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A few minutes with Joe Bailey of ‘Based on a Totally True Story’ at The Ringwald

By |2018-01-15T23:41:51-05:00January 14th, 2010|Entertainment|

Joe Bailey

Since opening its doors in 2007, The Ringwald has become one of metro Detroit’s hottest and most talked-about theaters – where patrons can expect anything and everything from the latest comedy to edgy dramas – and, of course, the occasional men in dresses.
Who Wants Cake? Theatre and The Ringwald recently announced changes to the current season, and co-founder and artistic director Joe Bailey talked recently about them – and in particular, his first show of 2010.

Who Wants Cake? Theatre has made some changes to its 2010 schedule. What precipitated these changes?
We were looking very forward to presenting the world premiere of “A Little Work,” but unfortunately, working with a large cast around the holidays proved too difficult schedule-wise and we decided that there wasn’t enough time to do proper justice to the script. So we opted to postpone it. That left a hole in the January slot, and because, like nature, I abhor a vacuum, I decided to fill it.
As for the February slot, we knew that once “[title of show]” became available we had to do it. We are all huge fans of that show. We hadn’t consciously decided to produce three musicals in one season, but that’s the magic of theater!

One of the changes is the somewhat sudden addition of “Based on a Totally True Story” to your January schedule – a Michigan premiere. How did this show become part of your schedule – and when did you guys decide to do it?
I don’t rusticate well. Toward the end of last summer I had no projects lined up, so I started hosting these play readings, possibly with an eye toward producing something small should the project present itself. Nothing really panned out from that string of readings, but the idea stayed in my head.
Once January became a blank slate, I started them up again. I really wanted to do something intimate and gay-oriented…it was time to do one for the gays! A friend of mine who lives in New York had seen “True Story” and called me afterward saying he thought I should read it because he thought it would work well in our space. So I dug out the script and found that he was right!

What’s the play about?
“Based on a Totally True Story” tells the story of Ethan Keene, who writes The Flash comic book. Along the way, a play that he has written has been optioned in Hollywood and he is hired by the larger-than-life producer to write the screenplay. As all of this is occurring, his relationship with his boyfriend begins to falter as does his parent’s relationship.

What is it about the show that appeals to you as both a producer and a director?
The play is funny and endearing, and sweet and deceptively simple. Plus it has a small cast and a unit set – in this day and age that’s a strong selling point right there!
My approach to this production was to really focus on the script and the performances. I kind of liken it to the recent revival of “Ragtime.” There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, just a focus on the story and the relationships.

Looking over the cast list, it appears that regular patrons of The Ringwald will see a few new or fairly new faces on stage in this show. How did you go about casting the show – and what were you looking for when assembling your players?
Often when I read a script I will get someone’s voice in my head. Vince Kelly had done such a wonderful job for us as Angel in “Rent,” Jeff Bobick hammed it up in “Evil Dead,” Geoff Pearson is a recent transplant to Detroit and we are thrilled to have him in his local stage debut.
And then there’s Dan Morrison!
I called everybody up to come in for the first reading, primarily so I could hear the script and decide if I liked it well enough to go forward with it. I liked what everyone did at that reading and asked them all to take this crazy ride with me!

Is there anyone in particular that we should keep an eye out for?
Everyone is really splendid! Of course, with the incomparable Dyan Bailey (and we are no relation, by the way) on board, you know you’re going to be in for a wild time.

The Ringwald has certainly had a string of critical and popular successes so far this season. What do you attribute that to?
Luck! Once you throw that theatrical spaghetti against the wall, you never know what’s going to stick and what’s not. Over the past few months we’ve managed to put together some dishes that folks wanted to sample.
We just try to pick shows that we like and hope that we don’t screw it up along the way. It has been nice to have been able to grow our audience this year and to feel like people are responding to what it is we do.

What other treats should theatergoers expect from The Ringwald this season?
We are super excited about the rest of our season!
After “Based on a Totally True Story,” we have the Michigan premiere of the musical “[title of show],” followed by the powerhouse “Hurlyburly,” then I will once again don a dress and kitten heels for Charles Busch’s “Die! Mommie! Die!” Then…who knows?

Joe Bailey is the artistic director of Who Wants Cake? and The Ringwald Theatre. A native of Michigan, he has performed and directed at theaters across the country before contributing to the opening of The Ringwald in 2007.

Who Wants Cake Theatre will present “Based on a Totally True Story,” a Michigan premiere, at The Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale, Saturday-Monday Jan. 16 through Feb. 1. Tickets: $10-$20. For information: 248-545-5545 or {}.

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