CCO Honus_PowersSmithCoven.jpg: A “Fan Appreciation” performance of “Honus and Me” has been scheduled Aug.29 by the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea. Photo: Danna Segrest
Improv Inferno to close Sept. 10
For Part One of this story, see elsewhere this issue.
Only days after a record-shattering July, owners of Ann Arbor’s Improv Inferno were stunned to receive notice that their presence is no longer wanted in the space they’ve called home for nearly two years. The group must vacate the premises after its September 10 performances.
“I think we’re a victim of our own success,” Dan Izzo, founder, co-owner and artistic director of the Inferno told Curtain Calls last Saturday. “We’ve been doing really good at that location. Since it opened, I’ve never had to put any money back into it. We’ve had really good crowds; we’ve always paid our rent. It’s just at a point now where the landlord is wanting more money than we can reasonably be expected to pay.”
The Inferno will maintain its regular schedule through Sept. 6, Izzo said, with a special four-day second anniversary celebration set to begin Sept. 7. The Inferno opened for business Sept. 10, 2004.
Although news of the closing only recently leaked to the public, the owners have already received numerous offers to help find a new location for the popular nightspot. Ann Arbor is still Izzo’s preferred location, but he’s also willing to consider other “cool cities” in the area. “I’m willing to talk to anyone,” he laughed.
What has particularly pleased Izzo is the response he’s received from the local improv community. “I kind of feared that knowing we were closing, people might shy away and try to figure out where else to go. But people have been coming out in droves to support us and say ‘thanks for giving us a place to play.'”
Until the Improv opened, local improvisers were limited primarily to Second City Detroit and Planet Ant to showcase their talents. But when the Inferno opened with a five-night schedule to fill, improv exploded in southeast Michigan.
“It’s an affirmation of everything I believed with regard to starting the Inferno,” reflected Izzo, who moved to Ann Arbor from Chicago to open the club with co-owner Sabrina Harper. “I knew there were already a lot of good improvisers here, and I knew there was a lot of potential to create an improv scene. I think the addition of the Inferno to the mix really helped take the potential and turn it into a full-fledged improv scene. It’s an affirmation that we did the right thing, we picked the right place and we made all the right moves.”
It was – and still is until Sept. 10 – an environment where “talented people could really put their talents on display,” Izzo said. “What we did was create a space for people to grow and excel and thrive, and I think people really appreciated that.”
Two improvisers who especially flourished at the Inferno are ensemble members Brian Hatch and Chris DiAngelo, Izzo said. “They had been taking classes, they had done some shows, but they hadn’t gotten a break to see where they could go. So when I formed the ensemble, I wasn’t looking for the absolute best people, I was looking for the best ensemble I could put together. And I think Brian and Chris are examples of guys who have really stepped up the quality of their improv.”
So much so, that Hatch – the best dressed improviser on any Detroit-area stage – received a 2006 Wilde Award nomination for his work in a recent Inferno show.
Another success story is the “improv super group” Eye Candy, which features the talents of DiAngelo, Pj Jacokes, Tim McKendrick, Adam Peacock and Tim Robinson. (Robinson is also a 2006 Wilde Award nominee for his work in a production at Planet Ant Theatre.) “They could put 40 people in the place on a Sunday night at 10 o’clock, which is remarkable,” Izzo said.
In fact, that’s what Izzo is hoping will happen for one last time Sept. 10 when Eye Candy serves as the final closing act – ever – at the Inferno’s current location.
For a complete schedule of events during the Improv Inferno’s bittersweet second anniversary celebration, call 734-214-7080 or log on to http://www.improvinferno.com.
Professional Theater News from Around Town:
Compiled by Donald V. Calamia
PRTC adds “Fan Appreciation” performance of ‘Honus and Me’
CHELSEA – The Purple Rose Theatre Company is proud to announce the addition of a discounted “Fan Appreciation” performance of “Honus and Me” by Steven Dietz to the regular schedule. The added performance will be held Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 8 p.m.
All adults will receive a $5 discount off the regular ticket price of $25, and children up to age 17 can purchase half-price youth tickets. Young children should be accompanied by an adult; the number of discount tickets purchased for this performance is not limited.
“Honus and Me” tells the story of a little league player who finds the most valuable baseball card in the world – the T-206 Honus Wagner – while cleaning out an elderly neighbor’s attic. Filled with baseball history, time travel and unexpected romance, this play travels from contemporary Pittsburgh to the 1909 World Series between Ty Cobb’s Detroit Tigers and Honus Wagner’s Pittsburgh Pirates. This charming tale is must-see summer fun for audiences of all ages.
The Midwest premiere of this family-friendly show has received consistently high praise from local theater critics. Jenn McKee of The Ann Arbor News says, “It’s sweet without becoming precious or saccharine…” and Lansing City Pulse’s Tom Helma calls it “a line-drive inside-the-park home run, something any baseball fan ever will truly love.” “The Bottom Line” from Don Calamia’s column in Between The Lines is: “An excellent production to take your kids to – especially if it’s their first professional play,” echoing a similar comment from Terry Pow with the Jackson Citizen Patriot: “If you have youngsters at home, and have been looking for an opportunity to introduce them to live theater, this show would be a great place to begin the relationship.” Venus Gregory at Current Magazine goes one step further and says, “‘Honus and Me’ takes an in-depth look into the often-overlooked complexities of childhood and offers adults a perfect opportunity to introduce children to theatre. This production offers something for everyone.”
Ticket reservations can be made by calling the PRTC Box Office at 734-433-ROSE. Box Office hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Jewish Ensemble Theatre revises 2006/07 season
WEST BLOOMFIELD – The Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company will open its 18th season of award winning professional theater with “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! The Allan Sherman Musical.” Spun off the hilarious song parodies originally written by Allan Sherman, the story follows Barry Brockman and his beloved Sarah Jackman from birth, to summer at Camp Granada, to marriage, to suburbia, to the shopping mall and to retirement in Florida. “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!” plays Aug. 22 – Sept. 17 and will be directed by Kayla Gordon.
JET will continue its season with “The Price” by Arthur Miller. This highly respected dramatic piece is the story of two brothers who have been rivaling over the differences in ideas of lifestyles. However when it comes time to appraise the belongings of their deceased father who lived in an attic after his wealth was diminished by the 1929 Wall Street crash, the brothers must come together for the first time to face the differences that tore them apart 16 years earlier. “The Price” runs Oct. 17 – Nov. 12 and will be directed by JET’s Artistic Director, Evelyn Orbach.
To conclude 2006 and ring in 2007, JET will produce its second musical of the season, “Jaques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” by Eric Blau and Mort Schuman. This musical takes Jaques Brel’s ideas and music based on life and love, and war and peace and transforms them into a thrilling musical experience featuring a diverse blend of ballads, tangos, boleros and rock. The production will run Dec. 5 – Jan. 6 and will be directed by the Jewish Community Center’s Executive Director, Mark A. Lit. There will also be a special New Year’s Eve performance at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 31.
The fourth show of the season will be “It Should Be” by Ted Herstand, directed by Gillian Eaton. “It Should Be” is a warm tale set against the poverty of the 1930’s. This piece highlights an indomitable matriarch who makes everything better, as it should be. “It Should Be” runs Jan. 23 –
To close the 2006-2007 season, JET is very proud to announce the classic murder mystery “An Inspector Calls” by J.B. Set before World War I, Inspector Goole calls on the wealthy Birling family to investigate the death of a young girl. “An Inspector Calls,” considered a modern masterpiece, runs April 17 – May 19 and will be directed by Christopher Bremer.
Season subscriptions are currently on sale and can be purchased by calling (248) 788-2900
Performances are Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (excluding Sept. 13, Nov. 8, Dec. 27, Feb. 14, and May 16 when there will be a matinee at 2 p.m.), Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets prices range from $29 – $39; discounts are available for seniors and students. Rush tickets are $17 when available one hour before performances.
For more information, ticket reservations, or to arrange a press interview please call the Jewish Ensemble Theatre at (248) 788-2900.
Gem Theatre offers preview performances of ‘The Rat Pack is Back!’ as fundraisers for local charities
DETROIT – The Gem & Century Theatres announce the dedication of three preview night performances of “The Rat Pack is Back!” to be used by local charities as fundraising events, Sept. 12, 13, and 14. The Gem, no stranger to private and corporate events, has partnered with three organizations, giving each an opportunity to raise money for their cause: The American Lung Association, Alternatives For Girls, and COTS.
“The Rat Pack is Back!” is a tribute to Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Dean Martin, featuring a stellar cast of some of the finest performers around the country now performing in Las Vegas. It has been hailed as the next best thing to seeing the Rat Pack themselves. This show is a fast-paced theatrical musical play based on a night at the Sand’s Hotel in Las Vegas, circa 1961.
Charitable preview tickets for “The Rat Pack is Back!” are available through each organization. Specific dates, times and prices can be found online at http://www.gemtheatre.com.
“The Rat Pack is Back!” opens to the public at the Gem Theatre Sept. 15. Regular performances for this open-ended run are on sale now. Tickets ($39.50 – $44.50) are available by calling 313-963-9800, Ticketmaster charge by phone 248-645-6666, in person at the Gem & Fisher Theatre Box Offices, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers and online at http://www.ticketmaster.com.
The Historic Gem & Century Theatres and Century Grille are the gems in the heart of Detroit’s entertainment district, offering theater packages, dinner, lunch, breakfast, wedding packages, special events, boxed lunches, tours and more!
For more information call (313) 963-9800 or visit online at http://www.gemtheatre.com.
Wharton Center ranked fifth by Pollstar Magazine
EAST LANSING Pollstar Magazine, the industry source for concert and tour information, has released the top 100 international theater venues based on tickets sold between January 1 and June 30, 2006. Wharton Center for Performing Arts, Michigan’s largest performing arts center, ranks fifth on the list.
“This is something the entire state can be proud of,” says Mike Brand, Wharton Center’s executive director. “Wharton Center continues to prove it is a major player in the world of performing arts. Getting listed in Pollstar Magazine in the top five of the world’s theater venues sends a clear and loud signal to show producers and promoters that Wharton Center is the place to bring their presentation. This listing will help us continue to attract the best in performing arts.”
Last February Wharton Center made headlines in Variety when its engagement of “Disney’s THE LION KING” was outpacing other touring Broadway productions, including four consecutive weeks over gross potential (sold-out theater in addition to lap seats sold for young children). Over 42 percent of ticket buyers originated from beyond the tri-county region, coming from nearly every county in lower Michigan, as well as Canada and the upper Midwest.
Wharton Center operates four unique theaters on the campus of Michigan State University: the 2,400-seat Cobb Great Hall, the 600-seat Passant Theatre, the 3,800-seat MSU Concert Auditorium and the 600-seat Fairchild Theatre. New state-of-the-art seats are currently being installed in both the MSU Auditorium and Fairchild Theatre to make them more user-friendly venues. The Center presents more than 60 unique attractions yearly ranging from Tony Award-winning Broadway shows to jazz, classical music, dance and opera.
More information on any upcoming Wharton Center attraction can be found by phoning (800) WHARTON or online at http://www.whartoncenter.com.