“Wonder will always get us there…”

What a joy Silent Sky has been. Some shows just have such an affect on people – audience, cast, designers, crew – that you don’t want them to end. Watching this beautiful script by Lauren Gunderson do that to people over the last 5 weeks has been wonderful and, now that we have reached the closing performance, I find myself feeling the same way.

The sense of wonder, of exploration and perseverance from this show is beautiful and inspiring. The sheer joy it evokes, that sense that “Anything Is Possible”, is just so beautifully interwoven with the loving bittersweet reminder “But… we don’t have forever… so Savor Everything.”

Working with the entire production team on this show has been an amazing journey. Telling the story of Henrietta Leavitt, Annie Cannon and Williamina Fleming – true pioneers in their field who persevered and changed the world around them despite incredible resistance – has been an absolute gift, and one of the highlights of my career so far. I offer a giant THANK YOU to the many wonderful people who helped to make it happen!

Because the real point… is seeing something bigger. And knowing we’re a part of it, if we’re lucky. In the end that is a life well-lived. Because thank God there’s a lot out there bigger than me.

-Henrietta Leavitt, SILENT SKY by Lauren Gunderson

A good week for stories

 

The last week has been so full of good storytelling and good theatre!

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
– Joan Didion

Last Friday I got the chance to see the beautiful production of Shakuntala, a gorgeous Indian folk tale by the ancient Indian Poet Kalidasa.  Directed by award winning Fulbright Scholar Satyabrata Rout, visiting from India, the play was a beautiful and moving  interpretation of the ancient tale.  Storytelling, dance, song, tableaux, all were executed marvelously.

Then over the weekend I caught up on my current television favorite:  The Good Place.  If you’re not watching it, you should be.  Whipsmart, hilarious, and beautifully done, it’s a real treat – the style of storytelling is just wonderful.  Ted Danson is a freaking national treasure, Kristen Bell is marvelous, and the whole cast and production team are firing on all cylinders.  Warning: Watch it from the beginning of Season One!!

Saturday, I got to see another Lauren Gunderson play, Ada and the Engine, at the Open Book theatre in Trenton.  If you haven’t had a chance to get to Open Book, you should make the time.  The show was just wonderful!  A beautiful story, with creative and lovely staging and design work.  My schedule doesn’t let me see nearly as much theatre as I wish I could, but I’m so glad I got to squeeze this one into the calendar.

(For more about Lauren Gunderson, CLICK HERE!)

Sunday was another treat:  Milvotchkee, Visconsin at Kickshaw Theatre in Ann Arbor.  Lynn Lammers and her team of artists put together another GORGEOUS production, as is their habit.  This show, which takes the audience into the mind of a person suffering from Alzheimers, was heartbreaking and beautifully funny.  The packed house went back and forth between laughing and gasping at the tragedy, the love, the humanity of the story.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house at the end, and the cast, production crew and whole Kickshaw team deserve the standing ovation they got.

This week, along with continuing to present Silent Sky, the beautiful story of Henrietta Leavitt currently at Williamston Theatre, we are also rehearsing the staged reading of an absolutely delightful, charming new musical titled Belinda. Based on the play by A.A. Milne (of Winnie The Pooh fame), this adaptation by Alisa Hauser and David Mallamud is a ton of fun, and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with our audiences on Monday night!

AND we are deep into pre-production work for A Hunting Shack Christmas, the next show I’ll be directing. It’s ridiculous and raucous with a heart of gold.  So much fun.

Plus, in the never-ending search for plays to include in our next season, I’ve had the chance to read some really lovely stories over the last couple of weeks.  We’re also planning our 12-hour play reading marathon (late November, Williamston Theatre), and I’m having a ton of fun piecing that together.

“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.”
– Hannah Arendt

Storytelling.  Whether it’s to entertain, inspire, invigorate, reflect or question, it doesn’t matter.  It’s a wonderful, powerful thing, and I still believe we can use it to make the world a better place.

 

Opening Night for SILENT SKY!

So excited to open this show tonight. It’s the first production of our 13th season which, in itself, is a really cool thing. Plus, the script is a beautiful piece of writing by Lauren Gunderson. Moving, funny, inspirational – and based on real people and real events, which makes it particularly wonderful to work on.

There’s something special about doing a play based on an actual person, especially one who did some amazing things but doesn’t get enough recognition for it. Henrietta Leavitt helped change the way we see the universe today, which is a pretty incredible freaking thing. She looked at the men saying “Nope, you’re a woman, you can’t do that” and went and did it anyway, and made the world a better place.

It’s also been a fabulous process – starting another season with my co-founders John, Chris and Emily is always a special thing, but then you add in the amazing team of people I got to work with on Silent Sky and it makes for an even more wonderful event. The cast, the production team, the stage management team – everyone is at the top of their game, and it inspires me to be better. PLUS – when you mix all of that with the tale of Henrietta Leavitt, who saw the world and knew what she wanted to do to make it better, and DID it – it’s hard not to come out of that process feeling like you A) have work to do, and B) WANT to do it.

So – here we are! This autumn will be full of cool work, and I’m excited to do it. Jumping into that can wait, though… until Sunday, anyway! Now we celebrate, and keep trying to make the world a better place, through storytelling!

A new season, a new show

Today we start rehearsal for Season 13 at Williamston Theatre, with a beautiful play called Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson.  A gorgeous story, it’s all about Henrietta Leavitt, one of the first women astronomers.  (Link is here for more info)  I’m super excited:  The play is wonderful, the production team I get to work with is top-notch, and the cast is fabulous.

Some designs I can leak:

Silent Sky Base Rendering Flip - House Left Far.jpg

This set rendering (Design by Kirk Domer) is from the SR audience viewpoint. Imagine the back wall being full of stars, or projections, or color, or a combination of all 3!

And here’s an image of the set construction as of a couple days ago!

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I’ll post more designs and images as the days go by.

This is going to be a fun one.  Warm, funny, beautifully moving, and deeply inspirational.  Lauren Gunderson has taken the real-life story of Henrietta Leavitt and crafted a play about a woman who simply refused to accept the status quo – and changed the world. This is the kind of life-affirming play that makes you wanna explore the world around you, tackle something big and make a difference!

Season to Season

Next week we start previews for the final show of our 12th season, Memoir!  Watching some rehearsal the other day got me excited – this is going to be a beautiful show!MemoirWeb.jpg

I’m also excited about what’s coming up after that! Starting meetings for Season 13, and I can’t wait to dig into Silent Sky!

I’ve already written about the season lineup but, just for fun, here are the very cool logos for Season 13!  We wanted something different for next season, so the fabulous artist Matt Mumford did some really cool work with us.

Williamston Theatre Program Cover.jpg

Silent Sky logo.png

Hunting Shack logo.png

To Quiet The Quiet logo.png

The Gin Game logo.png

New Releases logo.png

Popcorn Falls logo.png

 

 

 

 

Williamston Theatre 2018/2019 Season

We are just past the halfway point of this season, and neck deep in rehearsals for Doublewide, but the wheel keeps turning. I’m so pleased to announce our upcoming Season!

Williamston Theatre 2018/2019 Season

Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson
September 20 – October 21, 2018

Based on the true story and science of early 20th century female “computers” at Harvard Observatory. Astonishing discoveries await Henrietta Leavitt as she maps distant stars in galaxies beyond our own. But this brilliant, headstrong pioneer must struggle for recognition in the man’s world of turn-of-the-century astronomy. In this exquisite blend of science, history, family ties, and fragile love, a passionate young woman must map her own passage through a society determined to keep a woman in her place. An inspiring, stunningly beautiful tale.

A Hunting Shack Christmas by Jessica Lind Peterson
Nov. 15 – Dec. 23, 2018

Looking to sort out his life, Charlie heads up to the hunting shack that’s been in his family for generations. Instead of the peace of mind he was looking for, he finds himself buried in a blizzard of snow, unexpected family squatters, beef jerky, crazy internet romance, and more snow. Can he sort it all out in time for his wedding anniversary? And who the heck is Helge?!

To Quiet The Quiet by Christy Hall
Jan. 24 – Feb. 24, 2019
A World Premiere

Having suffered great loss and heartbreak in her life, Kathy, now middle-aged and alone, is a woman on the edge. Haunted by her past, and her own personal demons, Kathy seems to be losing the battle against her thoughts, her words, her fears. And the one man who can help Kathy may prove to be just as powerless against her. This new mystery play will keep you riveted through it’s deepest, darkest secrets.

The Gin Game by D.L. Coburn
March 21 – April 20, 2019
Featuring Ruth Crawford and Hugh Maguire
1978 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Drama

Weller Martin is playing solitaire on the porch of a seedy nursing home. Enter Fonsia Dorsey, a prim, self-righteous woman. They discover they both dislike the home and enjoy gin rummy, so they begin to play. As they play, intimate details begin to reveal themselves, and what follows was called by the New York Times “The closest thing the theatre offers to a duel at 10 paces.”

New Releases by Joseph Zettelmaier
May 9 – June 9, 2019
A World Premiere

Jen is going down with the sinking ship. That ship is Avid Video, a small-time video rental store that is circling the drain. One night, a strange woman comes in to rent a video that has never been rented…one that Jen didn’t even know the store carried. The two of them strike a bizarre deal, and as the months go on, Jen struggles to unravel the mystery of this woman, even as the store she loves marches towards extinction. A warm comedy that’ll melt your funny bone and touch your heart.

Popcorn Falls by James Hindman
June 20 – July 28, 2019

The sleepy town of Popcorn Falls is forced into bankruptcy when a neighboring town threatens to turn them into a sewage treatment plant. Their only hope – OPEN A THEATRE! Two actors play over twenty roles in a world of farce, love and desperation proving once and for all that art can save the world. You won’t want to miss this hilarious, theatrical whirlwind!

Random Thoughts on a Sunday

Okay, the weather is cold outside, but soon it won’t be. Soon the Tigers will be back, and MLB will begin the marathon of a regular season. There’s fear in Detroit, though – the Tigers will be in a big rebuilding season, and the new predictions for Wins/Losses just came out. It’s not looking good for the Tigers. Click here to see the dismal prediction.

I heard a great quote from a TED Talk by Susan David: “Discomfort is the price to a meaningful life.” She gave a very nice talk about dealing with negative emotions in a positive way.

Speaking of negative emotions: Is it just me, or is Facebook almost unbearable lately? No dialogue, no fun, just people deciding they’re authorized to tell everyone else what they’re allowed to believe, like, say, or do. Maybe I just need a break from it, but right now it’s just a tiresome repetition. One that I know I’m just as guilty of as anyone else. I feel like we all need a reminder (me included) that maybe our best option is to embrace the connections from our similarities and shared opinions, and embrace non-judgmental curiosity about our differences. *sigh* I just know I’ve enjoyed not being on it as much lately.

On a more positive note: I’m so proud of the team at Williamston Theatre, and the response we’re getting from audiences for the current production of Our Lady Of Poison. Shannon Ferrante led a terrific staff and cast, and did marvelous work. 27625370_10156102918764629_6048259823109898447_o.jpg

Right now we are deep into pre-production for our next show at Williamston, Doublewide. I’m having a blast working with this production team, and even though we have a few weeks of Our Lady… left, I’m raring to jump into rehearsals! I really hope folks enjoy this show, I think it’s a beautiful and honest exploration into life in this part of the world, and the struggle to find a place in it.

Speaking of Doublewide, here’s a Work-In-Progress of the scenic design by the amazing Kirk Domer. I’m not going to explain anything in it yet, it’s just a sneak peek.Doublewide Rendering - House Left - Draft 2-11-18 No Walls for Tony

I can’t remember if I posted these before? The last show I directed, Beau Jest, was a ton of fun. During the show, which took place in the late ’80’s, a little camera was used by a couple characters to take pictures of other people in the play with them. We used real film in a camera, and got some of them developed. Here, for fun, are some of them!

Ah, there are Pat Loos, Vanessa Sawson, Michael Lopetrone, Sandy Birch and (barely) Fred Buchalter! The quality is awful because they were under stage lights and it was an old camera, but I love that you can also see audience members in the background!

Random TV Thoughts: The Good Place is so freaking good. If you haven’t watched it, start at the beginning and binge. Star Trek Discovery has become a pleasant surprise for me, and I’ve really enjoyed Agents of Shield also! Tops on my list, and I’m late getting to it, is The Great British Baking Show! Jeanne and I have just started watching it, and we’re in love! Thanks to everyone who recommended it. I now desperately want to take some baking lessons.

Lastly – because it’s time to work: Man, I am so excited to see the Black Panther movie coming out this week. I just think it looks terrific, for lots of reasons, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

Hope you’re having a good weekend, everyone. Stay safe, and spend time with people you love!