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After pandemic shutdown, the Ivoryton Playhouse welcomes audiences to 'The Porch on Windy Hill'

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Jonathan Steele
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Sherry Lutken
From left: Morgan Morse, Lisa Helmi Johanson and David Lutken in "The Porch on Windy Hill."

It’s 2021. Two young Brooklyn musicians — a classical violinist and her mandolin-playing boyfriend — venture out after their pandemic isolation and travel to the Appalachian Mountains in search of creative inspiration and traditional American music.

“A brief summary of the play is that it is a family drama,” said actor/musician David Lutken. “It takes place in a mythical town in western North Carolina, about a couple of generations of a family, a musical family.”

Lutken said the play has been called a bluegrass musical, “... but it’s really neither a musical nor bluegrass.”

Instead, he described “The Porch on Windy Hill” as an exploration of cultural connections that have long been part of the evolution of American music, set against a backdrop of division and racism in one American family.

“We’ve tried to examine that on a very, very small scale with an eye still to the reflection of the larger scale.”

The play was created collaboratively by director Sherry Lutken and its three actor/musicians: Lisa Helmi Johanson, Morgan Morse and David Lutken. The show is filled with old time, bluegrass and country blues tunes played on fiddle, guitar, banjo and mountain dulcimer.

And just as the play’s characters step back into the world after COVID quarantine, Lutken said it’s been great for actors to step back onto the stage.

“Theater is such a wonderful collaborative art, both on one side of the footlights and the other, because you’ve got to have an audience in order to make it work. And so that’s been quite something to experience, is to reemerge into that.”

“The Porch on Windy Hill” runs through Oct. 17 at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Essex.