Things to be excited about

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 adapted George 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!

Have a great Sunday everyone!

A GREAT DAY! An Anniversary and an Opening

THIS IS A GREAT DAY.

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.

Catching up

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

Sarab Kamoo in Heather Raffo’s 9 Parts of Desire at Williamston Theatre

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.

This time of year….

This time of year is odd for me…

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.

2022 already?

I remember in 5th grade, my teacher was Mrs. Kendrick. Or was it Mrs. Heater? No, Mrs. Heater was 4th grade. This was definitely Mrs. Kendrick. It was nearing Christmas break, and as an exercise she asked us all to take a minute, and figure out how old we’d be when we got to the year 2000.

How vivid that moment is – I remember thinking “31?! Oh man I’m gonna be SO OLD!” Mrs. Kendrick then led us on a discussion about what things we thought might change the most, and what would be different when we got to the year 2000. (I was a big fan of the reruns of the TV show “Lost In Space” at that point, so i was pretty sure I was going to wind up on a spaceship like Will Robinson, with a robot pal and a life of cosmic adventure! Sadly, no luck so far.)

Now, here we are 22 years PAST that magical point that seemed so far away. And the world sure is different than it was in 5th grade. My knees today, walking up the stairs at work, were WISHING they were 31 again! 🙂

I definitely didn’t think we’d be in year three of a global pandemic, and only a year past an armed insurrection trying to topple our democracy from the inside. I wouldn’t have predicted a kidney transplant, or the illnesses that led to it. I couldn’t have begun to guess at how blessed I’d feel to have a family as wonderful as the one I do, or how happy being with my wife and kids would make me. And, in 5th grade, I had no idea that I’d fall in love with storytelling, and theatre, and the joy I would get from bringing stories to life for people to be entertained by, and challenged by. Funny to think that at that point in my life I was still several years from the show that shifted my life forever, a Huron Civic Theatre production of Fiddler On The Roof that my parents took me to. The minute the lights went down and the curtain went up, I was hooked.

And now here we are – in 2022. I’m lucky to run a professional regional theatre with some of my closest friends, and despite the pandemic, the political polarization, the ridiculous denials of basic science, and the many challenges the whole planet currently faces, I’m happy and optimistic about our future. Are there challenges to overcome? Sure. But when haven’t there been? Right next to them, thankfully, are people working to solve them. And I still believe there are more people operating from a place of common sense, decency and compassion than there are operating from fear and greed and malice.

So, bring on the new year! There are good things on the horizon, and I still believe anything is possible! I mean – just a couple of months ago, we got a new season of the rebooted “Lost In Space” on Netflix – so maybe those 5th grade dreams still have a shot.

Slowly Waking Up

That’s the way things feel right now – after the kidney transplant, I’ve gotten a lot more energy back, my numbers are all looking great, and so I’m starting to do more and more regular life stuff. We’re also starting the progress of waking up the Williamston Theatre, after a long 16 months of dusty, quiet emptiness. Starting in August we’re bringing back the staff, and starting the process of re-opening the building and prepping for a late Autumn return to performances. AND this month the current phase of our renovations will wrap-up, which is going to be great. I can’t wait for audiences to return to the space.

We’re also working on a couple of staged readings! Very excited for these, they’ll be outdoors on the Summer Circle stage at Michigan State University. We’re always thrilled to collaborate with the MSU Department of Theatre, and grateful for the use of their beautiful outdoor space for these readings. It feels great doing things like sending out scripts and working out rehearsals again! For more info on those readings, CLICK HERE, and then join us on August 6th and 7th! Two terrific plays: A super charming, brand new piece by the award winning playwright Jason Odell Williams called On The Market, and a fabulous bitingly funny satire by indigenous playwright and MacArthur fellow Larissa Fasthorse called The Thanksgiving Play.

I’m really hoping that the Delta variant of Covid, and now the new Lambda variant I just read about, don’t take off and sweep through the country. Our reopening plans depend on numbers getting better, not worse, and the whole theatre industry is making plans and watching with wary eyes. Take care of yourselves, folks, and get your vaccine!

In other news, has anyone been watching the Detroit Tigers since the All-Star break?! I mean, this team is probably going to finish middle of the pack at the end of the season, but that’s okay – it’s a big improvement over the last couple years, and their future is looking bright. As I write this though, they’re on a 6 game winning streak and leading 7-5 in the 8th inning, so it could be a 7 game streak soon!

I’ve spent a bunch of my recuperation weeks reading – anyone else a fan of N.K. Jemisin? Over the last few years I’ve become a huge admirer of her writing, and I’m nearly through her fabulous sci-fi/fantasy series The Inheritance Trilogy. You can check out all her writings here. I’ve also spent a bunch of time reading a lot of plays, in particular looking at a lot of plays by BIPOC writers. In fact we’re excited at Williamston Theatre about a gorgeous play we’ll be producing in collaboration with a couple other theatres around the country in an upcoming season that I can’t talk about yet, but it’s going to be a very cool project, and I’m thrilled to start this relationship with this fabulous playwright.

That’s it for the Thursday update. So grateful to be getting back to work, getting my energy back, and hoping for things to open up safely a little more. Aaaaaand the Tigers just beat the Rangers 7-5, so that’s a nice 7-game winning streak!

Take care of yourselves y’all!

Updates on a Tuesday

Lots of things happening around here at Casa Caselli.

Jeanne and I are healing up nicely from our kidney transplant. It’s officially been a month, and everything seems to be going in the right directions so far. We’re both moving around pretty well again, with just minor soreness. We can both drive again, although it’ll be another few weeks before we’re allowed to lift anything heavier than 8 lbs. I’m adjusting to the new regimen of anti-rejection meds, and glad that they let me wear this shirt:

(I may have bought several fun “kidney transplant” t-shirts this month!)

The whole family is really grateful for all the support we got during this whole event: a HUGE Thank You to everyone who reached out and sent support in any way – texts, cards, food, visits, it was all SO helpful.

Meanwhile, lots of other things are happening too – at Williamston Theatre we are FINALLY looking at a schedule that would reopen our building in 2021, and working on all of the 7,942,233,007 things that that involves. We’ve been doing some staff DEI training, which has been eye opening, educational, tough and really useful, resulting in lots of reworking of internal policies. We’re working on nailing down the reopening season (AND the next one, actually), and will be making some announcements over the upcoming months, and there are some really exciting projects and collaborations coming up that I’m excited to share with everyone. Plus we’ve got renovations happening at the theatre and new seats ready to install for our patrons to enjoy. The Covid Shutdown has been a nightmare of an intermission, but we’ve tried to combine “use the time wisely” with “spend this uncertain time with family and stay physically and mentally healthy”.

So, now we slowly start coming out of the bubble we’ve been in. Because of my anti-rejection meds making me extra susceptible to infection, I still will be wearing a mask often, but I’m still feeling better about being out among people again. I may have to see about getting to a Lansing Lugnuts game sometime next month, I’ve been looking forward to some live baseball!

One nice side effect of the surgery is that since coming out of it, because of the new dietary and medical stuff, I’ve been eating less junk and am down about 20 lbs. Feeling more fit than I have in a while, hoping to keep that trend up and stay healthier – I’m not quite back to my “pre-surgery” routine of walking 3-5 miles a day, but I’ve been able to do about 2.5 every couple of days the last week or so, and I’ll be trying to improve on that over the next couple of weeks. (I’m inspired by my amazing wife, who walked 2 miles AND ran 2 miles today!!)

So, I think that’s it from here for now. Trying to heal, rest, prep for reopening, and enjoy being with my family. Doing a lot of reading (plays, novels, anti-racism education, an N.K. Jemisin trilogy) and watching TV. And, honestly, lots of self-reflection about what “Post Covid” and “Post Transplant” life should be, and could be. We’ll see what that leads to!

I hope everyone is doing well, staying healthy (physically AND mentally) and enjoying their summer. Take care of yourselves!

Transplant updates!

Jeanne and I have returned home from the amazing UofM hospital and transplant clinic. They took great care of us, and now she has one less kidney, and I have three! (But, as the transplant joke goes, two of mine are decoys!)

We are at home, getting taken care of by wonderful family and friends, and being very grateful for the support. We’re both very sore and tired, and under strict orders to rest, do nothing but take short walks, lift nothing and heal. The next 8 weeks will be a lot of recuperating, and we both have to just make ourselves take it easy. Right now it’s hard to sleep or rest because of how painful everything is, but the pain meds help and that will ease over the next week or so as incisions heal, muscles knit back together etc…. Right now we are trying to sleep a lot!

The new kidney, for me, is a whole new lease on life. It comes with a new set of challenges, a lifetime regimen of anti-rejection medications that require constant balancing and some other things that go along with those, but it’s such a gift. I’m the luckiest guy, and I’m determined to make the most of this blessing that my wife, medical science and the universe have given me.

Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive – the cards, social media posts, texts and well wishes – they all mean a ton to us and it’s deeply, deeply appreciated. If you know a medical professional, hug them for us.

The Transplant is Here!

Well, this is the week! On Friday the 21st of May, I’ll be getting my new kidney. Even more amazing is that it’s coming from my wonderful wife, Jeanne.

I’ve known this day would come for the last 7 years or so, although we didn’t find out until recently that Jeanne was a match and would be donating my kidney – for which I’m so grateful and thankful – she’s amazing and I’m a lucky man.

I’m also very grateful that I got the last 7 years of not needing dialysis. After my whole hospital stay in 2014, every day is one I’m thankful for, but for the first few months after the hospital I was on dialysis and we were thinking that would be a long-term thing as I went onto the transplant waiting list. But then I got very lucky and my kidneys healed up a bit, to my doctor’s surprise, and I got a whole 7 more years out of them! (If you don’t know any of this story and want some details, check out this part of my website)

Now we go into another stage of the adventure. Jeanne and I, and the kids, are so blessed to have family and friends who are so supportive during this time (If you’re reading this, you know who you are and we love you. Thank you.)

SO – if you’re a person who believes in putting good energy out into the universe for things, we’d appreciate any good vibes you have this Friday and through the weekend! I’m nervous, just because… y’know, surgery, but I also know we are in great hands with the fabulous team at the UofM Transplant Center – they’ve been SO great to work with, we’re eternally grateful for their skill and awesomeness.

Here’s Stef Din and I, and the Kidney SHE gave me. It’s a lot more plush than the one Jeanne is giving me, but I’ll love them both…. I’ll probably just USE the one from Jeanne more! 😂