Pulp & PencilPoint TheatreWorks Presents the AADL Pub Reading Series

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

Pulp Presents the AADL Pub Reading Series

Why do we bother going out to movie theaters -- with their expensive, salty popcorn and sticky floors -- when we could just sit in the comfort of our own homes binge-watching television? I believe it’s because there’s something nourishing in having a communal experience with others when we’re listening to stories. 

There’s something even more fulfilling in watching live theater, especially local and intimate theater, when you’re packed into a room listening to performers who have honed their craft. When done well, it feels deeply personal. 

This is the intention of the AADL Pub Reading Series presented by Pulp in partnership with PencilPoint TheatreWorks: a set of staged readings that will be performed at Conor O’Neill’s on the fourth Sunday of each month from April through July. All four of the plays chosen for the Pub Reading Series focus on connecting, and on people who struggle to form a community. They’re also each a witty and brilliant play in their own right. 

U-M's Musket's production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s "In the Heights" feels like home

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The cast of University of Michigan Musket's "In the Heights"

The cast of In the Heights was joined by Tony Award-winning orchestrator and music director Alex Lacamoire for a workshop and master class.

What makes someplace feel like home?

That’s the main question that threads throughout Lin-Manuel Miranda’s semi-autobiographical musical In the Heights, a story about the neighborhood Washington Heights and all of the people who live there. Miranda is best known for creating Hamilton a few years back, but he first rocketed to Broadway fame as the writer and lead actor in In the Heights.

“It’s unbelievable how he was able to encapsulate this whole community into music,” said Bruna D'Avila recently, the director of an entirely student-produced and acted University of Michigan Musket production of the show that runs March 16-18.

Out of Order: Ellipsis Theatre's "Fabula Rasa" is a surreal comedy

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Fabula Rasa poster image

“I’ve been part of a team producing it three times now, including the first production and this current one,” explained Joanna Hastings, playwright and creator of Fabula Rasa, an Ellipsis Theatre production at Bona Sera Underground on March 9 and 10. “The second time was when we cut out the major dance element and also the character of the Sphinx, which was taken from one of Kamrowski’s paintings, changed from being a storyteller to being a predator/psychopomp/healer. The revenge Archimedes exacts on Castor and Pollux has intensified with the different iterations of the play.”

If this all sounds slightly confusing at first glance, it’s meant to. 

Kickshaw Theatre's "Or," is a farce with sharp teeth

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Kickshaw Theatre's Or,

Plagued with laughs: Daniel Helmer and Vanessa Sawson star in the sharp-edged farce Or,. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Farce is tricky to pull off, but when it’s done well, there are few things funnier. The rest of the time, it’s either tedious or just plain embarrassing. Unfortunately, there isn’t much mediocre farce.

A lot of what sets the sublime apart from the shabby is precision. Yes, all comedy relies on timing, but farce requires lightning-fast costume changes, flitting facial expressions, and meticulously calibrated entrances.

Thankfully, Or, the newest production from Kickshaw Theatre is an exquisite farce as performed by masters of their craft.

Chekhov, Mate: "Wild Honey" is a comedic adapation of an unfinished tragedy

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

Wild Honey graphic

Everybody loves Anton Chekhov’s plays. They’re thought-provoking, they’re poignant, and they’re hilarious crowd-pleasers.

OK, that last one might be a bit of a stretch, but at least Wild Honey, Michael Frayn’s adaptation of Chekhov’s untitled first play, is a hilarious crowd-pleaser.

UMS's "No Safety Net" festival digs into deep issues through play(s)

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

UMS's Underground Railroad Game. Photo by Ben Arons.

Underground Railroad Game is one of four provacative plays presented in the No Safety Net festival. Photo by Ben Arons.

The three-week-long theater festival No Safety Net presented by the University Musical Society (UMS) will showcase four productions that focus on important and divisive social issues in modern society, from slavery and terrorism to transgender identity, radical wellness, and healing.

So, what do the four pieces in No Safety Net have in common?

Change & Growth: "Violet" at U-M's Arthur Miller Theatre

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Violet at U-M's Arthur Miller Theater

U-M's production of Violet doesn't shy away from looking at the play's themes of racism and acceptance in the context of today's socio-political troubles.

Violet is a musical that’s known both for its soaring gospel- and blues-infused score and for its social commentary about race relations. Originally written for Off-Broadway back in 1997, the show follows a young, facially disfigured Caucasian woman in 1964 who travels across the United States in the hopes of having her outward scars healed by a TV evangelist. Over the course of her journey, she meets and falls in love with an African-American man. “It’s about finding out who you are, accepting who you are, appreciating who you, and loving who you are. And then being able to navigate this world,” says Mark Madama, who is directing a production of Violet this weekend through the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, & Dance department.

Brass Tacks nails Shakespeare's dense & difficult "Measure for Measure"

INTERVIEW PREVIEW THEATER & DANCE

Brass Tacks Ensemble, Measure for Measure

Brass Tacks Ensemble has workshopped Measure for Measure for 10 months. Photos by Aaron C. Wade.

Nearly every play that is performed for an audience is a culmination of many people’s collective time and effort. A play is often a culmination of countless hours of rehearsals; of actors having learned the basics of their blocking and memorizing their lines, only to then attempt the feat of embodying becoming other people; of a director grappling with ideas and how to bring their artistic vision to a stage.

But rarely is a play a culmination of almost 10 months of other workshops and productions. Measure for Measure, a Brass Tacks Ensemble show that runs Nov. 10-19, is precisely that.

The comedy "Nice Girl" is Redbud Productions' latest family affair

INTERVIEW PREVIEW THEATER & DANCE

Redbud Productions' Nice Girl

Nice Girl breaks the mold for Redbud Productions: "We have a reputation in Ann Arbor of doing these darker, heavier dramas,” said director Loretta Grimes. “This one is funny."

Redbud Productions shows are truly a family affair. My interview with Loretta Grimes -- who is directing Nice Girl at Kerrytown Concert House, Oct. 26-28 -- along with her husband and Redbud collaborator, Tim Grimes, was one of the warmest interviews I've conducted. Like the archetype of a loving married couple, Loretta and Tim -- who is the Events Manager at AADL -- finished many of each other's sentences during out chat in their rehearsal space, which is the basement of their home. It has been converted into an acting space complete with spike tape (to signify where the boundaries of the stage are), the set for their new show, and framed posters from their 19 years of previous productions.

PencilPoint TheatreWorks' Ypsi THRIVE highlights new one-act plays

INTERVIEW PREVIEW THEATER & DANCE

Ypsi THRIVE

Four of Ypsi THRIVE's seven plays are by women, as are five of the directors, and the majority of the roles are for females.

Brian Cox returned to creating theater about five years ago when he began writing his first full-length play, Clutter, based on one of his short stories. Since then, he has written multiple one-act plays, directed, produced, and devised many more shows and storytelling nights, and started his own theater company, PencilPoint Theatreworks in Ypsilanti. He’s an accomplished director, producer, and artistic director, and earlier this year Cox won Encore Theatre's Wilde Award for Best New Script with Clutter.

After offhandedly mentioning this during the interview, Cox pauses, glancing down and blushing slightly. “But I don’t act. No acting.”

So what is Cox’s newest project? On Sept. 28 he’s opening Ypsi THRIVE, a three-day, new-play festival at Riverside Arts Center that features seven short plays.