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The story behind the story that almost wasn’t
Saturday was the day from Hell.
We all have days like that, of course, but mine couldn’t have happened at a more inopportune time!
It all started in early December as I was planning this month’s theater coverage.
In a discussion with Gary Anderson of Detroit’s Plowshares Theatre Company, it was mentioned that he is staging an original production set to open in early February. “Sarah, Ella & Pops” piqued my curiosity, so we agreed to an interview in early January to talk about the musical.
However, along with the New Year came a bad sinus infection – so the face-to-face interview with Gary scheduled for Jan. 6 became a phone interview.
That’s when the problems began.
I just didn’t know it then!
As expected, the interview with Gary went well. The affable producing artistic director explained that “Sarah, Ella & Pops” is a musical tribute that celebrates the lives of three of the most influential jazz artists ever: Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. The world premiere production, produced in cooperation with Lansing’s BoarsHead Theatre where it will run after closing in Detroit, is set between 1931 and 1954 and uses the songs these artists made popular to chronicle their amazing careers.
“The lives of these three music legends are case studies in the evolution of popular American music during the middle of the 20th century. In this wonderful play we go from the tail end of early Jazz through Swing and Big Band up to the emergence of Bebop,” Gary said in a press release. “It’s a touching tribute to the music they made and how they made it.”
Gary actually told me much, much more during our interview, such as jazz legend Marcus Belgrave makes a guest appearance in the production; an excellent troupe of local performers round out the cast, including Linda Boston, Lydia Willis, William McLin and recent Wilde Award nominee Augustus Williamson; and although playwright Janet Cloe is a first-time playwright, she’s a noted poet and director with numerous local, regional and international credits.
Gary also emphasized that Plowshares prides itself in developing and staging original works that depict African American life and culture. It’s part of their mission, and they do it well!
But I can’t give you his exact words.
Remember that day from Hell I told you about?
It started this past Saturday when I sat down to transcribe our interview. About one minute into the tape I was greeted by a low level hum that continued throughout most of our lively discussion; much of Gary’s insightful commentary was lost. (What’s the moral of the story? Never run your washer and dryer while recording an interview – even if they are in the basement and you’re not; sensitive microphones pick up the most surprising sounds!)
I desperately tried to reach Gary by phone and by e-mail so that we could quickly re-do our interview, but it was a SaturdayÉand even Gary deserves a day off every now and then! And with a Sunday deadline looming before me, I had to make a choice.
So I decided a faux-interview was better than none.
But “Hell Day” continued.
I attended a rehearsal of “Sarah, Ella & Pops” this past Thursday to take pictures, and when I downloaded them to my computer Saturday afternoon, it froze up. Several times, in fact, something it’s never done before.
Sometimes it’s not worth getting up in the morning. Attending “Sarah, Ella & Pops,” however, will be well worth your time!
“Sarah, Ella & PopsÉHow High the Moon” Staged Thurs., Sat. & Sun. by Plowshares Theatre Company at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren, Detroit, Feb. 5 – 29; special preview Fri., Feb. 6. Tickets: $25. 313-872-0279. www.plowshares.org.
Tid-bits from around town
The show goes on at Zeitgeist
Those of you who called Detroit’s Zeitgeist Gallery and Performance Venue recently and were shocked by a recorded message stating that no more theater was scheduled for the rest of the year can relax: That was an old message left over from December! John Jakery assured Curtain Calls that their next production, “Three Twenty Minute Plays With Drinking In Between, Two: Another Experiment in Drama,” will indeed open Feb 20!
Break bread, not knees, with Tony Soaprano
Tired of waiting for the next season of “The Sopranos” to hit the airwaves? The New York Dinner Theater has the next best thing: “The Soapranos!” Join Tony Soaprano and his family as they celebrate the mobster’s surprise retirement in the latest interactive theater production to hit Metro Detroit! The laugh-filled spoof debuts this Saturday, and will run intermittently throughout February and March at locations in Lake Orion, Utica, Novi and St. Clair Shores. Tickets are $49; dinner, dancing, gratuities and, of course, the show, are all included. Call 1-800-383-6080 for details.
Comedy for Hire
Are you looking to impress your boss by planning the best corporate party or employee appreciation event the world has ever seen? Or is your group looking for a unique and fun-filled way to raise money? If so, those rascally improvisers known as The Guild have a suggestion: Comedy Works Corporate Packages at the Century Theatre and Century Grille! Performances of “Comedy Works” are available now throughout March for groups of 50 or more for only $20 per person – great food and beverages included! Event planners should call Scott Myers or Nicole Lakatos at 313-963-9800 for complete details. (And check out “Comedy Works” at Detroit’s Century Theatre on Jan. 31 and Feb. 19 at 8 p.m.; only $20 per person.)
Play raises money for HIV/AIDS
A recently formed Flint-based community theater group is donating a portion of its ticket sales to fight AIDS. Nathan Pease of the Flint City Theatre told Curtain Calls that the Feb. 7 performance of “Lonely Planet” will benefit that city’s Wellness AIDS Services. The Steven Dietz play about fear and friendship in the age of AIDS runs Jan. 29 – Feb. 1 and Feb. 6 – 8 at The Good Beans Caf, 328 N. Grand Traverse, Flint. Tickets are $5. Call 810-341-6912 for details.
Tragic love story benefits The Rep
Celebrate St. Valentine’s Day by attending a benefit performance of “Yellowman” at the Detroit Repertory Theatre to raise money for the troupe’s Repertory Renewal campaign. A $35 ticket includes a champagne and hors d’oeuvres reception, the critically acclaimed drama and a shot at door prizes including a weekend at the St. Regis Hotel and dinner at Motor City Casino. Call 313-868-1347 for reservations.
High schoolers with a heart
Drama students at Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills are donating part of the proceeds of their annual Senior Directed Play Festival to the Topic Memorial Fund to raise money for the wife and infant son of popular journalism teacher Andrew Topic who died suddenly last September. Tickets to the festival, scheduled for Feb. 7 and 8, are $8 and $10. Call the reserved seating hotline at 248-341-5625 for details.