By Angela Decker
Singer and actor Sarah Jane Nelson, who hails from Louisiana, says "lagniappe" is a fitting word for her style of music. It's a Louisiana-French term meaning a little something extra or, more broadly, a bit of everything.
What: "Back Porch Blues Jam"
When: 7:15 p.m. Thursday, July 19
Where: Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Green Show, 15 S. Pioneer St., Ashland
"I don't fit into any one genre. I like musical theater, blues, country, gospel, everything," she says.
Blues, though, is closest to her heart.
"When I sing the blues, it's all me. It's where I'm from, and I never feel nervous or worry about the lyrics or the notes. I just sing. Blues is a real passion."
Nelson, a former Oregon Shakespeare Festival performer, along with blues guitarist Hawkeye Herman and Southern Oregon University professor and blues harp player Irv Lubliner will present "Back Porch Blues Jam" at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, July 19, at OSF's Green Show, in the festival's courtyard at 15 S. Pioneer St., Ashland.
OSF's Green Shows are staged before Elizabethan Stage performances begin and last about 35 minutes. Admission is free.
Nelson says the show is the perfect way to end her two-week visit to Ashland, a place she and her husband, former OSF actor Rene Millan, called home for more than seven years.
"Our back-porch jam is basically three friends playing and listening to music," Nelson says. "We're sharing our passion in a community we all know and love. It feels so good to be back here."
Nelson's idea for the jam sprang from those hosted by Herman. She and other musicians would gather at Herman's home to play music and sing.
"There's something about a porch in the summer when you are sitting with friends and family and just enjoying some down-home music," Nelson says. "The show has that same spontaneity and easy camaraderie."
Nelson says part of what makes her performance with Herman so easy is that he is like family to her.
"We first worked together in 2003 in an off-Broadway production of 'El Paso Blue.' He sort of took me under his wing, and I have been so blown away by how this great man is willing to mentor me. It's so encouraging," she says.
Herman, who has been a professional musician since the early '70s, also is a blues educator, traveling the United States and Europe to teach middle, high school and university students the history of blues in his Blues in the Schools program.
Nelson says she hopes the show will inspire people to learn more about the blues.
"Hawkeye is a blues legend, and I hope people will enjoy the show so much that they want to learn more about the blues. It's our history, and it's a true American art form."
Green Shows are presented Tuesdays through Sundays at OSF. The shows start at 7:15 p.m. through Aug. 5, then 6:45 p.m. through Oct. 14. For a comprehensive schedule, see www.osfashland.org/greenshow.