A theater's artistic director has to oversee everything on stage. She also has to check in with financial managers so the production stays on budget, and she has to understand acting, directing, and design—the whole deal.
Julia Garlotte, the new artistic director (AD) of The Penny Seats Theatre Company, is the whole deal.
Garlotte has acted for The Purple Rose in Chelsea, The Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter, and Penny Seats in Ann Arbor as well as at some of the town's lost theaters: The Performance Network, The Blackbird, and The New Theatre Project. Audiences have seen her at other theaters throughout Southeast and Central Michigan, too.
She has also designed sound for several theaters, recorded audiobooks, and recently she’s been directing.
Oh, and Garlotte managed the box office at The Purple Rose for 12 years.
The “sheer volume of her professional experiences” is one of the things that impresses Penny Seat’s outgoing AD, Joseph Zettelmaier.
In addition to working with Penny Seats as an actor, she's also been a sound designer, sound engineer, assistant director, and director for the company.
Encore Theatre's take on Stephen Sondheim’s fairy-tale mashup "Into the Woods" is filled with powerhouse vocals
It’s fitting that I watched Encore Musical Theatre Company’s new production of Into the Woods with my 12-year-old daughter.
Not just because the girl can sing every word of the show’s patter song (“Your Fault”)—she used to fall asleep listening to the show’s cast recording each night—but also because she now lives in that interstitial, fog-laden forest known as middle school, where preteens blindly fumble their way out of childhood.
And frankly, if I had to name one show that’s about the terrifyingly fraught and difficult process of growing up, it would be Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.
A fairy-tale mashup that premiered on Broadway in 1987—long before the word “mashup” became such a regular part of our lexicon—Woods interweaves the stories of Cinderella (Ash Moran), Rapunzel (Lucia Flowers), Little Red Riding Hood (Sienna Berkseth), and Jack (Tsumari Patterson) and the Beanstalk.
How? By way of a cursed baker (Marcus Jordan) and his wife (Jessica Grové), who can’t have children until they gather the four items requested by the old witch next door (Jennifer Horne). But even when the couple succeeds, and everyone—fairy-tale protagonists included—gets what they want, in its darker second act Woods dares to venture beyond “happily ever after” and ask, “OK, now what?”
Insulation Versus Isolation: U-M's production of “Arbor Falls” holds a mirror to society's divisions
Caridad Svich’s play Arbor Falls is set in a small, landlocked, tree-lined town of that name. We know little about the town, save that it is near another place where something terrible happened, and the people of Arbor Falls want to feel safe. We know, too, that it is home to a church with a dwindling congregation and a preacher unsure of his faith.
In one scene, the preacher says they don’t think about what to say in their sermon but what to leave out. In this play, much is left out, too. Only one character is named other than by title (Preacher, Lover, Owner), and none have specific genders; pronouns are gender neutral. The dialogue—short lyrical lines, lacking in detail—also leaves a lot for the actors and director to imagine.
Into Arbor Falls comes a stranger, a traveler nobody knows, who makes “odd” sounds when praying. Preacher offers them safe harbor and food. But who is this stranger? Can they be accepted here?
“I’ve been really excited about the way the cast and production team have embraced the project,” says Tiffany Trent, chair of the University of Michigan’s Department of Theatre and Drama and director of Arbor Falls, which makes Michigan premiere on February 15 at Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.
For Trent, a major theme is insulation versus isolation.
This has been a chilly, wet, slippery, snowy winter, so it’s a perfect time to warm up with a rom-com—especially with Valentine's Day around the corner.
For Theatre Nova's production of Deborah Zoe Laufer’s Fortune, director Carla Milarch brings two talented actors together in a comical duet. It’s a good choice for Nova's tiny, sometimes cramped space. There are some lighting special effects, but most of the fireworks come from the actors who play two lonely people looking for love.
Madame Rosa is a fortune teller, like her mother. It’s a family business and a curse. Unlike other “fortune tellers,” Madame Rosa actually can look into the past and predict the future, but she'd rather be a secretary.
When not being Madame Rosa, she’s a lonely young woman named Maude who is afraid of what she can do and afraid to give up the business and do something about her life.
One day, a desperate young man demands that Madame Rosa read his fortune. He’s an awkward young accountant who has been regularly striking out in his attempts to find love. He wants to know what his future holds and doesn’t want it sugar-coated.
Grey Rose Grant puts all of themself into projects.
Their 2019 folk opera Michigan Trees came out of Grant's experience as a trans-femme person. The 2023 chamber-rock opera The Precipice was based on Grant's poems and songs along with the journals of Karl Ronneberg, their co-founder of Fifth Wall Performing Arts. Even Grant's new work, Little Histories, about a mortician looking back on the life events that made him turn to his profession even as they prepare to host a funeral for a former lover, has its roots in the composer, performer, and librettist's North Carolina childhood.
"Little Histories is deeply connected to personal experience," Grant says. "Back in the day I was surrounded by literary nerds and we went through an autofiction phase which has for sure affected how I want to tell stories within the medium of theater. Every little story told in Little Histories has some truth to it: memories of two of my grandparents' funerals; a memory of witnessing a bird fly into a window in high school; the pet cemetery we had in the woods behind my childhood home. That said, these memories are swirled together, misremembered, and injected with a healthy dose of retold mythologies, the story of the birth of the modern American funeral industry, and more. I enjoy beginning from the personal and moving outward from there."
Fifth Wall Performing Arts' production of Little Histories runs January 26-28 at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, and I asked Grant, a 2016 graduate from the University of Michigan who currently works at Ypsilanti's Riverside Arts Center, about their latest DIY folk opera.
People who work at the Ann Arbor District Library love to give recommendations.
Whether in person at one of the five branches, in the News and Reviews section of AADL's website, or right here at Pulp, highlighting our favorite books, films, TV shows, video games, websites, adventures, and more is just part of the gig.
Like you, we are passionate enjoyers of media and experiences.
This is our seventh year compiling Ann Arbor District Library staff picks—and with more than 40,000 words spread out over four posts, it is the longest edition yet.
To reiterate: We. Love. To. Give. Recommendations.
Here are the creative works and experiences we discovered in 2023 that moved us enough to share them with you. (Not that you needed to twist our arms.)
A Fair of Affairs: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's "The Real Thing" is all about the dangerous game of love
A typical Tom Stoppard play features a whole lot of words just to get to a basic point. It can be intellectually stimulating—or a wee bit draggy if you're looking for more action on stage.
But the high-energy Ann Arbor Civic Theatre production of Stoppard's The Real Thing that opened last Friday to a sold-out crowd flows at an excellent pace thanks to director David Widmayer and grips your attention throughout.
The play is set in 1980s London and focuses on two couples. Henry (Chris Grimm) is a playwright married to Charlotte (Kara Williams), an actress who frequently stars in Henry’s shows, including his current piece, House of Cards. They are good friends with Annie (Sara Long) and her husband Max (Manny Abascal Jr.), who is also an actor and starring in House of Cards with Charlotte.
Deck Halls the Halls With Boughs of Corn: Encore Theatre's "White Christmas" hits all the right nostalgic spots
As a starting point, let’s just agree: White Christmas is pure, nostalgic corn.
But ever since I was a kid, watching the 1954 Bing Crosby movie with my musical-loving mom, it’s always gotten me right in the feels. The world-wise romantic leads who initially dislike each other? The outwardly gruff but paternal General who’s deeply beloved by his men? The snow that refuses to fall in Vermont until conflicts are resolved, and love and goodness prevail?
Like it’s on the cob, ready to be shucked, people.
But recognizing how a story blatantly pulls on your heartstrings sometimes does little to defuse its impact, which is why I was all too happy to check out the stage musical adaptation of White Christmas at Dexter’s Encore Theatre.
U-M theater professor Malcolm Tulip has long established a reputation for bringing challenging, provocative productions to local stages, going back to his days as a director (and performer) at the sadly defunct Performance Network Theatre.
So it was no surprise to find Tulip at the helm of the U-M theater department’s strange, darkly haunting production of Aditi Brennan Kapil’s Imogen Says Nothing, mounted at the Power Center this past weekend. Inspired by a character, Imogen, who has no lines, but is nonetheless mentioned in the first folio edition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the play imagines a woman who fights to perform on stage in Shakespeare’s time, when only men played theatrical roles (by law!), and campaigns to appear in the first written version of the play, too.
Plus, there are bears.
Imogen is a former bear (!) who has escaped the bear-baiting arena next to the Globe Theatre, which hearkens back to one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions, in The Winter’s Tale: “Exit, pursued by a bear.”
While enmeshed with a troupe of actors, Imogen confronts her former peers, and the line that encapsulates the play, “It is a lonesome thing to be absent,” further expands its meaning.
It’s no secret the United States has a drug problem, and painkillers are at the top of the list. The Penny Seats Theatre Company’s Sunrise Coven tackles that conversation and then some.
Written by Brendan Bourque-Sheil, the show takes place in Buckstop, Texas, a small town where everyone knows everyone else and all their business. We meet Hallie Heaton (Jeannine Thompson), a diabetic nurse practitioner who has wound up in the hospital because she overdosed on Oxycodone. The doctor taking care of her is Annie (Inchai Reed), who reveals she has based her entire career on Hallie and sees her as an idol.
Hallie gets the unfortunate news that due to her OD, she has lost her nursing license. On top of that, her eyesight is starting to go bad and she's having visions she can’t explain.