Thursday, August 30, 2007

BoarsHead's open rehearsal

BoarsHead is doing something rather exciting and smart.

When I was in L.A. last winter, one of the critics pointed out that as a sports reporter, he was able to get into the lockerroom before and after each game, come to practices, and interview any player he wanted. With theater, on the other hand, he wasn't allowed to come to anything but a performance picked out by the theater company. He asked why theaters didn't have open rehearsals.

Well, BoarsHead is doing just that with their upcoming show, Mrs. Warren's Profession. A press release went out on Thursday saying that Friday's rehearsal would be open to BoarsHead subscribers and patrons. The open portion of the rehearsal is from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the rehearsal hall to the west of the lobby.

The show is being directed by James Glossman and is starring Paula Prentiss and Prentiss Benjamin. Other cast members include Ken Beachler (local, well-known star), Gary Huston (from Voice of Good Hope for which he received an Oscar Wilde Award nomination for best supporting actor), Jack Moran, and Paul Murphy.

It's a great idea--even if the notice about it is a little short for getting the word out. Many patrons have no idea what goes on in a rehearsal and will enjoy getting a chance to sit in on it.

Oscar Wilde Awards, post-party

We're back home--and what a fantastic time we had. The folks at Between the Lines really know how to put on a great party.

I've already blogged a little bit about the party here--talking about how this particular newspaper has chosen to define its responsibility for arts coverage and what the community response is. Here I'd like to focus a little more on the local and theater angles.

While this is an evening whose purpose is to give out awards, it's also something more than that. What Between the Lines has done is to create an event that is a big party to celebrate theater and theatrical artists. They do everything they can to make each night memorable--from the warm hospitality that includes delicious appetizers, a cash bar, pre-event chamber music, and plates of desserts to the entertainment throughout the awards night replete with live performances, pre-recorded videos, and an intimate setting in which 200-some people can celebrate together.

Publishers Susan Horowitz and Jan Stevenson said the attendance at the event has been doubling nearly every year. People come from all over the state. The majority of the people there seemed to be from the Detroit area, but there were also plenty of people from Ann Arbor, Jackson, and Lansing.

Faces people locally might recognize included BoarsHead's Kristine Thatcher, Jonathan Courtmanche, Katie Doyle and Andaye (oooh! I need to go look up spellings and fix them); Williamston's Tony Casselli, and such actors as Mark Gmazel, Jason Richards, Causandra Freeman, and Shariesse Hamilton. And I'm certain there are many that I'm forgetting.

On a personal note, one of the highlights of the evening for me was when it was announced that my husband, Richard Redman, had won the award for best supporting actor in a comedy or drama for his part as Bottom in Midsummer Night's Dream. It was equally exciting watching Mark Gmazel take an award for that same play in the category of "best genderbending performance." Another award to a local group went to Carmen Decker for lead actress in Holiday Memories.

I'll post a link to the complete awards once they've posted them at Pride Source.

Overall, the night was a blast--in large part because people were there with the purpose of having fun and celebrating the amazing theatrical community we have in this state. Theater is alive, well, and extremely vibrant.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Oscar Wilde awards

Wednesday night is the Oscar Wilde Awards at the Gem Theatre in Detroit. Richard and I are planning to attend while our little guy is off on a vacation with his grandparents.

I went to the ceremony last year where I met in person for the first time many of the BoarsHead folks and Tony Casselli from Williamston. Has it truly been only a year?

The ceremony was a great deal of fun--it was an evening filled with vigorous laughter. The PrideSource people really know how to put on a great party. They make an evening out of it with a cocktail reception beforehand and a dessert bar afterward.

It's also a great way to spotlight Detroit theater. I learned about many groups I'd never heard about, making me wish that I had time to get to see theater downstate. While I've managed to make it to Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Jackson to theater, I haven't gotten any further east than Ann Arbor, despite having grown up in the Detroit area and despite still having family there.

It should be a fun evening. I'll try to write about it, but not tomorrow night for certain. Perhaps by Thursday.

Pleasant View Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts

In these days of No Child Left Behind and the tyranny of standardized testing, many schools have responded by cutting everything from recess to their arts program. It seems irrelevant that research has validated how important both of those things are to learning and achievement (even on standardized tests). They don't help the students earn tax or other dollars for the schools, so they land on the chopping board.

(And yes, I realize I'm oversimplifying and that the educational choices are actually far more complex than that.)

So I find what Lansing School Districts are doing with the magnet schools to be refreshing and a cause for rejoicing. In particular, I'm excited about Pleasant View Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts. Last night I listened to the principal describe the educational program they have in place. How's this for exciting?

The morning is primarily a two-hour literacy block working on reading, writing, and spelling. The rest of the day also includes math, science, and social studies. Then in the afternoon, all children have the following classes:

  • Music twice a week
  • Dance once a week
  • Art once a week
  • Drama once a week
  • Gym once a week
  • Library once a week
  • Computer once a week (or more for older kids)
In third grade, students learn to play the recorder. In fifth and sixth grade, students can start to take band or orchestra (and all instruments are provided by the school). Starting in fourth grade, students enter the "arts academy." This means that they pick one of the arts to specialize in. They'll get two additional classes per week with more intensive instruction in that area.

They also have a resource teacher that works with the art and classroom teachers to help integrate art into the entire curriculum. The examples given were that multiplication facts are set to rap and math concepts to other songs; when fourth graders study Michigan history, they design and then sculpt lighthouses out of clay.

The children also have numerous opportunities to perform throughout the year, including a holiday program in December and an all-school spring dance production.

This year they have more than 580 students enrolled in the K-8 program. Think of that--580 students getting daily education in the arts. I get goosebumps just thinking about the positive force something like that can have on our community. That's a world I want to live in.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Great quote

Mike Boehm, an arts reporter for the Los Angeles Times and a faithful reader and insightful commentator over at Flyover, left the following comment on a post that is worthy of repeating here:
Critics who can be consistently provocative and informative, while communicating their love for an art and avoiding excessive cruelty and arrogance, are among the wonders of the world. I don't think there's any dishonor for those who make an honest try and get it partly right.
It's a lofty goal he establishes and one well worth pursuing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dark Nights & I Hate Hamlet

It's Friday already, is it?

This weekend marks something relatively rare in Lansing. It's a dark weekend. Originally Williamston was going to be showing Flap, but they went with a slightly shorter run. So there are no performances on area stages this weekend.

Of course, there are still things going on, mostly rehearsals and auditions. Peppermint Creek is holding auditions on Sunday and Monday and Williamston is auditioning for Art on Monday. Word is also starting to leak out about casting for the upcoming season.

I'm looking forward to getting in the theater habit again. It's been a strange summer in that I haven't spent as much time in the theater as I did during the rest of the year (well, unless you count catching 8 of the showings of Macbeth and 6 of the Henrys). However, a little down time is useful. It can be a chance to recharge and to come at shows with a fresh mind and heart again.

I Hate Hamlet

One of the shows I did manage to see recently was Riverwalk's production of Paul Rudnick's I Hate Hamlet. What a delightful script! There's so many wonderful things in it, and it is unapologetically about acting, theater, and art. It really tackles the whole subject of commercialism and art. Rudnick asks whether actors are acting for the sake of the art or simply for money. The end result, he says, will be very different.

No one is going to become a millionaire playing Shakespeare upon the stage. For that, you need to produce a movie or television show that may or may not have artistic value. While there is financial reward to the latter, he points out that there is another cost that is paid--the cost of one's soul and life.

It's a message that was made especially poignant by the performance of John Barrymore's first act speech by Bruce Bennett. Bennett did an amazing job with the monologue and made the audience feel exactly what he had sacrificed by leaving the stage. Justin Hein's Andrew Rally underlines the theme at the end with an equally strong monologue where he describes what would motivate him to turn his back on money.

Rudnick's women in this play are little more than stereotypes. They're meant to be foils and provide Andrew Rally and John Barrymore with motivations, but there aren't a lot of places that they can go. Kelley Peters has little opportunity for the girlfriend to show herself to be all that Hein's character describes her as.

There was also some excellent sword play and fighting. It was fight choreography that told a story, not one simply put on to dazzle the audience. This made it fun to watch and exhilarating.

All in all, it was an entertaining show and one which provided meat to chew on while laughing at the comedy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Updo for Oscar Wilde awards

OK, Amy, I'm posting this as if it were a year ago so that my regular readers won't wonder why the heck I'm suddenly posting photos of myself. :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Changes to archives

I've made a few changes to my archived entries. I've removed all pictures of my son as well as his name.

Someone at Flyover has taken great exception to the fact that I choose to say positive things about Lansing. His latest e-mail showed an obsession with the abuse of young boys. His previous communications have glorified violence.

It's a simple matter to cleanse my blog here and curtail future statements that could put him in jeopardy.

For now, I have a column to write and a day's work to do. Perhaps this evening, I'll blog about I Hate Hamlet. Rain and scheduling kept me from being able to see Julius Caesar.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


My original intent with this blog was to ruminate on theatrical matters as well as talk about individual shows and local events.

I've mostly been sidetracked from that mission because most of my theatrical ruminations have been taking place on the blog that I write with three of my colleagues from the NEA fellowship I attended last February. It's a blog that we wrote for sometime before moving it to Arts Journal. We started out as and then when we moved, we changed our name to "Flyover: Art in the American Outback." I've been astounded at the readership the blog has gained at Arts Journal. We get picked up by all sorts of media outlets including the PBS Culture blog in San Diego, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Orlando Sentinel, and numerous other blogs.

It's also been fascinating to me because of the sheer brilliance of my fellow writers. I'm constantly learning from them and challenged to consider new perspectives. They remind me of how far I still have to go in my talents and open up new horizons to explore.

That said, I would like to get back to more philosophical entries here. Even if it means linking to conversations I've already had there.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back home

Despite being on a mini-family vacation, I couldn't quite pull myself away from theater last weekend.

The Foreigner
We delayed leaving until Friday so that I could go see The Foreigner at the Ledges Playhouse. It's a Larry Shue script that was directed by Bob Gras. All in all, it was an entertaining show with a crowd far too small (though it was Thursday and a little rainy, so perhaps the audience grew larger over the weekend).

There were a lot of familiar faces on the stage--in fact, all of them were pretty familiar. The lead was played by Rick Dethlefsen with his wife Leanne playing the female lead. They were joined by Marilyn Steegstra, Joe Dixon, Micheal Hayes, Terry Benbow (I think that last name is correct) and James Houska. (Please forgive the spellings. I don't have the program with me right now, but I'll check them later and fix this entry.)

It's a show that is pretty demanding of accents and these actors did a fine job with them. I was especially entertained by the physical and verbal mirroring scene between Rick and Joe. It was pure comedy and delightfully performed.

Thunder Bay Theatre

Nor did I leave theater behind me after we left town. We were vacationing in Alpena, so Saturday morning I stopped by Thunder Bay Theatre and talked to the artistic director. He was going to be holding auditions for the non-paid roles in their next two shows. He let me look around the space a little bit.

Thunder Bay Theatre is advertised as being the only professional theater in Northern Michigan (I haven't checked, but I have no reason to doubt their word). They aren't an Equity house, but they do pay their company actors and provide housing.

The building in which they perform is a converted candy store. It seats 180 people and the lobby is decorated with photo montages of past productions.

One thing I found somewhat odd was that in the local tourist brochures and the hotel directory, few mentioned the theater. The hotel directory listed the Alpena Civic Players, but not the professional theater. That was true of many other brochures as well.

It made me wonder what the hotel brochures in the Lansing area have. Do any of them mention theater? If so, which ones do they list? Perhaps there is an opportunity here for some partnerships.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Stuff Happens

Those of you who have been reading my blog since I started it earlier this year will remember that I reviewed a script by David Hare called Stuff Happens. I blogged about how I was at a roundtable discussion with the director and actors from the Los Angeles production of that show.

Well, I got the news earlier this week that Peppermint Creek will be doing that show as the end to their season next year. They're definitely a group that has shown they are up to the challenge of a show such as that. They'll be able to handle the political aspects of it while making sure their performing good theater. I look forward to seeing it.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

New theater blog

Don Calami from Between the Lines has started a new theater blog. I'll add a link to go with the blogs from Riverwalk, Icarus Falling, Flyover, Ken Glickman, and others.

Don Calami also sent out some exciting news. I'll give you the straight press release:

LIVONIA, Mich., August 9, 2007 – Pride Source Media Group, publisher of Between The Lines – Michigan’s weekly newspaper serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied communities – announced today the creation of, a new, weekly Web-based publication that will serve as the premier source for up-to-date news and information about professional theater in Michigan.

The project significantly advances the publishers’ commitment to the state’s arts community, and in particular, the theater community, said PSMG Vice-President and Co Publisher Jan Stevenson. “Over the past several years we’ve proved our support by not only offering our readers some of the most comprehensive theater coverage available in print, but also by establishing the annual Wilde Awards that honor the best shows and performances presented each year by our professional theaters. But that’s not enough. Our goal has always been to find a better and broader method of delivering theater news to the public, and we believe is the way to do it.”

Planned for a fall launch, will be accessible directly through the internet or by weekly e-mails sent by participating theaters to their customer base. No user-fees or passwords will be required. Funding will come from advertising support and other sources.

The publication will be a one-stop shop for consumers, explained Susan Horowitz, PSMG’s president and co-publisher. “Rather than have to pick up a handful of newspapers or check out multiple Web sites to find out which shows are playing where and when, or for thoughtful interviews, reviews and news stories, will have all of that – and more. Plus, it will expose theatergoers to ALL of the excitement our theaters are generating each and every week throughout the state. And contrary to popular belief, there IS a lot of great theater going on – despite some very tough economic times right now.”

Editorial content for will be produced under the direction of Donald V. Calamia, PSMG’s highly regarded theater and arts editor and originator of the concept. “ won’t be merely a repository of static and boring information,” Calamia said. “Rather, it will be a fresh, innovative and interactive experience that will not only provide timely and useful material to the public, but also help our professional theaters expand, grow and prosper well into the future.”

Covering the arts isn’t just a job for’s executive team; all three have deep roots firmly planted in music, theater and arts management. Stevenson holds a master’s degree in music performance from Yale University, and was a professional musician in and around New York for five years after graduation. Horowitz was the founder and first executive director of the New Festival, New York's annual gay and lesbian film festival, a position she held from 1989 to 1993. Under her leadership, the Film Festival grew to become one of the largest gay and lesbian film festivals in the world. And Calamia has spent the last 30 years locally as an actor, publicist, theater executive, journalist and playwright. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Additional details regarding will be announced at The Sixth Annual Wilde Awards to be held Wednesday, Aug. 29 at Detroit’s Gem Theatre. The awards will honor the best productions and performances of the 2006/07 professional theater season.

Questions regarding may be referred to Susan Horowitz, Pride Source Media Group, at 734-293-7200, ext. 30. For tickets and information about The Wilde Awards, call 734-293-7200, ext. 50.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


The photographer from the Michigan Shakespeare Festival provided a CD of all the photos taken of the dress rehearsals. Many of them are absolutely amazing. What's even more impressive is the volume of photos. When viewing them as a slideshow and clicking through quickly, there are almost enough pictures to make it seem as though you're watching a silent movie of the plays.


Friday, August 3, 2007

Love Person

I did post my review of Icarus Falling's Love Person at Epinions.

I'm not particularly pleased with the review. I'm not sure I've communicated what I wanted to about the show and certainly not with the elegance that I would have liked. It's a sure sign to me that I'm out of practice writing reviews and need to get back into practice. There are many things I would like my reviews to do and they won't be able to do it if I don't practice it.

One more performance...

Last night's show marked my son's best performance of the run so far (it was show #7). The only slight bump was that he had the sniffles after he'd been murdered and was lying dead on stage. However, overall, it was a good show and he's gotten much better about enunciating and not drawing focus away.

Of course, I happen to think he's incredibly cute, making it all the more wrenching when he is murdered.

He has a Saturday night performance and then he'll be done. All the rest of the shows this weekend are of Henry V.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

This weekend

Can't get enough Macbeth

Tonight I'm going with a group of friends to see Macbeth again. There are only two more performances left of that show and three more of Henry V. It's been fun to be in the role of a stage mom. I hope that I'll have opportunity to be in that role again, but that's entirely up to Dominic. He may choose to stick with soccer after this. Time will tell.

Other Weekend Shows

Were I staying in town, there would be several other options this weekend:
  • The Foreigner is playing at the Ledges Playhouse in Grand Ledge.
  • Flap continues at Williamston Theatre.
  • All-of-Us-Express is performing The Wizard of Oz at the Hannah Center.
Saying Goodbyes

The latter will be the final show that Evelyn Weymouth directs as the organization's artistic director. She'll be sorely missed, though I'm sure she's left the organization in good hands. Evelyn has done such amazing things for the group and has provided them with such a vibrant vision for so long. It's difficult to not think of the the woman and the organization as being synonymous.

Last night I also said goodbye to Lamont Clegg--an outstanding actor and theater teacher who has been a part of the Lansing theater scene for many, many years now. He's moving this weekend to Florida where he'll be teaching theater at a performing arts high school. I wish him well. This community will miss him greatly.