LIGHTING UP THE JOINT Members of the cast of Somewhere, Maine.
Inspired by years of working for and within Maine’s marijuana community, Sumner farmer Jonathan Leavitt has written what he describes as a “bluegrass opera” about the “rascals and resisters, visionaries, healers, thieves, prophets, greedy businessmen, heretics, hillbillies, and hill cats” who comprise that community.
Leavitt, who served as director of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative (which worked to reform the state’s medical marijuana laws) from 2006-2010 and then as director of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine until 2012, had six years of anecdotes and experiences to draw from.
“When I thought about trying to document this world, I wanted to do it in a way that would give people a look at the world outside of the usual drug-related headlines, so they could experience the beauty and the darkness and the heartache and redemption that this world holds,” Leavitt tells the Phoenix. “It seemed best to do it in a way that included both song...and dance.”
The result, two years in the making, is Somewhere, Maine: The Marijuana Musical, a dramatic look at one year on a marijuana farm in the Western hills of Maine. Telling the story of an “outlaw country singer” and pot farmer named Johnny Crashed, the show features a colorful cast of supporting characters including “home-schooled Christian sisters Jezebel and Rebeka,” a war veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, and “Redneck, who is based on a real-life local drug dealing hell raiser;” as well as the 20-member Openly High Choir and local bluegrass musicians like the Tricky Britches.
Tickets for the Port City Music Hall premiere (which will take place on April 20 — duh) went on sale this month (portcitymusichall.com); Leavitt hopes that his raw depiction of the wild world of weed will trigger critical conversations within the pro-marijuana movement, which has experienced some growing pains over the past few years.
But beyond the controversy, Leavitt hopes the show entertains and enlightens. The cast has been rehearsing twice a week since November, plus building sets, shooting video for the multi-media parts of the show, and making costumes.
“And yes, we have been medicated much of the way,” Leavitt says. “The audience may also be surprised to find out that a bunch of full-time stoners can actually make a production like this happen.”