Cheers! Kickshaw Theatre's "Here's to You, Here's to Me" is a play masquerading as a drinking party (& vice-versa)
Since it began in January, Kickshaw Theatre is known for putting together unconventional productions. Lynn Lammers’ first show, The Electric Baby, was performed in the equivalent of a warehouse and centered on a woman grieving the death of her grown daughter. The show begins when the woman storms off into traffic and causes a cab to crash into a pole.
In contrast, in the current production, Here's to You, Here's to Me, Kickshaw is hosting a 30-minute drinking party at various local bars around Ann Arbor.
To clarify, this particular "party" is devised by the actors, but this is still as informal as theater can get. “The show started with just the concept of toasting, lots of research, and a discussion about what people want/need from theater at this moment in time,” Lammers told Pulp in a recent interview.
Which explains the improv, the jam sessions, and the alcohol. Oh, the alcohol. For really, what would a show about toasting be if the actors and the audience didn’t all have copious amounts of alcohol on hand throughout?
The show features three actors who have a background in making nontraditional theater: Ramona Burns, Natalie Rose Sevick, and Aral Gribble. “The actors will be out mingling. There’s less formality, We want it to feel like hanging out with friends. Friends who happen to be really talented performers,” Lammers said. And they are, both talented and exuberant.
When you enter, the audience’s chairs are set up in a circle around a stand with a large jug of something that could hypothetically pass for water in the center. The actors explain that the show will last until the last drop of liquid in the bottle has been downed. A few of the seats dotted throughout the audience are reserved for the actors, who sporadically pop up and down from the chairs as the desire to speak or sing hits them.
The show centers on the concept of toasting, so naturally, the actors start with a review of the history of toasting, beginning in neanderthal times when two drunken cave-people accidentally clinked glasses and the concept of celebrating with a toast was born. The history lesson also includes life on the Oregon Trail (well, at least life in the video game The Oregon Trail) and a discussion of why we toast: toasting to failure, toasting to friends, and toasting to life in all its varied forms.
“It’s a very warm, intimate show," Lammers said. "At times, the show is silly fun. At other times, it’s about thoughtful connection. And sometimes it’s bombastic, raucous celebration.”
If you can, plan to get there half an hour early so that you can buy a drink to toast with during the show and to talk a bit with the actors. As Lammers succinctly put it, “It’s 30 minutes, 10 dollars, and you can definitely wear whatever the heck you want.”
Toby Tieger has directed, acted in, and written plays over the last 10 years, and sees theater as often as he can. He is a bookshelver/processor with the Ann Arbor District Library.
"Here's to You, Here's to Me" runs Thursdays - Sundays, March 16 - April 2 at the Heidelberg Club Above, Arbor Brewing Company Brewpub, and Agave Tequila Bar. Tickets are $10, showtimes and locations vary. More information is at kickshawtheatre.org. For a behind-the-scenes look at how this show was put together, read our article "Here’s to Collaboration: Behind the Scenes of the Kickshaw Lab."