Wolf Trap, A Decidedly Different National Park

The Barns at Wolf Trap, a most unusual national park setting. Wolf Trap Foundation photo.

Wolf Trap is a national park with an odd name and an unusual mission. But like other national parks, it has stories to tell, although it delivers them through the kaleidoscope of the arts.

Located in Virginia, not far from Washington, D.C., the land for the park was given over to the federal government in 1969 with hopes it would be a place that would bring people together to enjoy the arts. As for the somewhat odd name given the park, it actually descended through history.

As the story goes, "...from as early as 1632 records indicate that wolves had caused much damage in the region. The General Assembly, in trying to deal with the wolf menace, offered rewards of tobacco for those who constructed pits or traps to capture and deliver wolf heads to the General Assembly. A smaller reward was given to those who used a gun or some other means to kill the animals. As more people populated the area wolves became less prevalent and less of a threat. In an official land survey dated August 17, 1739 the name "Wolftrap" appeared as a branch of Difficult Run."

The rest of the story is best told in another post. The focus of this post is to highlight a program coming to "The Barns at Wolf Trap" in November. Titled the Works Progress Administration, the production is musically rich and studded with some of America's best musicians.

* Named after FDR’s 1939 New Deal initiative, this star-studded Americana/folk-rock supergroup formed in the midst of the vibrant Los Angeles musical community in 2007.

* WPA includes Glen Phillips, the original frontman of the successful alt-rock group Toad the Wet Sprocket, whose hits included “Walk on the Ocean” and “Something’s Always Wrong.”

* Guitarist Sean Watkins, from the Grammy Award-winning progressive bluegrass group Nickel Creek (best known for “When You Come Back Down” and “The Lighthouse’s Tale”), got his start in southern California at the National Flatpicking Championship finals for his talent with the mandolin and guitar at age 16.

* Nashville, Tennessee native Luke Bulla performed as a fiddler with Lyle Lovett, the Jerry Douglas Band, Ricky Scaggs, and many other big artists. He joins WPA with a number of fiddle contest awards and grand champion titles to his name.

* Sebastian Steinberg was the bassist of the post-grunge era ’90s cult band Soul Coughing, best known for their hits “Super Bon Bon” and “Circles.”

Others in the ensemble include Sara Watkins (from Nickel Creek), Benmont Tench (from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Greg Leisz (who has performed with Joni Mitchell, Wilco, Sheryl Crow, Beck), Pete Thomas (who has performed with Elvis Costello and the Imposters, Randy Newman), and Davey Faragher (who also has performed with Elvis Costello and the Imposters, Cracker).

For a taste of their performance and to better understand how the production came about, check out the following video. It's worth the 7:44 minutes. And be sure to have your volume up.

If you're lucky enough to be in the D.C. area in November and want to attend the show, you can buy tickets at this site: www.wolftrap.org/Home/Find_Performances_and_Events/Performance/0910Barns/1111show09.aspx


The Barns is a wonderful venue which has a down-home feel. It really is in a converted barn structure. It's not the only venue at Wolf Trap, though. The Filene Center stages world-class entertainment nearly every evening; bringing your picnic is allowed on the lawn. Many entertainers love the cedar-paneled Filene for its intimate setting and awesome acoustics. Backstage tours are given off-season, and are a great chance to see just how complex this beautiful stage really is. Children's programs are shown at the Theater-in-the-Woods, set behind the complex near a small stream. Parking is free, and the staff is cheerful and friendly.

It's been my privilege to volunteer at Wolf Trap for the past two seasons, and if my schedule allows will do it again next year. If you are near the Washington area, you should come join us and see a show! You'll be glad you did.

Bat Peterson