator

 

of the recording of Seekers of the Fleece), the late Slim Pickens, played a cassette tape of an

 

early demo of “Seekers” for Willie Nelson the Red-Headed Stranger’s poetic response was,

 

“Bobby sure does like to swim upstream.” True to Willie’s prognosis, Bridger had at that point

 

already departed the commercial record industry and embarked upon a career that is without

 

a doubt unique by any standards. Few have performed in beaded buckskins and coyote

 

headdress for the stone age Aboriginals of Central Australia and under flags depicting the

 

likeness of Vladimir Lenin in Soviet Russia within the period of year.

 

A Ballad of the West is poetry to be chanted, sung and acted. It calls to mind the great mavericks Whitman, Sandburg and Earl Robinson. The form is speechsong, written for both eye and ear. It also happens to be electrifying theater.”                                                                                                                Dale Wasserman,

                                             Playwright, Man of LaMancha

Bridger has arranged to celebrate his retirement of A Ballad of the West with a year of

 

performances of Seekers of the Fleece and Lakota. If you are interested in arranging a

 

performance of Bridger’s one man show’s for a folk festival, theater, museum, university,

 

high school, or house concert please contact me before I stop accepting proposals on May 1,

 

2011.

 

Melissa Tatum

Melissa@bobbybridger.com

713-726-0512

 

“Bobby Bridger’s A Ballad of the West trilogy

 –deeply felt and passionately expressed-

is a treasure of the American spirit.”

 Bill Witliff, Screenwriter/producer, Lonesome Dove

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Published in: on June 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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