Having participated in southeast Michigan's world of theater as a performer, director and teacher for two decades, it's fair to say that Mitch Master lives and breathes his craft. In fact, it was at a community production of "Guys and Dolls" through The Village Players of Birmingham where he made a connection that would help expand the already robust Metro Detroit theater scene even further. He said that his co-star, David Caroll, managed to bring hundreds of audience members to see the performance. And it got rave reviews.
"Some of the feedback he got was, 'Wow, how amazing. I can't believe it's community theater and not the Fisher Theatre at over $100 a ticket … we'd sure love to see more of this kind of theater in Metro Detroit,'" Master said. "So, we started talking and we decided to develop a theater group is more on the professional side; we decided we wanted to pay our actors, and we decided we wanted to find really dedicated actors."
Shortly after the Nicely Theatre Group was born. Now the artistic director and board vice president of the nonprofit, Master said that not only is the organization dedicated to highlighting the skills and creativity of professional actors and writers in the Metro Detroit area but it's focused on creating the most inclusive environment possible.
"We wanted to create a public awareness of live theater through affordable and diverse performances and really reach out to every race, color and sex and really encourage them to come out and try out for a role that they might not think they'd be up for because of certain races [playing it traditionally] or genders or whatnot," he said.
Making Theater During Quarantine
Only recently established, so far the group has had to postpone its initially scheduled performance of the Broadway staple "Pippin" because of health concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus. And in lieu of creating live performances, Master said that Nicely has set about hosting its first-ever One-Act Online Festival. Master was pleasantly surprised at the number of submissions the group received.
"We decided that we were going to keep them to about 20 minutes, 15 pages," he said. "[We will] rehearse the one-act [submissions], and then record them, and then put them on our website, and then introduce these local playwrights and their work with local actors."
At this point, the submission process has ended, and rehearsals are slated to begin next week. Master said it's likely the shows will be filmed and presented in several sessions that will be shared both on the Nicely Theatre Group's website and its social media pages.
"I think our goal is to show them in threes or fours, because the one-acts are anything from 10 minutes to 20 minutes and that way the audience could pause it, walk away, get a snack and be able to see these little pieces rather than sitting through a 2-and-a-half-hour show," he said. "It will really just give a nice platform for local writers and actors to perform in this crazy time.
Shortly after BTL spoke with Master, Nicely released its list of chosen one-act plays and playwrights:
To find out more about Nicely Theatre Group and to catch its one-act festival when rehearsals end visit nicelytheatregroup.org.