Folks Like Us: A raw and touching show

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Sarah Smith is used to being on stage – she said it feels like home for her. She’ll be joining four other musicians on the Petrolia Playhouse stage next month in her first-ever theatre production Folks Like Us.

The singer/songwriter has been in the music industry for about 20 years now, touring across the globe and doing what she had always dreamed of. Co-Artistic Directors David Hogan and David Rogers were looking for someone that would be the right fit, and when they found Smith, they knew she was the one their stage needed.

“The stage is pretty much where I go every day…some people might be freaked out by it, but to me it’s where I’m most comfortable,” she said. “I’ve learned how to be at peace on the stage.”

When she got the email, she didn’t know much about Petrolia or their theatre company. After seeing their latest production, Happy Together 1967, she learned quickly what they were all about.

“It was so good,” she said of the experience. “I was like…how am I going to do this?”

The London-based musician said she’s always up for trying new things; theatre is completely new to her, but she’s already loving how the rehearsals have been going so far.

“I like to be involved in things that take me to a new level,” she said. “I’m always striving to get better and do new things and get more experience…this is just a beautiful opportunity that came knocking at the right time.”

Smith said as a performer, she wants to bring something to the stage that audiences won’t forget. Folks Like Us will feature songs from a variety of Canadian folk artists including Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young and Buffy Sainte-Marie, but folk artists from other parts of the world will also be tied in, highlighting connections and how they inspired those Canadian artists.

“I want it to be amazing,” she said. “I’ve been diving into this every free moment I have.”

Hogan said the show will be conversational and the songs will be easily recognized and familiar, but they are aiming to dig a little deeper when it comes to the emotional aspect.

“These are real stories…when Rita MacNeil sang Working Man, she was singing it for the people,” he said. “Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Universal Soldier…the lyrics are chilling.”

Smith said the show is set to be incredibly raw and organic; she’s found performing the songs an intensely emotional experience for her because they aren’t just songs, they are real life stories and messages.

“It’s going to be beautifully vulnerable,” she said. “We’re all on stage with our instruments…guitar, mandolin, banjo, piano…and we all switch it up.”

She said the lyrics to many of the songs, including Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You, tell a deep and meaningful story, and the show will focus in on the music of the time.

“Folk songs aren’t about the catchy course…they are about the message, and we want to bring those messages to the people,” she said. “We want them to feel our hearts and the hearts of the people that wrote these messages…it’s going to be intimate.”

The show will tell the history of folk and let the audience delve deeper into the songs, giving them a new perspective and deeper appreciation for them. There will be protest songs, sing-alongs, and looking at how the folk movement emerged in the 1960s.

“It’s just going to flow beautifully,” she said. “They were just normal people sharing their message – they were just folks like us.”

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WHAT: Folks Like Us

WHERE: Victoria Playhouse Petrolia

WHEN: Aug. 1-12; first performance Aug. 1 at 2 p.m.

DETAILS: For tickets, call 519-882-1221, or e-mail

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