Professional Theater News from Around Town:
Rapper MC Serch guests in ‘Citizen Improv’ at the Inferno
ANN ARBOR – The Improv Inferno is pleased to announce a very special “Citizen Improv” on Friday, Jan. 12, starring rap artist and star of the new VH1 show “Ego Trips: The White Rapper Show,” MC Serch. Best known for his work as one half of the rap group 3rd Bass, Serch has two gold records, a gold single, and operates his own record and promotions company.
In addition, Serch’s “The White Rapper Show,” which premieres on VH1 on Jan. 8, has received early raves from Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone, which called the show “brilliant.”
“MC Serch will certainly be one of the most high-profile guests we’ve had as our Citizen,” said Inferno Owner and Artistic Director Dan Izzo. “He’s a great artist from the area, and ‘Citizen Improv’ is all about connecting the people from this area to improv.”
The show was created by Izzo. “The purpose of the show is to reduce the distance between the audience and the performers, and between the Ann Arbor community and our artistic community. The show uses improv comedy to speak to the common humanity and common experience in all of us. We take someone’s life and uniqueness and celebrate it and elevate it. It’s unbelievably cool, and extremely funny.” said Izzo.
“Citizen Improv” involves having a special guest “citizen” from the community tell three true stories from his life, which then serve as the inspiration for improv comedy scenes made up by the Inferno actors. The show has been running since last January, and to celebrate the one-year anniversary, a whole month of extra-special Citizens have been lined up, including MC Serch and a repeat performance from Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje on January 19. “I’m particularly excited with having Mayor Hieftje do the show for the second time, especially now that we’re at our new location at Live at PJs,” Izzo said.
“Citizen Improv” runs every Friday at 8 p.m. at the Improv Inferno at Live at PJ’s. MC Serch appears on Jan. 12, Mayor Hieftje appears on Jan. 19.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door or online at http://www.improvinferno.com.
It’s All About Plowshares:
Plowshares’ artistic leader picked for national advisory panel
DETROIT – Gary Anderson, producing artistic director for Plowshares Theatre Company, has been picked to serve on a national advisory committee reviewing arts education for the New York-based Dana Foundation.
The Dana Foundation initiative, Transforming Arts Teaching: The Role of Higher Education, will examine the role of teacher education colleges, conservatories, fine arts colleges and other higher education institutions in preparing and advancing those who teach the arts to young people, grades pre-K to 12. Transforming Arts Teaching will include a Spring 2007 invitational forum of national arts and education leaders, and the Fall 2007 release of a Dana Press publication featuring case studies and profiles of higher education “best practices” from around the nation.
Jane L. Polin, a national leader in arts learning and research, is designing this program for The Dana Foundation. Transforming Arts Teaching advisory committee members and forum panelists include the following: Gary Anderson, Plowshares Theatre Company; Darrell Ayers, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Gail Burnaford, Florida Atlantic University; Roger H. Brown, Berklee College of Music; Sarah Cunningham, National Endowment for the Arts; Richard Deasy, Arts Education Partnership; Joseph Dominic, The Heinz Endowment; Janet Eilber, Dana Foundation and Martha Graham Dance Company; Moy Eng, Hewlett Foundation; Daniel Fallon, Carnegie Corporation of New York; Derek Gordon, Baton Rouge Council on the Arts; Augusta Souza Kappner, Bank Street College of Education; and William Safire, Dana Foundation.
Anderson will be one of only two practicing artists on the committee.
“We are delighted that Gary will be serving on the advisory committee for Transforming Arts Teaching,” said Polin. “In this role, he’ll be reviewing the submissions we receive from higher education institutions around the country for their possible inclusion in the Dana Press publication.”
A national forum will be held in New York City starting on Thursday, May 10 and concluding on Friday, May 11 to present the committees findings.
Gary Anderson to advise August Wilson Center
DETROIT – Twice in as many weeks, Gary Anderson, producing artistic director for Plowshares Theatre Company, has been picked to serve on another national panel. This time, Anderson has been asked to serve as an advisor for the newly formed August Wilson Center for Art and Culture. The Center will be housed in a soon-to-be-built facility located in Pittsburgh, August Wilson’s hometown and the setting for many of his plays.
The purpose of the advisory panel is two fold: 1) to assist the Wilson Center administration in the formation of its theater programming, and 2) to help them envision how the Center can play a national role in advancing August Wilson’s ideals on African American Theater.
The panel – which is still in formation at press time – will comprise scholars, theater practitioners and specialists in African American Theater. Besides Anderson, the other confirmed participants are Ron Himes, producing director of The Black Rep in St. Louis and Lou Bellamy, artistic director of Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN.
“I am excited for the opportunity to work with the Wilson Center on this very critical task,” Anderson said. “I have been a fan of Mr. Wilson’s work since I saw the Broadway production of ‘Fences.’ Wilson was a modern-day griot or storyteller/chronicler for urban African America. It is only fitting that this new cultural jewel named for him creates a larger national vision for itself. I am honored to be part of making that happen.”
The panel’s work will begin its work in February 2007 with conclusion conversations by the late spring or early summer.
Christmas came early for Plowshares Theatre Company
DETROIT – Leroy C. and Julia Richie have made a generous year-end donation to Plowshares Theatre Company of Detroit. The charitable donation of $30,000 includes $25,000 in shares of DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX) stock. This charitable gift is the largest donation from an individual or couple received in 2006. A portion of the 415 shares of stock is to be used to set up an endowment for the company.
“Building – and sustaining – the uniquely special institution that is Plowshares is the responsibility of all of us who care deeply for the arts and Detroit. We give this gift in admiration of Gary Anderson. He demonstrates a level of commitment that is rare in my experience,” said Mr. Richie.
Anderson, co-founder and producing artistic director of Plowshares Theatre Company said, “I am stunned by this display of faith in myself and the ideals of Plowshares. We will take this gift and use it as a foundation on which to begin building a sustained and supported company for the long-term.”
The Richies are well-known community leaders in Metro Detroit. Leroy “Roy” Richie is the former vice president and general counsel of Chrysler Motors Corporation. He has served as an officer for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, he served on the board of Marygrove College and the Detroit Bar Foundation. Mr. Richie served as Vice Chairman of Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and Detroit Medical Center. Currently, Mr. Richie serves in an “of counsel” role for the law firm Lewis & Munday, PC.
Julia Richie is President and CEO of The YES Foundation, an organization providing an array of youth development programs in Detroit. One such program, the YES for PREP initiative done in partnership with Marygrove College, helps prepare bright teenagers for college preparatory high school.
Community Theater Corner:
Players Guild of Dearborn proudly presents ‘The Women’
DEARBORN – The Players Guild of Dearborn will present the hilarious comedy “The Women” by Clare Boothe Luce beginning Jan. 12 through Jan. 28.
“The Women” tells the story of Mary, (Shawn Yardley) who prefers to be known as Mrs. Stephen Hanes, who thinks she has it all. That is, until her friends “accidentally” reveal that her husband has a mistress! Distraught by the news, Mary relies upon her socialite friends to help her through the crisis: the cynical Nancy, (Christine Toth-O’Connell) the naive Peggy (Sydnee Dombrowski) and the wearily sophisticated Sylvia (Tiffany Mullins) and Edith (Margaret Winowiecki). By following their well-intentioned but misguided advice, Mary falls from the pinnacle of 1930s Manhattan society to the depths of personal despair. Only at her lowest does she realize who she truly is and what she truly wants: to be Mrs. Stephen Hanes again! With farcical pacing and amazing one-line zingers, “The Women” is a riotous comedy of manners.
“The Women” is directed by Paul Bruce, assisted by Corinne Fine and produced by Christine Toth-O’Connell.
Eight performances of “The Women” will be presented. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m., with the ticket booth opening at 7:15 p.m. Sunday matinees begin at 2:30 p.m., with the ticket booth opening at 1:45 p.m. Late seating is at the discretion of the theater.
The Players Guild of Dearborn is located at 21730 Madison Dearborn, MI 48124, southeast of Monroe St. and Outer Drive.
Tickets are $15 (reserved seats).
To purchase tickets, for directions or other information about the shows, please call the ticket office at 313-561-TKTS. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
St. Dunstan’s presents ‘Wonder of the World’
BLOOMFIELD HILLS – Audiences seeking innovative, thrilling theater need look no farther than St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild of Cranbrook, which presents the screwball black comedy “Wonder of the World” from Jan. 19 through Feb. 3.
Although “Wonder of the World” may be unfamiliar to local audiences, it’s certainly got great credentials. The well-respected play, written by David Lindsay-Abaire, debuted off Broadway in 2000 and featured a cast that included Sarah Jessica Parker and Amy Sedaris.
“I kept asking myself, ‘Why has no one heard of this play?'” says the show’s Director, Mark Nathanson. “And then I realized that it’s community theaters like St. Dunstan’s that are bringing new, artistically challenging dramas to the stage. This is the new reality of theater: It’s the smaller venues, like ours, that are bringing a new crop of quality shows to our area.”
“Wonder of the World” is a fresh and funny play that tells the story of Cass (portrayed by Rachel Biber) who discovers that her husband (John Nowaczyk) has a dirty little secret in his sweater drawer – a discovery so shocking that she flees in a frantic search for the life she thinks she missed out on. It’s a wild ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel of laughs as Cass embarks on a journey of self-discovery that introduces her to a blithely suicidal alcoholic (Vanessa Sawson), a pair of bickering private detectives (Ara and Roz Basherian) and a strange caper involving a gargantuan jar of peanut butter. These adventures and others – including an encounter with a lonely tour-boat captain (Scott MacDonald) and an assortment of wacky women (all portrayed by Sue Mancuso) – push Cass perilously close to the water’s edge.
To bring the comedy to the stage, St. Dunstan’s has assembled a top-notch team of designers and crew members, including Obie Burch, who is serving as set and lighting designer as well as stage manager. “The visual look of the show is our salute to pop art, which is mentioned frequently in the play,” says Nathanson. “We’re making the set into a pop-art gallery.”
Other members of the team include Costume Designers Kathy Shapero and Janice Teegarden, Makeup/Hair Designer Anthony Marsalese, Props Masters Susan Holmes and Bob Yazejian, and Sound Designers Amanda Buchfinck and Amy Lynn Smith. Assistant Director Kappy Pennington, Producer Sandra Ann Prokopp and Assistant Producer Fran Hayes round out the key production team.
“Wonder of the World” will be presented Jan. 19 and 20 at 8 p.m., Jan. 21 at 2 p.m., Jan. 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., Jan. 28 at 2 p.m., and Feb. 2 and 3 at 8 p.m.
Tickets are general admission and cost $16 each for adults and $14 each for students and seniors. Tickets are also $14 each for groups of 20 or more. “Wonder of the World” contains adult language and situations and may not be suitable for children.
St. Dunstan’s is located at 400 Lone Pine Road between Cranbrook and Lahser in Bloomfield Hills. Free shuttle service is available from the Christ Church Cranbrook parking lot.
Reservations can be made by calling 248-737-3587 or visiting http://www.StDunstansTheatre.com.