Preview: The Saline Area Players present 'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever'

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Kickshaw Staged Readings

The horrible Herdmans. Photo by Aaron C Wade

“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker's old broken-down toolhouse.” —opening paragraph of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the classic 1972 holiday tale by Barbara Robinson.

It is cold here in Ann Arbor the week after Thanksgiving at the end of a highly political and contentious November. Black Friday sales have been stressful and extremely hard on the wallet. It’s time to enjoy some light entertainment.

It’s time for an evening with the horrible Herdmans.

Preview: Kickshaw Theatre To Stage Readings of "Milvotchkee, Visconsin" and "Hir"

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Kickshaw Staged Readings

Kickshaw kicks out a couple staged readings in early November.

One of the more intriguing scripts I’ve read recently is Hir, by Obie-winning playwright and performance artist Taylor Mac, which opened last fall at New York’s Playwrights Horizons. A black comedy about a truly, truly dysfunctional family, the play caught my attention with its high profile review in the New York Times, which called it “remarkable, audacious, uproarious … a daring combination of realism and madcap absurdity.”

Time Out called Hir a “dizzying theatrical Tilt-a-Whirl, in which sections of the play spin wildly on a steadily revolving base” and TheaterMania praised it as a “remarkable examination of gender and identity in contemporary America.”

Local audiences can experience this madcap new play when [http://www.kickshawtheatre.org/|Kickshaw Theatre], Ann Arbor’s pop-up professional theatre company, brings Hir to Ann Arbor as a staged reading on Friday, November 11, at 7pm at Espresso Royale, 214 South Main Street. The previous week, on Friday, November 4 (same time and location), the company offers a reading of another recent play: Milvotchkee, Visconsin by Laura Jacqmin - a “comedy about a tragedy.”.

“These are not predictable plays, to be sure,” explains Kickshaw Theatre’s artistic director Lynn Lammers. “The staged readings will give audiences and artists a chance to get a taste of Kickshaw’s aesthetic. These two plays are wildly imaginative in their structure and style, which translates to stories that unfold in surprising ways.”

Milvotchkee, Visconsin follows the fascinating journey of a woman experiencing various stages of dementia. Directed by Sara Lipinski Chambers, the professional cast features Ruth Crawford, Hugh Maguire, John Seibert, Casaundra Freeman, Brenda Lane, and Aral Gribble.

In Hir, war veteran Isaac returns home to the suburbs to help take care of his ailing father, only to discover a household in revolt. Michael Lopetrone, Henry Schreibman, Emily Sutton-Smith, and Hugh Maguire are featured in this reading, directed by Lynn Lammers.

Kickshaw is Ann Arbor’s new non-profit professional theatre and operates under an agreement with the Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers. Kickshaw prides itself on exciting the curiosity of audiences and artists with plays that represent humanity in all its complexity and multitudes.


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


The staged reading of Milvotchkee, Visconsin will take place November 4, at 7 pm, Espresso Royale, 214, South Main Street; the staged reading of Hir will take place Friday, November 11, same time/location. There is no admission for either reading. For more information, visit [http://kickshawtheatre.org].

Preview: Neighborhood Theatre Group's "Black Cat Cabaret"

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Black Cat Cabaret

Music, theater and Halloween cross paths in NTG's Black Cat Cabaret.

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year.

This week I can choose from a wide variety of local events to get in the Halloween mood, including concerts, costume contests, hayrides and more. I may even enter a pumpkin carving contest.

[https://www.facebook.com/neighborhoodtheatregroup/|Neighborhood Theatre Group], Ypsilanti’s new theater company, has a brand new Halloween offering – a delightfully entertaining mix of Halloween music and theater. Featuring a full bar, costume contest, and the NTG “Haunted” House Band, Black Cat Cabaret is directed by Kristin Anne Danko and features local performers Colleen Cartwright, Alice Duhon, Eric Hohnke, Greg Pizzino, Angela VanKempen, and Craig VanKempen.

Neighborhood Theatre Group is dedicated to cultivating a welcoming and collaborative environment for local theatre artists while providing audiences with a very unique and intimate theatre experience. Featuring original works, sketch shows, cabarets, and self-produced videos – NTG believes in theatre’s ability to bring individuals together. They guarantee that this “spooktacular evening” of music and theatre will get you in the Halloween spirit.

Black Cat Cabaret runs Friday and Saturday, October 28 & 29 at Bona Sera Underground in downtown Ypsilanti. Performances are at 8:30 pm with doors opening at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 General Admission, $5 Students (with a Valid ID) and can be pre-purchased at [http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2605416].


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


Black Cat Cabaret runs Friday and Saturday, October 28 & 29 at Bona Sera Underground in downtown Ypsilanti. Performances are at 8:30 pm with doors opening at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 General Admission, $5 Students (with a Valid ID) and can be pre-purchased at [http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2605416] .

Preview: Neighborhood Theatre Group's "The Former Things" and "Carl, Baby" at the Dreamland Theater

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Former Things

A scene from The Former Things / Photo by Lin Zhu // Playwright A. M. Dean.

I always enjoy seeing new works by promising playwrights. It’s really exciting to attend a “world premiere” of a brand new work. As an audience member, I feel that I’ve been invited to share in something very exciting and special.

[https://www.facebook.com/neighborhoodtheatregroup/|Neighborhood Theatre Group], Ypsilanti’s new theater company, unveils two original one-act plays this weekend. Both of these new works center on relationships and both are by local playwright, Ypsilanti resident and Neighborhood Theatre co-founder A.M. Dean.

The Former Things, directed by Marisa Dluge, tells the story of a couple who are reunited after many years. Uniquely set during the rapture, this one-act features Eric Hohnke, Mimi Keebler, and Tom Hett.

A teenage boy meets a local girl as he vacations up north for the summer in Carl, Baby. An obstacle to their happiness may be his unstoppable and forceful grandmother. Directed by Kristin Anne Danko, this one-act features Neel Vaidya, Alice Duhon, and Colleen Cartwright.

So, why not experience something new this weekend? Neighborhood Theatre Group intends to cultivate a welcoming, collaborative environment for local theatre artists and also provide the audience with a very unique and intimate theatre experience.


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


Performances of The Former Things and Carl, Baby run from Thursday, September 15 through Saturday, September 17 at Dreamland Theater, 26 N. Washington St. in Downtown Ypsilanti. All shows are at 8 pm. For tickets, visit [http://ntgoneacts.brownpapertickets.com]. For more information, email neighborhoodtheatregroup@gmail.com.

Preview: The Importance of Being Earnest, Brass Tacks Ensemble

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Actors

Actors acting earnestly "Earnest".

You love the intimacy of [http://www.kerrytownconcerthouse.com/|Kerrytown Concert House] as a music venue. You enjoy KCH jazz, classical, cabaret, and other concerts. But did you know that this historic Ann Arbor performance space offers live theater?

The [http://btensemble.org/|Brass Tacks Ensemble] has faithfully used the Concert House as a summer venue for their outstanding mix of classical plays and original theatre since 2004 (with their staging of Shakespeare Variations, an original production of sketches based on Shakespearian tragedies). Formed when local actor and writer James Ingagiola gathered with other theatre lovers to produce King Lear at the Performance Network in 1999, Brass Tacks has consistently offered intimate and involving theatrical experiences to the Ann Arbor community.

The simplicity of the Concert House works well for the Ensemble: a guiding Brass Tacks principle is to concentrate on a play’s core elements –plot, theme, characterization - stripping away any excess and focusing on the theatrical essentials. This simple and direct approach also frees the audience’s imagination.

The Ensemble returns to Kerrytown this week, staging one of the wittiest, funniest plays in the English language: Oscar Wilde’s classic [b:1356173|The Importance of Being Earnest]. This tale of gentleman John Worthing, his love for the lady Gwendolen Fairfax, and her steadfast determination to only marry a man named Ernest combines sparkling wit, social satire, and farcical situations in one glorious package.

Directed by Ingagiola (the Ensemble’s Artistic Director), this production features local actors Amanda Barnett, Ethan Gibney, Elizaveta McFall, Amanda Photenhauer, Jan Romans, Annaliese Romans, Elizabeth Wagner, and Catherine Zudak.

If you are wondering about this largely female cast for a show that historically features five men, Ingagiola will tell you that "The sex of the characters has not changed. A lot of talented actresses are frequently left out of productions because of a dearth of female roles. They haven't been left out now."

Enjoy an evening of delightfully intimate theatre with one of the area’s most established and innovative theatrical troupes in one of Ann Arbor’s most beloved performance venues.


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


The Importance of Being Earnest runs Thursday - Saturday, August 4 -6, at Kerrytown Concert House, 415 North Fourth Avenue in Ann Arbor. Shows are at 8pm with an additional 2:00 pm matinee on Saturday August 6. For reservations and ticket information, call the Kerrytown Concert House at 734-769-2999 or visit [http://kerrytownconcerthouse.com].

Preview: New Sketch Comedy Series 'Ypsi Daze' Takes Center Stage

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Preview: Ypsi Daze, Neighborhood Theatre Group.

Ypsi's new sketch comedy crew, pictured above, will perform weekly on Fri-daze.

I absolutely love sketch comedy.

This guilty passion was inherited by my son, Matt, who is still one of [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112056/|MADtv]’s biggest fans. In fact, he spent much of his high school career as one of the chief contributors to the Planet MADtv discussion forum.

So, you can imagine how excited we both were this month to learn that, not only will MADtv [http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/13/arts/television/madtv-to-return-with-… to network television], but that Ypsilanti’s Neighborhood Theatre Group is planning a local weekly sketch comedy series to be performed at Dreamland Theater every Friday this May!

Entitled Ypsi Daze, the raw and fast paced show, written and performed by the cast, offers new, original sketches each week. A weekly rolling-sketch filled with characters highlighting the absurdity of theater itself is also part of the comedy mix.

Directed by founder Kristin Anne Danko, the Neighborhood Theatre Group cast features Aaron Dean, Eric Hohnke, Mary Hourani, Chris Jakob, Angela Tomaszycki, Erin Watts, and Christopher Zavac.

I cannot think of a better way to end the work week than with a relaxing evening of comedy! Neighborhood Theatre Group’s decision to offer tickets at affordable prices ($10 general admission, $5 students) is also a welcome feature.


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


Ypsi Daze will run Fridays in May at Dreamland Theater (26 N. Washington St.) in Downtown Ypsilanti. All shows are at 8 pm. Tickets are available for purchase [http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2545418|online]. For info on group rates, email NeighborhoodTheatreGroup@gmail.com

Preview: The University Opera Theatre presents Così Fan Tutte

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The cast of University Opera Theatre's Così Fan Tutte.

If you're a fan, get your tutte out to see Così Fan Tutte.

A wager that women can’t be faithful and a bold experiment (with elaborate disguises to prove that point) form the plot foundations of [a:Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus|Mozart’s] famous comic opera [http://www.music.umich.edu/performances_events/productions/2015-2016/co…|Così Fan Tutte], to be performed by University Opera Theatre accompanied by the University Philharmonia Orchestra.

Deemed scandalous on its premiere, the opera had a troubled production history. Commissioned for the 1789-90 season, [t:Così Fan Tutte] received only five performances before the 1790 death of Emperor Joseph II. The new emperor did not hold the same cultural views as his predecessor and the new comic opera received only five more performances. It is rumored that Mozart, who died the following year, never even received full payment for his authorship.

Today’s audiences find this opera comical, yet touching. The complex plot (featuring mixed identities, declarations of love, and fiancée-swapping as two young men don disguises to woo their own girlfriends) is no longer scandalous but extremely amusing. The magnificent score includes such beautiful arias as “Come scoglio,” “Smanie implacabili,” and “Per pieta.”

Directed by Kay Walker Castaldo and conducted by Kathleen Kelly, the U-M production will be sung in Italian with projected English translations.


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


Performances run from Thursday, March 24 to Sunday, March 27 at Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N University Ave, Ann Arbor. For tickets, visit [http://tickets.music.umich.edu] or call the Michigan League at (734) 764-2538.

Preview: Rise Up Cabaret, Neighborhood Theatre Group

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Neighborhood Theatre Group rises to the occasion with their premiere show.

Neighborhood Theatre Group rises to the occasion with their premiere show.

There's a brand-new theatre group in the area. Founded by Kristin Anne Danko and Aaron Dean, who recently relocated to the area from Chicago’s experimental theatre scene, [https://www.facebook.com/neighborhoodtheatregroup|Neighborhood Theatre Group] is based on the belief that theatre can bring individuals together.

The company, based in Ypsilanti, intends to cultivate a welcoming and collaborative environment for local theatre artists and has assembled a talented group of singers and performers for their March production, Rise Up Cabaret. Featuring songs of many different genres and styles all centered on the theme of rising up, this musical evening shines a bright, positive light on current, difficult, and important social issues.

Directed by Kristin Anne Danko, Rise Up Cabaret features Nick Brown, David Galido, Eric Hohnke, Emily Rogers, Mary Rumman, Angela Tomaszycki, Craig VanKempen, and Kelly Rose Voigt, with Tom Hett on piano.

Neighborhood Theatre Group has also partnered with [http://ozonehouse.org/|Ypsilanti’s Ozone House] for this production, and representatives from the organization will attend each performance with information on Ozone House and its mission.

So, why not try something new? Neighborhood Theatre Group promises a memorable musical evening filled with uplifting songs. Local audiences can also look forward to future Neighborhood Theatre Group productions including original works, sketch shows, cabarets, and self-produced videos.


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


Rise Up Cabaret runs from Thursday March 24th through Saturday March 26th at Dreamland Theater, 26 N. Washington St. in Downtown Ypsilanti. All shows are at 8 pm. To reserve seats, or for more information, email neighborhoodtheatregroup@gmail.com.

Preview: Warren's Peace, Saline Area Players

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Andrew Godell's national guardsman runs into trouble in a small Michigan town in Warren's Peace.

Andrew Godell's national guardsman runs into trouble in a small Michigan town in Warren's Peace.

Enjoy an evening of theater set in Michigan, written by Michigan playwrights--that also promises audience samples of Michigan-made treats from local providers like Ed's Bread, Grand Traverse Pie, and Zingerman's--when the [http://salineareaplayers.org/|Saline Area Players] present Marc and Kathy Holland’s new comedy Warren’s Peace.

The production may seem to be an appreciation of all things Michigan, but the underlying purpose is to delight and amuse. As playwright and director Marc Holland stated in a recent interview “I want you to have a good time when you attend my show, just as I want to laugh when I lay down my money at the box office.”

Warren’s Peace centers on a national guardsman who is sent to a small Michigan town to kick off World Peace Day, but runs into conflict when he meets the distrustful, eccentric townspeople. Andrew Godell plays the guardsman, and the cast includes Brent Lofgren, Trevor Maher, Patti Ringe, Marlena Shuler, and (of special interest to library fans) Laurie Atwood as the Librarian.


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


Performances of ​ Warren’s Peace ​run Thursday­-Saturday, March 17-19, and will take place at Fifth Corner, 211 Willis Rd in Saline. For information, visit [http://salineareaplayers.org].

Preview: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

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Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern watch Hamlet talking nonsense not to herself in A2CT's new production.

Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern watch Hamlet talking nonsense not to herself in A2CT's new production.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, who began their season with an excellent staging of Julius Caesar, again salutes the famous playwright with a production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the masterpiece of tragi-comic absurdity highlighting the misadventures of several characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Using two of the tragedy’s minor characters, the courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as its centerpiece, the play premiered in London in 1967 before becoming a critical hit on Broadway, winning the Tony Award and Drama Critics Circle awards for Best Play. New York Times critic Clive Barnes wrote that the play was “very funny, very brilliant, very chilling” and stated that, “in one bound Mr. Stoppard is asking to be considered as among the finest English-speaking writers of our stage, for this is a work of fascinating distinction.”

Civic Theatre first tackled Rosencrantz and Guildenstern twenty years ago in its 1996-97 season. David Widmayer directs the current production, and, in addition to his fondness for the play and love of absurdist theater, is particularly excited about the original music created for the production and how it fits each character.

Local audiences will recognize veteran actors Isaac Ellis and James Ingagiola who portray Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Other famous characters include Hamlet (Suzy Culbertson), Horatio (Chris Grimm), Claudius (Greg Kovas), Ophelia (Amanda Photenhauer), Gertrude (Christina Sauer), and Polonius (Elizabeth Wagner). Music direction is by Michael Edwards and the fight sequences are choreographed by Melissa Freilich.


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


Performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead run Thursday – Sunday, March 10-13 at the University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin Ave, 48109. Tickets are available online at [http://www.a2ct.org|www.a2ct.org], by calling the office at 734-971-2228, at the A2CT office at 322 W. Ann St., or at the door. Additional information is available by visiting [http://www.a2ct.org|www.a2ct.org].