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One-man play explores performer’s memories of father

Loundon W performs songs about his life and heritage in "Surviving Twin."
Buy Photos Loundon W performs songs about his life and heritage in "Surviving Twin."

Loudon Wainwright III’s song “Surviving Twin,” which he wrote about his complex and emotional relationship with his late father, is the inspiration behind his new show of the same name.

The one-man show opens PlayMakers Repertory Company’s second PRC2 season tonight.

“surviving twin”

Time and Dates: Sept. 4 – 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 8, 2 p.m.

Location: Kenan Theatre


“My father was a wonderful writer, and he wrote for Life magazine, and my idea for this show would connect and take live songs with selections of his writing because I think they do connect,” Wainwright said.

PlayMakers has two series of plays every year — six main stage plays and three plays that are part of the secondary season.

“We pick plays that we think will inspire conversation, and every performance has a post-show conversation,” said Jeffrey Meanza, coordinator for PRC2.

This year, the PRC2 season opens with the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and actor’s one-man show.

The song deals with Wainwright’s looking and being like his father — something that caused him to want to be better than his father through fame and fortune — and it asks if a man could be his father’s twin.

“I’m performing (his) columns, (and) … there are 11 songs in the show, 10 songs in the show of mine and one of his,” Wainwright said.

The themes of the show — birth, self-identity, loss, fashion, pet ownership and mortality — are all matters that Wainwright and his father were interested in.

Joseph Haj, the director of “Surviving Twin,” said Wainwright will talk about multiple generations of his family through different media.

“In addition to it being the text and the music, there’s a lot of photograph and video projections,” he said.

Wainwright’s singing will be coupled with a slideshow of pictures featuring not only his father and himself, but also other father-and-son pictures of historical figures — such as Abraham Lincoln and his son.

Wainwright’s father, Loudon Wainwright Jr., attended UNC and went on to write a column about his life and current events for Life magazine from 1964-1985 before his death in 1988.

“He wrote personal things and political things and current events,” Wainwright said.

“He was known for writing about the original Project Mercury astronauts — the first men that went into space in the ’60s — but he also wrote about very mundane things like visiting his mother in a nursing home or buying a London tailored suit in London in 1965 or Mickey Mantle, the famous baseball player.”

Wainwright’s father wrote for the magazine in a style similar to the way Wainwright writes his songs.

“Songwriters write about what they want to write about, and I’ve been doing that for 40 years,” he said. “I’ve been writing about my personal life, also topical songs, novelty songs — all kinds of songs.”

Following every show, there will be a post-show discussion featuring Wainwright and Haj, and possibly a crew member.

“Since ‘Surviving Twin’ is such a personal story, it’ll be more about the artist involved,” Meanza said.

Haj said that because Wainwright’s show describes a particularly complicated father-and-son relationship, it also describes many other such emotional links.

“Every relationship with every parent is neither good nor bad, like any number of things, and that was our relationship, too,” he said.

One of the songs Wainwright performs talks about fighting with and hating or loving someone.

“With the whole father-and-son story, there’s a real sort of pain that’s beautiful and moving,” Meanza said.

“And of course, Loudon Wainwright (III) is an incredible performer, really an artist as both a musician and a performer.”

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