Centered on the struggles, heartbreak and dreams of one woman’s journey to find happiness, “Dust Bowl Motel,” a new play by Huntsville, Texas resident Scott McCarley and writing partner Jim Roth of San Clemente, California, combines acting and storytelling with video, accompanied by live, homegrown, Texas music to capture a unique theatre experience. The upcoming Conroe, Texas production features music from a variety of musicians including Caitlin Cary, Davin James, Todd Hoke, Erin Condo and McCarley.
Set in a rundown motel in western Oklahoma where “bad just got worse,” the play focuses on Katie, who has little to do but clean old motel rooms and watch the heat waves rise from the highway out front. To escape this mundane reality, she dreams of a new life in sunny California and develops a plan to get there.
The development of the play and the music was a collaboration four years in the making for Roth and McCarley. McCarley who has always been interested in music and writing and has spent many years at the Kerrville Folk Festival performing and cultivating a network of talented friends. “Having written several songs over the years my music seemed to take on the theme of California and self-discovery,” explained McCarley.
The show also developed further with the discovery of the music of Cary, a singer/songwriter from the group Whiskeytown—an alternative country band fronted by Ryan Adams. “When I heard the poetic lyrics (“Katie’s gone to California / She read there’s something in the air / She’s got her pockets full of Dixie / She just might make it halfway there.”), it connected so closely with “Dust Bowl Motel” and I realized I had to get her music involved,” McCarley said. Fortunately, Cary was willing to lend her talents—by providing the lead song “Conversation About a Friend”—to help make “Dust Bowl Motel” a reality.
While theatre would seem an unlikely place to hear Texas Music, the production features a variety of musicians who have contributed to the show with a variety of styles considered “a mix of Southern rock, country rock, alt-country, outlaw country, folk and Texas honky-tonk with even a few Mexican influences,” as Texas and Red Dirt music have been described. McCarly welcomes the assortment of homegrown music genres that make up “Dust Bowl Motel” saying, “Some people might call it Texas, Red Dirt or Americana but whatever label you put on it, it is authentic. It tells the stories of real people. People you know.”
Other original songs in the production come from singer songwriter, Davin James based out of Houston, Texas who has become a mainstay at the Larry Joe Taylor festival for many years and is known for his songwriting and energetic on-stage performances. McCarley, who has written over 300 original songs himself, adds four of his own songs to the production as well as “Rosalita,” a song co-written with Todd Hoke, of Asheville, North Carolina, and Erin Condo, of Millheim, Pennsylvania. Condo’s newest album Love and Lightning features the collaboration’s track.
After a sold out debut in August 2014 in Huntsville, Texas, “Dust Bowl Motel” now makes its Conroe, Texas premiere March 18 at 8:00p.m. and will run through March 20, 2016 at The Crighton Theatre. Ticket information can be found at http://www.dustbowlmotel