PORT TOWNSEND — All summer, he’s been “Hamlet.” As of Sunday night, that was done.
This week Dillon Porter becomes Bob Dylan — the first show is Wednesday — and the week after, just once, he’ll be Kahlil Gibran’s “Prophet.”
As for young Bob, we first find him in the midst of summer of 1966 in Woodstock, N.Y., right after the crash on his Triumph motorcycle.
“He’s concussed, banged up,” as Porter put it, but with the help of his friends he regains his ability to speak and sing.
Which he and his compatriots — including Woody Guthrie (George Rezendes) and Joan Baez (Hanna Lose-Frahn) — do in “Dillon on Dylan.”
The show comes to the Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St., just twice: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. This is the world premiere of Porter’s play — and, he said, “my love letter to Port Townsend.”
Porter, 35 and a veteran of films and of New York and Chicago theater, first came here to show his movie, “Bastards y Diablos,” at the 2016 Port Townsend Film Festival.
He returned to appear in Key City’s “The Aliens,” “Murder Ballad” and “Wolf at the Door.”
Preparations for “Hamlet” began months before its Aug. 3 opening; Porter has led the Shakespeare in the Park production for four weeks. His next place of residence will be Colombia, where he’ll travel in September to premiere and promote “Bastards y Diablos,” which is set there.
Inspired by Dylan’s memoir “Chronicles,” D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary “Don’t Look Back” and by all those lyrics sung in that sandpaper voice, Porter began writing “Dillon on Dylan” last spring.
It’s an exploration of the artist’s music and young life as the “Voice of His Generation.”
We’ll see Guthrie, Dylan’s mentor, portrayed by Rezendes of the Toolshed SoundLab recording studio here, singing and playing guitar behind a thin veil. We’ll meet a few influential women — Flo Castner, Suze Rotolo and Patti Smith — all played by Rose Burt. We’ll hear Baez, Dylan’s sometime sweetheart, sing too.
“It’s an honor. It’s pretty amazing,” Lose-Frahn, 30, said of her role. Steeping herself in Baez interviews found online, she marvels at the singer’s clear voice.
“So young, so sure, such prowess,” she said. “A queenly presence.”
Yet the play is primarily about Dylan, Lose-Frahn said; in it Joanie does not sing any of the songs that made her famous. She does offer Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” along with a few duets with Porter.
“My hope is that [Baez’] heart makes it through — that unbelievable heart we know is there,” Lose-Frahn said.
There just might be some onstage chemistry between the two performers. A chef, actor and singer, Lose-Frahn met Porter a year ago. The two fell in love and, she said, have “had a pretty intense, amazing relationship since then.”
When he started talking about this play, “my first reaction was: Yes, Dillon, do that.”
The couple then opted to collaborate on another project: “A Meal with Kahlil,” the Sept. 2 benefit for Key City Public Theatre. Lose-Frahn will cater the four-course dinner and play the seeress Almitra to Porter’s Almustafa in Kahlil Gibran’s classic “The Prophet.”
Act I, “Speak to us of Love,” is a chilled summer beet soup with fresh mint; then come “On Beauty,” seasonal edible blossoms with seven-herbed oil and lemon chèvre; “Of Self-Knowledge,” featuring peppered asparagus and seared coho and finally “Speak to me … of Pleasure,” young coconut custard with fig sap, anise hyssop, rosewater and wild berries.
While Lose-Frahn has dreamed up this meal and prepared to play Baez and Almitra, Porter has likewise been balancing roles. During “Hamlet,” he’s taken care to save his vocal cords.
But there have been times in recent “Dillon on Dylan” rehearsals when he’s taken on that voice.
“Bob Dylan has entered the room,” was Lose-Frahn’s reaction.
When asked about this, Porter quipped that Dylan is “a good singer [with a] bad instrument.” Yes, he hopes to sound like him, “but hopefully not a parody.”
Turns out that in his 2016 speech accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature, Dylan spoke of Shakespeare’s poetry and the modern songwriter’s craft. Just as “Hamlet” was meant for stage, not page, he said, songs are meant to be sung and heard aloud.
Lastly, this bard of Greenwich Village quoted Homer’s “The Odyssey”:
“Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”
“Dillon on Dylan,” written by Dillon Porter and directed by Brendan Chambers, arrives on stage at 7:30p.m. Wednesdayand Thursday at the Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St. Tickets are $20.
“A Meal with Kahlil,” a dinner made especially for a performance from Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” begins at 6 p.m.Sundayupstairs at Aldrich’s Market, 940 Lawrence St. Tickets are $100 with proceeds to benefit Key City Public Theatre,which marksits 60th anniversary this season.
For information on all three productions, visit keycitypublictheatre.org or call 360-385-5278.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.