Let's Play: Skyline's "The Diviners," Thurston Players' "Game On!," Pass the Hat's "The Know Gun Show" & Pioneer's "Wizard of Oz"


The Diviners

Community and school theater thrives in Tree Town.

It sometimes feels like the only things more popular than U-M football in Ann Arbor are theater productions. From major UMS events at the Power Center to Kickshaw Theatre's experimental "Here's to You, Here's to Me" at local bars, the stage -- wherever it may be -- is always alive in A2.

The community and school theater scene is especially active, and this weekend alone there are four plays opening: Tappan Players' Hello, Dolly! (full Pulp feature here), the Skyline Theatre Arts Program's The Diviners, the Thurston Players' original play Game On!, and Pass the Hat Promotion's The Know Gun Show. And next month, the Pioneer Theatre Guild presents The Wizard of Oz.

Below are descriptions of the shows provided by the theaters and production companies.

The Diviners

Skyline Theatre Arts Program presents The Diviners

Winner of the American College Theatre Festival, Jim Leonard's haunting play The Diviners is a moving story about a disturbed young boy and his relationship with a conflicted former preacher at a time when water and faith were in short supply.

The play takes place in southern Indiana during the Depression era as the charismatic CC Showers drifts into town and meets Buddy, a gentle but emotionally disturbed boy who is phobic of water yet has the gift of divining water. Buddy’s protective sister, Jennie Mae, is caught in the web of their friendship as she develops a crush on Showers.

"This show explores faith, love, and community at a time when hope is almost gone," said Anne-Marie Roberts, Skyline department chair for theater arts and director of The Diviners. "Everyone of us has moments of doubt -- when our beliefs are tested. This play explores those moments and asks the audience some hard, but enlightening questions.”

The three main characters help each other divine for truth and faith. As the townspeople try to force the preacher to return to a way of life he no longer believes in, CC, Buddy and Jennie Mae are pushed to tragic consequences.

The play features Theo Billups as Showers; Isaac Mangold as Buddy; and Claire de Vries as Buddy’s sister, Jennie Mae. Theo, a Skyline senior, and Claire, a Skyline freshman, recently received Superior Ratings (the highest level) in Acting at the Michigan Thespian Society State Festival.

“It is very exciting to get to play this preacher who is helping the young man to deal with the loss of his mother and literally clean himself of his past,” said Billups, who has performed in nine shows while at Skyline. “This is my last play during high school, and I am so happy to get to pay such a complex part.”

"The Diviners" - March 24 and 25 at 7:30 pm, and March 26 at 2:30 pm at Skyline High School, 2552 N. Maple Rd., Ann Arbor. $10 for general admission; $8 for students (with valid ID) and senior citizens. Tickets available at showtix4u.com and at the performances.

Game On!

The Thurston Players present Game On!

Everyone wishes their favorite fictional characters could come to life. When the thesis project of a group of computer programming grad students develops a mysterious bug, gamers everywhere get their wish -- and then some. Video game characters from every known game are suddenly running rampant around Ann Arbor!

Some are friendly, but others have malicious plans in store for the town -- even taking over Michigan Stadium! A group of video game enthusiasts must team up with some of their favorite characters to fight a boss battle of the ages and get everything back to normal.

Can they beat the game? Find out in the 2017 Thurston Players' original play "Game On!"

This is the troupe's 43rd annual production. Thurston Players date back to 1974. That year a group of Thurston Elementary School parents decided to write and perform an original musical comedy to benefit the Thurston PTO. Now volunteers gather annually to create an original plot for the play, select songs, write lyrics, and choreograph dance numbers, all leading up to three exciting performances of this original musical comedy each March.

Originally the cast consisted of Thurston parents, teachers and other adult neighbors. In 1997 Thurston students joined the cast. As these children grew up and went on to middle school, high school, and even college, some returned to participate in the plays, making this a truly multi-generational group.

Now a typical cast runs well over 100 actors ranging from age 5 to 70, along with many other volunteers who work backstage and in other production areas.

"Game On!" - March 23 and 24 at 7:30 pm, and March 25 at 7 pm at Clague Middle School, 2616 Nixon Rd, Ann Arbor. $10 for adults; $5 for students. Tickets available at the door. More info at thurstonplayers.org.

The Know Gun Show

Pass the Hat Promotions presents The Know Gun Show

Divisive political topics should be explored through art, according to Ann Arbor writer and producer, Catherine Zudak.

Zudak developed The Know Gun Show with lots of input from area writers, storytellers, and actors.

“It’s been exciting working with so many talented people,” Zudak said. “Even in Ann Arbor opinions on gun ownership differ widely. We’ve had some great debates while working on the script.”

The Know Gun Show kicks off with The Flower Girl. The short play weaves together excerpts from work by playwrights, k. b., Brian Cox, Marc Holland, and Jack Tiernan and features actors, John Drauss, Cydney Heed, Jamie Jee, and Jean Leverich. The Flower Girl takes an absurdist look at a gun culture that divorces gun violence and gun ownership.

“More guns in circulation mean more death and injuries. Acknowledging that reality is not an attack on anyone’s Second Amendment rights,” she said.

The Know Gun Show aims to entertain as well as provoke. Bob Skon joins the show, playing some covers and original songs, including "Not Great at Any One," to keep the energy high and fun.

“'Not Great at Any One' is a great anthem for middle age,” Zudak said, “I’ve seen the public debate on gun violence deadlocked for 30 years, but the song reminds me to keep at it."

The show’s finale includes tales of gun violence from members of the Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild. Lyn Daviage considers whether anyone could have prevented the murder of family friends. Judy Schmidt offers a darkly comic story of recreational shooting gone wrong. Patti Smith remembers a remarkable young man lost to gun violence, and Zudak regrets an accidental shooting that was no accident.

“To quote a common phrase, 'Guns don't kill people, but they do make it a whole lot easier.'" Zudak said.

Special guests, 5th Ward Councilman, Chip Smith, and Dr. Andrew Zweifler of Physicians for the Prevention of Gun Violence, will provide brief remarks on efforts to prevent gun violence.

"The Know Gun Show" - March 26 at 4 pm at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, 322 W. Ann St., Ann Arbor. The event is free with a $10 suggested donation. Proceeds benefit gun violence prevention. Visit Pass the Hat Promotions' Facebook page for more info.

The Wizard of Oz

Pioneer Theater Guild presents The Wizard of Oz

We’re off to see the wizard! Join Dorothy Gale, a small town girl from Kansas who gets swept up in a tornado and lands in the magical land of Oz, in her quest to the Emerald City to get back home! Along the way, she will meet many new friends who will accompany her in her adventure down the Yellow Brick Road. But the trip is not always smooth and straightforward. Dorothy and her friends will encounter evil witches, flying monkeys, and lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!

Based on the beloved L. Frank Baum children’s novel and the iconic 1938 film starring Judy Garland, this adventure will have you and your whole family enjoying Dorothy’s magical trip in a land of endless imagination and song, with places like Munchkinland, the Haunted Forest, and the glamorous Emerald City. You will also be bouncing in your seat with the peppy score by Arlen and Harburg that features song like “Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead!,” “If I Only Had a Brain/Heart/Nerve,” and the treasured “Over the Rainbow.”

So join PTG in this fun and festive adaptation of an audience-favorite musical that will have you leaving the theater reminding yourself that there really is “no place like home.”

The Wizard of Oz will be directed by Kyle McClellan, with Grace Bydalek (assitant director), Daniel Schwartzberg (music director), Cole Abod (assistant music director), Claire Crause (choreographer), Richard Alder (orchestra director). The script is by L. Frank Baum, with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg.

"The Wizard of Oz" - April 22, 28, and 29 at 7:30 pm, and April 23 and 30 at 2 pm at Pioneer High School, 601 W. Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor,. $15 for adults; $10 for students, 65+ seniors, and Pioneer High School staff. Tickets will be available in advance at showtix4u.com beginning April 12 and at the door. More info at ptguild.org.