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MorningStar History

by Nick Alva


Morning Star Ranch was the accidental, unintentional commune near Occidental that flourished from 1966 through 1972 on a piece of land owned by the Limeliters Lou Gottleib. It became a haven and a spectacle (for some) when Lou opened the land to all - Open Land Access To Which Is Denied No One - without limitations in order to see what the Divine might do with the future 'Technologically Unemployable" people, some of whom were hippies. Many came with the intention of living on the Earth, back to the Land. Others came to party and weak havoc. This was too much for some of the neighbors and the County officials and they moved to limit, to change or to shut Morning Star Ranch down. Lou decided to deed the land to God and then… well if I say more the story of "MorningStar" will be given away.


"MorningStar" is a living history piece and there are many in Sonoma County and around the world that know of its story and are very interested in seeing it performed.  Some who have read the script have compared it to "Hair", "but a 'Hair' that tells the real story of the hippies." And lastly, this is a political piece as well. It is about Peace, Love and in finding a way for all of us to live on the Land, on this planet. If it does not present a clear cut answer, it at least asks the questions with the goal of helping us realize that we can change the dominant world situation.  The work is metapolitical, it is part of the cycle that reached a particular point in the 1960's and that is cycling around again. The wave is rising and I invite you all to be there when it crests.


A few years back an election occurred that split this nation. It was a bogus election with disastrous consequences. While America was in an illegal war abroad and having its liberties undermined at home a co-worker told me about Lou Gottlieb (whom I was said to resemble) and the ‘Morning Star Scrapbook.’ I listened, read the book and realized, “Oh my God, why has this not been turned into a theatre piece before?” MorningStar is the story of those who in the 1960’s stood up to the same onslaught that exists now (again), and won. This might be an antidote.


I went on to have children, to work, to play music and to study aesthetics, metaphysics and life while the idea of MorningStar came in and out of my consciousness. Things only got worse for America and one night I was reading a chapter on the musical theater of Bertolt Brecht. I was thinking to myself (not saying a word out loud), “I need a big musical subject to work on.” My wife, Tanya, was cleaning out some cabinets at that moment and told me, “Before you go to bed, read this old letter you wrote.” It was a letter to Ramon Sender (the unofficial co-founder of the Morning Star unofficial commune) asking him if it was alright by him if his and the hippies’ story could be turned into a play with music and dance. Little did I know that that was the first manifestation of a gloriously joyful, rich and fun endeavor that is now before you, ready to be performed.


There is a wide array of source materials including journals, newspaper clippings, court records and living sources interviewed. There are also a considerable number of chants and songs written by Lou Gottlieb, Joe Dolce, Ramon Sender and Alicia Bay Laurel - people who were there, or tied to the events. There is a classical piano piece by Wilder Bentley (an on-the-road renaissance man) performed by “Lou” in the play. I got the permission, blessings and love of all whom I asked. The contributions of poems and stories came, making a rich source to choose from. And then there was myself and a group of people whom I worked with in the past that I wanted contributions from as well. I put the story together, filled in the gaps, wrote the piece and composed music for the ‘others,’: the non-hippies, the government officials and the neighbors (the society songs). This is truly a collaborative piece that has come together into a succinct, coherent and fascinating play. The only person whom I did not have the privilege to work directly with was Lou Gottlieb, who died in 1996. Lou, I am convinced, has been contributing and fully involved with “MorningStar,” but from a different plane.









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