Preview: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Community Ensemble Theatre (CET)

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Performers bring the intensity in Community High School's Community Ensemble Theater's production of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

Performers bring the intensity in Community High School's Community Ensemble Theater's production of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

Community High School’s Community Ensemble Theatre (CET) will take on the highly ambitious, experimental play-of-many-plays, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind starting this weekend. This challenging interactive production, adapted for teenage performers from the Chicago production that debuted in 1988 - currently the city’s longest-running play at 25 years - is built around 30 two-minute “plays” in a 60-minute speed format.

In his 2010 review of the Chicago production, Chicago Theater Beat critic Keith Ecker described Too Much Light - then in its 21st year and still selling out every show - as “a complete and utter oddity,” citing its ideological kinship with the 20th century Italian Futurism movement.

CET director Quinn Strassel recently said, “This show is funny, edgy, and at times highly emotional. Most importantly, the unorthodox structure allows us to feature dozens of kids in lead roles."

“It's ambitious," adds Strassel, “but I think the kids are excited about taking on the challenge.”

Hardly your typical high school theater fare, Too Much Light... has only recently been made available to educational theatre companies, so Ann Arbor is finally getting its chance to see what all the fuss is about.


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind will be performed in the Craft Theater at Community High School on November 12 & 13 at 7:30 pm, November 14 at 1 pm and at 7:30 pm, and November 15 at 2 pm. Tickets are $12.50 for adults and $9 for students and seniors, and are available online.

Preview: Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Skyline Theatre

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Belle (Leah Bauer) and the Beast (Luke Renken) waltz together in Skyline Theatre’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Belle (Leah Bauer) and the Beast (Luke Renken) waltz together in Skyline Theatre’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast / Photo by Lisa Gavan

“There is the great lesson of 'Beauty and the Beast,' that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.” G. K. Chesterton

Skyline Theatre presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, beginning this weekend and running through November 22.

This tale, seemingly as old as time, dates back to the traditional French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête written in 1756 and has resulted in numerous adaptations including the famous 1991 animated classic (although, admittedly, my personal favorite version is Jean Cocteau's surreal 1946 French film).

In this stage adaptation of the animated film, beautiful Belle is, improbably, the village outsider who prefers books to the advances of the hunky, yet shallow Gaston. When she goes looking for her hapless father, an inventor who’s lost his way in an enchanted forest, she discovers him in a haunted castle, captive of a mysterious Beast. She then wins her father's freedom by reluctantly trading places with him. Thus begins the most unlikely of romances, made considerably more tolerable, if occasionally adorable, by singing teapots and waltzing silverware.

"Belle and the Beast’s story is timeless," observes Skyline Theatre director Anne-Marie Roberts. "It contains the universal themes of love and self-sacrifice. Children in all their innocence innately understand and connect with these truths.”

Best of all, following each of the performances, guests can meet and have their pictures taken with Belle, the Beast, and other memorable characters in the musical.


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Disney's Beauty and the Beast performs at Skyline High School (2552 N. Maple Rd in Ann Arbor) on November 14, at both 2:30 and 7:30 pm; November 20 & 21, at 7:30 pm; and November 22, at 2:30 pm. Tickets are available online or at the door. For more information, visit Skyline’s website.

Preview: Grease, Pioneer High School's Theatre Guild

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Summer nights come this November in Pioneer High School Theatre Guild's production of Grease

Summer nights come this November in Pioneer High School Theatre Guild's production of Grease / Myra Klarman Photography

“Grease is the word,” sang Barry Gibb nearly 40 years ago. It was 1978 and John Travolta had just discoed his way to superstardom in Saturday Night Fever. This time he’d spark some summer lovin’ and help spin the 1971 stage musical Grease into a cult film and a staple for high school musical theater programs across the county.

This weekend Pioneer High School’s Theatre Guild offers its take on Rydell High’s class of 1959, with direction by Matthew Kunkel, University of Michigan Directing Major.

The story centers on Danny Zuko, a too-cool-for-school hot-rodder who reluctantly crosses clique lines and kills it at the high school dance for his sweetheart, Sandy Dumbrowski, who in turn is negotiating her own way among the bad girls. At its core are the timeless high school high jinks and teen angst that make Grease the perfect high school musical.

Peer pressure played out by duck-tailed T-birds and gum-smacking Pink Ladies? What’s not to like?


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Grease opens Friday, November 7, at 8:30 pm and runs through Sunday, November 15, at 2 pm. Tickets are $10 (students, Seniors 65+, and PHS staff) and $15 adults. For more information, visit Pioneer Theatre Guild's webpage.

Preview: Titus Andronicus, Huron Players, Huron High School

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Blood and gore come to the Huron High School's Little Theater in Titus Andronicus

Blood and gore come to the Huron High School's Little Theater in Titus Andronicus

“Oft have I digg'd up dead men from their graves, And set them upright at their dear friends' door….”

Just in time for Halloween (and running the following weekend), Ann Arbor High School’s Huron Players bring you Shakespeare’s most disturbing tragedy, Titus Andronicus.

In this blood-soaked drama -- one of Shakespeare’s earliest, written sometime between 1588 and 1593 -- Saturninus and Bassianus are vying for the title of Caesar when Titus returns victorious from war with the Goths. Titus is offered the emperorship, but instead confers the title on Saturninus, thereby setting in motion a revenge so shockingly graphic the play wasn’t performed for centuries. Let’s just say that in addition to the considerable bloodshed, Titus cornered the meat-pie market a good 400 years before Sweeney Todd.


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Titus Andronicus starts Friday, October 30, 7:30 pm, with additional performances Sunday, November 1, at 2:00 pm, Friday, November 6, and Saturday, November 7, at 7:30 pm in Huron High School's Little Theater. General admission: $8, students and staff $6. Additional information available on the Huron Players website.

Preview: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago comes to the Power Center

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago comes to the Power Center

The modern dance company Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will be visiting the Power Center for a one-night only performance on Tuesday, October 27th at 7:30pm. UMS is bringing this fantastic group to Ann Arbor as part of its 2015/2016 Dance Series, and I can’t wait to see them again!

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago provides an excellent introduction to modern dance, as they are much more accessible than many groups; they are also sufficiently excellent to hold the attention of any dance lover. Hubbard Street tends to bring a mix of fun and serious pieces, all of which are expertly danced and easy to follow. The program that they are bringing to the Power Center this fall is all choreographed by one person, William Forsythe. Although a program of only one choreographer’s work can be a dicey prospect, I have no doubt that Hubbard Street can pull it off with grace and beauty.

For those of you who are interested in a more immersive experience, Hubbard Street will also be offering a free master class at the Ann Arbor YMCA on Saturday, October 24th at 2pm. This is a great opportunity to dance and learn from some of the best modern dancers in the US. I have taken this class before, and it’s great fun! If you want to learn more about Hubbard Street, but aren’t ready to take a class, show up early to the performance at the Power Center--there will be a short talk at 7pm.


Evelyn Hollenshead is a Youth Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs Tuesday, October 27 at 7:30 pm at the Power Center with a talk at 7. Tickets are available online, by phone at 734-764-2538, or at the Ticket Office in the Michigan League.

Preview: Julius Caesar, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

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The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre comes to bury Caesar starting October 29

Friends, Romans, Countrymen…

For the first non-musical of their 86th season, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre will stage Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s classic tragedy believed to be one of the very first plays performed at the Globe Theater.

Civic Theatre has a long history of Shakespearean plays. Their first production by the playwright was in 1957 with The Merchant of Venice, directed by Ted Heusel, who also directed (and starred) in Julius Caesar two years later.

For the past two seasons, Kat Walsh has brought Shakespeare to life for A2CT audiences with her well-received versions of King Lear and Twelfth Night. She is looking forward to bringing her version of this famous historical play to the University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theatre.

The talented cast is led by Tom Underwood (Caesar), Jeff Miller (Brutus), Kaela Parnicky (Antony), and Stebert Davenport (Cassius). U-M Assistant Professor of Theatre Robert Najarian staged the fight combat sequences and Katie Van Dusen is the music director.


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Julius Caesar performances run Thursday-Sunday, October 29-November 1 at the University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin Ave, 48109. For information and tickets, visit www.a2ct.org or call 734-971-2228, at the A2CT office at 322 W. Ann St., or at the door.

Preview: American Idiot, U-M Department of Musical Theater

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Nora Schell as Whatshername, Barrett Riggins as St. Jimmy, and James Kilmeade as Johhny in American Idiot at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre

The University of Michigan’s Department of Musical Theater presents Green Day's American Idiot with lyrics by Green Day member Billie Joe Armstrong based on a book by Armstrong and film director Michael Mayer.

Directed by U-M Associate Professor of Musical Theater Linda Goodrich, with music direction by Assistant Professor of Music, Jason DeBord, this 2010 Tony Award-winning sung-through stage adaptation of the band’s 2004 multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning punk rock opera of the same name is a searing concept album-cum-stage musical indictment of post 9/11 American political culture as witnessed by three lifelong friends - Johnny, Will, and Tunny - grappling with meaningless war and disaffected social malaise before each embarks on a roller-coaster ride of self-discovery.

The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood called American Idiot a “thrillingly raucous and gorgeously wrought Broadway musical …. [jolting] you back to [a] dizzying roller coaster of young adulthood; that turbulent time when ecstasy and misery almost seem interchangeable states, flip sides of the coin of exaltation.”


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Performances will be at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, October 15-25. For tickets and additional information visit the School of Music, Theater, and Dance website.

Preview: Bonnie & Clyde, Encore Musical Theatre Company

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Mahalia Greenway and Adam Woolsey are Bonnie & Clyde at the Encore Musical Theatre Company / Michele Anliker Photography

Bonnie & Clyde opened the Dexter-based Encore Musical Theatre Company’s eighth season on Friday, October 2, and will continue through October 25.

The musical follows star-crossed lovers, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, as they fall in love, rob banks, and kill a few people on their way to notoriety in Depression-era Texas. Frank Wildhorn’s compelling score - a mix of rollicking gospel, blues, and ballads - accompanies the outlaws’ reckless thrill-ride.

The musical Bonnie & Clyde has a special connection to Encore’s co-founder, Dan Cooney, one of the original cast members of the Broadway production. Director Ron Baumanis, and music director Tyler Driskill, reprise their work following Ann Arbor Civic Theater’s excellent Bonnie & Clyde production last year. This time around they’re accompanied by Wilde Award Winner Mahalia Greenway (Bonnie) and American Idol contestant Adam Woolsey (Clyde), with Peter Crist (Buck Barrow) and Elizabeth Jaffe (Blanche Barrow).


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Bonnie & Clyde runs through Sunday, October 25. For tickets, call The Encore Theatre Box Office at 734.268.6200 or visit the website.

Preview: Casting Session, Purple Rose Theatre

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David Daoust and Tom Whalen star in Casting Session at the Purple Rose Theatre Company / Sean Carter Photography

It is hard to believe, but true. Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea is 25 years old.

The Theatre began in 1991 and its inaugural season included a play called Shoe Man by a new playwright: Purple Rose’s famous founder Jeff Daniels. The play won The Detroit News’ Best New Play Award; Purple Rose went on to become a leader in American regional theater and Jeff Daniels continued to write many more plays that premiered at the Chelsea theatre.

Local audiences should be excited! To celebrate its silver anniversary, Purple Rose kicks off its season with a brand new Jeff Daniels world-premiere comedy. Casting Session takes place in the world of professional theatre, as middle-aged rival actors Frank (Tom Whalen) and Ron (David Daoust) hilariously compete for the same New York City roles.

The play, directed by Guy Sanville, explores the humorous lengths actors will go to to get a part. Erika Matchie Thiede, a past Purple Rose apprentice who is making her professional debut in this production, rounds out the talented cast.


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Casting Session performances run Wednesday - ­Sunday, through December 19. For information, visit www.purplerosetheatre.org or call 734-433-7673. Purple Rose Theatre Company is located at 137 Park Street in Chelsea.

Preview: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Performance Network

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John Seibert and Sandra Birch star in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Performance Network

George and Martha, the battle-weary duo made famous by Richard Burton and Liz Taylor in Mike Nichol’s classic Oscar-winning film, pay a month-long visit to Ann Arbor as Performance Network Theatre opens its season with Edward Albee’s Tony-winning play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This fascinatingly intelligent play, which also won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, will be directed by Suzi Regan.

Reviewing the 1962 premiere, the New York Times stated "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is possessed by raging demons. It is punctuated by comedy, and its laughter is shot through with savage irony.” Performance Network Executive Director John Manfredi states, “It’s a perfect start to our season. The dialogue, the games, the wit­ it’s writing at its best.”

Network veterans John Seibert and Sandra Birch play the disenchanted college professor and his unhappy wife who plan an intimate evening of cocktails, fun, and games with a naïve new couple on campus (Nick Yocum and Victoria Walters Gilbert). What begins with witty wordplay ends with a climax that still shocks modern audiences.


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Performances of ​Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ​run Thursday - ­Sunday, October 1­ - November 1, with previews October 1­-8 and Opening Night on Friday, October 9. For information, visit www.pntheatre.org ​ or call 734-­663-­0681. Performance Network Theatre is located at 120 E Huron St in Ann Arbor.