When actor-playwright Jaston Williams was growing up in a small town near Lubbock, the 1950s drought had just broken, followed by 20 years of rain spotted with tornadoes.
"Tornado season was a pretty scary time. . We didn't have a storm cellar at our house. My mother had accepted invitations form everyone in town who had a cellar. Any time one came we had to go to a different place," says Williams.
That "Tornado Etiquette" story is just part of what will play out on stage on November 8 at Galvestons's Grand 1894 Opera House when Williams teams with longtime friend, noted musician and Amarillo native Joe Ely for Is There Life After Lubbock?
"We both survived the Texas Panhandle," says Williams. The set will look like a living room and the two will be together onstage throughout the performance of music, poetry and theater, he adds. "He's got his guitar. We just tell stories and laugh," Williams says.
Williams credits Jim Ritts, managing and artistic director of Austin's Paramount Theater for being the impetus behind his latest product. Ritts, observing the wealth of material Williams has collected about the Lubbock area suggested that with so many people in Texas who're from the Panhandle (many now living in Austin as Williams does. "People from the Panhandle get there and see so many trees andsay 'I can't ever leave.'") that it would be good to build a show around "a comfortable evening about that part of the world. I called Joe Ely and he said 'Yeah, let's do it.'"
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Singer-songwriter Ely who in April performed with his group the Flatlanders at Carnegie Hall will contribute his own experiences and songs.
"The hardest part was trimming it down. When you talk about eccentricity in the Texas Panhandle it's about the length of the Count of Monte Cristo," Williams says.
Offering up some of his one liners in advance, Williams says among the basics they'll cover in tornado etiquette is that "you never scream we're all going to die. That never helps."
Williams and Ely start their Texas tour in Lubbock , before moving to Mason then Galveston and then Austin. Galveston's one-night performance of Is There Life After Lubbock is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, November 8 at Galveston's Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice Street. For information call 409-765-1894 or visit thegran.com.