At Williamston Theatre we closed Mrs. Harrison, the riveting piece by R. Eric Thomas, and now we are in rehearsals for Alabaster by Audrey Cefaly! I love this play! I’ve been waiting since before the pandemic to produce it, it’s part of the National New Play Network’s Rolling World Premiere, but COVID delayed our show and I’m thrilled that we finally get to do it.
We still have 2 shows to go in Season 16 at Williamston Theatre, but I’m thrilled to share what is coming up next year! It’s a season of Perseverance, Love, Second Chances and having the Courage to embrace what comes next!
The 2023-2024 Season at Williamston Theatre
On The Market by Jason Odell Williams
Directed by Tony Caselli
September 14 – October 22, 2023
Charlotte is a 50-something widow who still struggles with losing the Love of her Life. Her supportive co-workers push her to enter the modern dating scene with disastrous, and comedic, results. After she discovers a mysterious note from her dead husband, she begins to realize that she still has dreams to pursue… maybe even love. A charming, romantic comedy about love, loss, and finding your Forever Home.
Murder for Two: Holiday Edition
Book and Music by Joe Kinosian, Book and Lyrics by Kellen Blair
Directed by Rob Roznowski
November 16 – December 23, 2023
Back by popular demand! Murder for Two is Williamston Theatre’s most successful show ever, featuring dynamic actor/singer/virtuoso piano players Mark Schenfisch and Andrea Wollenberg. This time, it’s the Holiday Edition! This comic, musical murder mystery who-dun-it is set at a Christmas Eve party where Great American Novelist Arthur Whitney is discovered murdered. Every wacky guest is a suspect, and detective-wannabe Marcus Moscowicz is determined to examine all the clues and find the killer. Murder for Two is the perfect blend of music, mayhem and murder – for the holidays!
Maytag Virgin by Audrey Cefaly
Directed by Brian Marable
February 1 – March 10, 2024
A classic second-chance love story featuring WT co-founders and real-life husband and wife John Lepard and Emily Sutton-Smith. When the unflappable Jack Key moves in next door to the endearingly neurotic Lizzy Nash, sparks fly. Over time, neighborly nagging softens, and a deeper connection emerges between the two high school teachers. As the months march on, deep secrets shake loose, and the pair finds themselves in untested waters. A timely romantic comedy about moving forward with courage and a ready heart.
Bright Half Life by Tanya Barfield
Directed by Megan Buckley-Ball
April 11 – May 19, 2024
Bright Half Life shares the four-and-a-half-decade story of Vicky and Erica, who meet, fall in love, and go through all the trials and tribulations of marriage and building a family. It’s a conventional love story told in an unconventional way – it unfolds through yesterday, today, and tomorrow… just not in that order. Pulitzer Prize finalist Tanya Barfield has created a theatrical, time-bending play about love, heartbreak, and the infinite moments that make a relationship. Contains mature content and language.
Predictor by Jennifer Blackmer
Directed by Billicia Hines
June 27 – August 4, 2024
Predictor follows the real-life story of Margaret Crane who, in 1967, defied all odds and expectations to become the inventor of the first home pregnancy test. This energetic, theatrical story sets the historical record straight as we journey with this innovative inventor through the challenges she overcame. An inspirational comedy about the tenacity it takes to change the world. Contains mild mature language and content.
SEASON 16 begins! We start rehearsal for The Magnolia Ballet by Terry Guest at Williamston Theatre tonight. I love this play, and can’t wait to see what the director Gary Anderson, and the production team and cast do with it. This beautiful, intense and thought-provoking piece follows a young Queer Black man coming of age in the American South. In a wonderfully theatrical storytelling style we explore sexuality, racism, toxic masculinity, homophobia, love, and the incredibly complicated relationship between fathers and sons and the legacy passed through them from generation to generation.
This week we also have our first production meeting for our holiday show, A Very Williamston Christmas. I’m really looking forward to directing this fun, sweet, ridiculously silly Christmas piece. Everyone loves (or loves to HATE) those Hallmark Christmas movies, right? Well we’ve got our own over-the-top parody of those stories coming to Williamston this November! If you’ve been jonesing for schmaltzy, smoldering “Will they Won’t they” looks over giant mugs of hot cocoa between flirty new friends as one of their Small Town businesses is under threat by an evil developer from the Big City RIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS EVE….. then we’ve got the show for you!
As I type this in my office, it’s quieted down in the building. And by “quieted down” I mean that now I can hear the normal buzz of people getting ready for first rehearsal. An hour ago I couldn’t hear that, because the sound of banging and sawing and drilling and construction workers yelling back and forth filled the air, and I loved it! We are just DAYS away from the renovations to our space being done and I am SO EXCITED. For 15 years we’ve hoped to get rid of the structural support poles in our theatre space, and this week it becomes a reality. Can’t wait to share the newly renovated space with our artists and patrons.
OH! And one other thing that I’ll probably write more about soon: I realized that I’ve hit a milestone. This Fall marks my 30th anniversary of making a living as a professional in the American Theatre Industry. I’m pretty proud of that. I remember many years ago, when discussing what I wanted to study at college with my parents, I said “theatre” and my father took a breath and said “Do you think you can make a living at it?” I responded with “I really think I can.” He nodded, and said, “Okay then, let’s figure it out. Your mom and I will help however we can.” And that was that. Now, all these years later, I can look at the last 30 years and say “Okay. Done. 30 years. I did it. I made a living at that.” And it feels good, like I lived up to my promise. And to their faith.
Well… damn. Nichelle Nichols, the legendary Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek has passed away at the age of 89.
As a big Star Trek fan, this makes me sad. She was a woman who was a terrific actress and singer, of course, but who also changed a lot of lives as a representative of what the future should bring – acceptance, diversity, inclusion: In the 1960’s she showed a strong Black woman onscreen in a position of authority. To quote the article below: She portrayed “A capable officer who could man other stations on the bridge when the need arose, she was one of the first African American women to be featured in a non-menial role on television.” The article has many more details, and I encourage you to read a little about this wonderful woman.
There’s a ton more to say but, honestly, whenever one of the Original Seven from the Star Trek Universe passes, I get emotional. I love the show, and the subsequent franchise, for tons of reasons – the sci-fi, the characters and stories, the optimistic (usually) look at what the future could hold, and because I have such memories of sitting on the floor of our living room, watching the reruns with my Dad.
Instead of rambling on and being sad at her passing, though, I want to share something I wrote on Facebook about 7 years ago – in 2015 – when I had the most wonderful chance encounter, a moment that any great fan of something can understand and appreciate. A moment that left me a little stunned, with my son asking “You okay?” and me not even being able to answer him:
July 13, 2015: “Sometimes you’re at the airport, and suddenly Nichelle Nichols is there. 2 feet from you. And you lock eyes with her and your whole mind freezes up. And she smiles warmly at you and recognizes the look of stunned adoration, and says “Hello” and and gives you a smiling, loving wink and nod that says “yes, it’s me, you’ll be okay, just keep breathing” and she continues on her way. And after she’s gone, you feel lighter, and taller, and like you’ve been touched by a power of goodness and light from a time long ago, spoken of now only in song and legend.”
Rest in peace, Ms. Nichols. Thanks for the wonderfulness that you brought to the world. And thanks for that 10 seconds of kindness you showed to a nerd that you saw get overwhelmed by your very presence.
Our Season 16 brochures are out for Williamston Theatre! Look how great this cover is! Sandra Debnar created some awesome show logos for us this year.
And in other Williamston Theatre news, we got a great review for The Hat Box from the Lansing City Pulse. Click this link right here to read the rave! Or just look at the picture below to see the beautiful faces of the company! 🙂 The show is selling well, which is wonderful, and audiences are having a blast, which is fabulous. A terrific show and group of people to end our 15th season with.
One more pic? Why not: here’s a shot of our dog FlipFlop on our walk. He lost one of his eyes recently (I can’t remember if I’ve talked about that publicly!) He’s getting older and the vets tried to help him save it but with glaucoma and cataracts it was just getting painful and risking other damage and so it had to be taken out. He’s recovered nicely over the last few weeks, and is back to his energetic ways – he’s still like a puppy even though he’s almost 12 years old.
Lots of great family time this week too, which I’m grateful for. Spent a nice evening this week on the front porch with my wife and kids. Everyone back from work, or class, or whatever we were all doing in our busy week. After a hot week the weather had turned cool for an evening sit on the porch, eating some food and drinking some wine and just chatting about life and schedules and stuff. It’s so easy to get so busy, caught up in the things that we allow us to drive us crazy – it’s nice to sit with my loved ones for a while and just enjoy being there.
So, have a great rest of the week, and weekend everyone. Try and give yourself some time on the porch, and enjoy being there!
So excited to share this fantastic upcoming slate of shows. We’ve got comedy, drama, World Premieres, romantic holiday craziness and magic theatrical realism that’ll blow your mind. You’ll find Christmas cookies, standup comedians and talking goats! Riveting, heartbreaking tales about coming of age, fathers and sons, sisters and friends, and second chances. We’ll ask questions about honesty, ownership, tolerance and more… but you’ll have to provide the answers. If we do our job right, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get angry, you’ll fall in love, and you’ll ask more questions. A season about the the journeys we take, paths we abandon, the circumstances, choices, legacies, triumphs and traumas that shape our lives.
The Magnolia Ballet by Terry Guest. Directed by Gary Anderson. Ezekiel is a Black teenager with a secret. Every day he finds himself haunted by ghosts, ghosts that have plagued men in Georgia for generations, ghosts of racism, homophobia, and toxic masculinity. Ghosts that show up in the other men in his life, including his emotionally distant father. But when Ezekiel discovers a trove of forbidden love letters among his late grandfather’s belongings, he has a realization: perhaps the only way to exorcise these multi-generational ghosts is to burn everything to the ground. The Magnolia Ballet Part 1 is a Southern Gothic fable that melds high drama, dance, poetry, and spectacle to explore masculinity, racism, and the love between a queer kid and his father.
A Very Williamston Christmasby Robert Hawlmark. Directed by Tony Caselli. An all-new holiday tradition! A professional woman running in the fast lane of the big city corporate world journeys back to her smalltown on a mission for her boss. When she runs into a handsome acquaintance from high school, she’s forced to evaluate her life and priorities. Hot cocoa, light parades, and romance collide. Hilarity ensues. This holiday movie parody will be one everyone from Michigan will recognize and enjoy.
Wild Horsesby Allison Gregory. Directed by Mary Job. That summer you scared yourself. That summer you woke up to desire. That summer you tasted freedom. You remember, and so does the storyteller of Wild Horses. She hilariously recalls stealing liquor with her best friends, escaping her bedroom in the middle of the night, feeling the boy she loves reach across her body, borrowing cars without permission, and making the pact with her best friends to break into a horse ranch and set the beautiful animals free. She remembers being thirteen, and she’s going to take the audience on the ride of her life. Allison Gregory’s savagely funny Wild Horses takes on the pathos and hubris of teenage years amidst the struggle for identity and independence.
Mrs. Harrisonby Eric R. Thomas. Directed by Jasmine Rivera. Mrs. Harrison is about two women and one story. At their 10-year college reunion, Aisha and Holly meet by chance. Is this the first time or has it just been a long time? They can’t agree. Aisha is a Black, successful playwright; she’s on the cover of the alumni magazine. Holly is a white, struggling stand-up comedian; she’s here for the free drinks. Aisha’s most successful play bears a striking resemblance to a tragic event in Holly’s life. Is it a coincidence or is it theft? As a rainstorm interrupts the outdoor reunion, they find themselves trapped inside, together. They both have a story that they’ve been telling themselves about what happened all those years ago and they’re both willing to fight for the truth in the present.
Alabaster by Audrey Cefaly. Directed by Tony Caselli. Alice, a noted photographer, sets out to explore the topography of scars, and the women who bear them. Her journey takes her to the mysterious realm of an undiscovered folk artist, June, who is hiding herself away on a small farm in North Alabama. What begins as an artistic collaboration between the two women becomes an intimate exploration of love, grief, and longing. This bittersweet portrait explores the meaning and purpose of art and the struggle of the lost and tortured souls that seek to create it. Hilarious, heart-wrenching and full of theatrical magic, this play will make you laugh, rip your heart out, and remind you to hold the people in your life close.
Be Here Nowby Deborah Zoe Laufer. Directed by Rob Roznowski. Bari’s always been a bit of an angry, depressed misanthrope. And losing her job teaching nihilism in New York to work at the local fulfillment center in her rural hometown has sent her into despair. She begins to find connections with the quirky people she meets at the center and a local artist with his own list of insecurities. When recurring headaches manifest bizarre, ecstatic, almost religious experiences, they change her entire view of life. She discovers they are also killing her. She must decide between a short life of indescribable joy, or a long life of mediocrity. A comedic look at what we’re willing to do for love and happiness, and to create meaning in our lives.
You can find dates and more details about our upcoming season at the theatre’s website: Williamston Theatre.
Lots of terrific things are happening at Williamston Theatre, I’m so excited!
First off, audiences are loving The Cake, and the show is getting wonderful reviews (even if some of them are doing unfortunate things like not mentioning the director or all the cast – disappointing). The reception of the show has been wonderful, director Jasmine Rivera and her cast and production team have crushed it, and it’s so exciting to have folks back at the theatre.
Speaking of The Cake, today we are sold out, and we have our Conversation Sunday, which should be a very cool presentation. Frank Cava, the President of the Lansing PFLAG chapter, will speak after the show and lead a discussion on the importance of Family Acceptance. Really looking forward to it.
And another cool event we have is our Dark Nights In Billtown play reading series: Tomorrow we are doing a Zoom reading of a funny thoughtful piece that will NOT turn out how you think it’s going to! Michael Gene Sullivan is the writer who adaptedGeorge Orwell’s 1984 into that fabulous 6-person adaptation that we did a few years ago – and his play Recipe is what we’re reading on Monday evening, and it’s hilarious and NOTHING like 1984… except when it sort of is! Join us online at 7pm Monday April 11th!
ALSO! Excited for these – on the 18th we are holding our Season 16 General Auditions for next season. We’re doing a full day of in-person auditions this year, and accepting video auditions. Info can be found on our website here!
AND that means that soon we’ll be announcing the whole season, and sharing our show titles and logos and plans for Season 16.
SO – lots to be excited about! If you haven’t seen The Cake, grab your tickets and join us, there are only 2 weeks left! And after that only 2 productions left in Season 15!
I know, most folks are like “Ugh, April Fool’s Day, noooooo……” but that’s not the great part of today. (I mean, if you love practical jokes and pranks, go for it) There are TWO reasons it’s a great day:
Reason Number 1 is that it’s the Anniversary of me getting OUT of the hospital after my long meningitis/ARDS/coma event in 2014. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT) It’s amazing to me that it’s been 8 years already – it feels like 100 years ago, and yet it also feels like it was yesterday. I sometimes find myself triggered into a memory of one of my long coma dreams by a sound, or an image, or a discussion. And I also still sometimes find myself suddenly anxious and sweaty when I’m at one of my doctor appointments or a checkup on my transplanted kidney, and it’ll take me a minute to realize that one of the machines in the room is making a sound similar to or exactly like the ones that were in my hospital room that made so much noise all the time, and it’s triggering a reaction. I’m SO lucky to be here – and so grateful for everyone at the Chelsea Hospital and St. Joe’s of Ann Arbor for everything they did to keep me alive and help me in my recovery, and grateful to everyone who was supportive of me and my family during that time and after. Life changing doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Reason Number 2 that today is a great day is that it’s OPENING NIGHT for The Cake at Williamston Theatre! This piece is beautiful and funny and thoughtful and I encourage everyone to come out and see the work by Director Jasmine Rivera and her wonderful team. Audience response to the previews was fabulous, and it’s an important piece in today’s world. Plus you’ll never look at cake, butter creme or mashed potatoes the same way! This piece entertains, provokes discussion and promotes empathy while making you laugh AND cry. I love it!
SO – I know we’re in a pandemic, and there’s a terrible war happening, and gas is $4.25 a gallon, and movie stars are slapping each other like fools, and every disagreement now means hatred and division and cancellation instead of discussion…. but there are still reasons to have hope, and to celebrate life.
I hope today you find some things in YOUR life to celebrate and savor.
Last wrote in January. I’ve wanted to write more but life has just been busy and I have not made the time. We’ve just closed the show 9 Parts of Desire by Heather Raffo at Williamston Theatre, and it was amazing. Just one of the most beautiful pieces of theatre we’ve produced in 15 seasons. Heather’s script (which she did updates to for our production) the performance by Sarab Kamoo, the direction by Ed Nahhat and Sarab Kamoo, the production team absolutely CRUSHED IT in every department. We had a working river onstage. A river the actor got into. Projections, lights, sound costumes, props and set dressing, paintwork, scenic design – I was really proud of the work by everyone involved. The show is about 9 Iraqi women being affected by the wars and atrocities in that country over a span of around 30 years, and it was beautiful and painful and eye-opening and impactful and audiences loved it. Here are a couple reviews if you want to read them: Lansing City Pulse and OnStage Blog
I was very happy that we got our second full production completed without any Covid interruptions! We start rehearsals for our third show tonight as we continue to work to return to normal operations (“Normal.” Hah.) after our long Covid intermission.
As we work, we’re all grateful to be here. Appreciative of what we have, and also aware of how many people on the other side of the world are suffering and struggling and fighting against autocracy, tyranny, injustice. I continue to remind myself that we are trying to make our part of the world better, telling stories that promote conversation and empathy. Some days it’s hard, and between the war and Covid and the political struggles here in the USA it’s easy to wonder if we’re doing anything useful. But then we do a show like 9 Parts of Desire that moves so many people in so many ways, and it brings it all back into focus. We may not change the world, but we can change a few people’s worlds each night… and that’s a start.
So, tonight we start rehearsals for our next show, The Cake, a lovely thoughtful, funny, sweet piece about some important topics and some life things we all can connect with. I can’t wait to share it with our audiences.
Today marks the 7th anniversary of my dad’s death. I still miss him every day. I talk to him all the time, sometimes in my head, sometimes out loud. Mostly if I’m trying to figure something out, or if something happens that he would’ve loved. Once in a while I’ll see someone on the street or in a store who reminds me of him and my breath catches for just a second – that usually takes the rest of the day to recover from. He was a a great guy, caring, smart, funny, imperfect like the rest of us, and I always knew I was loved. I wear the 25th Anniversary ring that he got from Ford Motor company, just to keep him close. (Well, he got a tie tack. Since my dad wore a tie about 3 times in his 68 years, he turned it into a ring when he got it!) Here’s what I wrote the day after he passed away, if you’d like to read more about Frank Caselli.
The other reason this time of year is weird is that 8 years ago today I was in the St. Joe’s Chelsea Hospital, after having collapsed at home, starting my long “meningitis adventure”. I remember very little of what happened, especially the beginning 6 weeks or so. The occasional flash of a hospital room or my wife or sister. I have clearer memories of the last few weeks, as I was waking from the coma and going in and out of consciousness. Some visitors, struggling to breathe, my parents being there non-stop. I remember a LOT of very vivid, long, coma dreams – what felt like other lifetimes and other realities. Here’s what I wrote about that experience, if you’d like to read more about that.
Also, my birthday is this coming Monday! It’s so close to these two things that have changed my life forever that it feels weird to be thankful and excited for my birthday, but I am. I know a lot of folks don’t like birthdays – “Another year older, ugh!” and all that, but I love it. Especially the last 8 years or so. “Another year older” isn’t “Ugh!” for me, it’s “I MADE IT!” – I got another year with my family, friends, enjoying the world around me. Especially with the pandemic and the world being what it is right now. This one will be 53! Who knows if I’ll make it to 68 like my dad – heck, who knows if I’ll make it to 54 – but I know I’m going to try and enjoy being here now, and celebrate the wonderfulness around me.
So, today, I encourage you all to celebrate. Celebrate your lives, celebrate the life of my dad, hug your loved ones and your friends – tell them how awesome they are, and put hang-out days on your calendar right now! This is the life we have – time is being spent right now. Enjoy it. Savor it all.