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.
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.
We are just under a month away from rehearsals starting for our first production in 18 months. I can’t wait!
We started production meetings a couple of weeks ago, and seeing all those faces on the Zoom call, excited and ready to work, was damned exciting. As usual I’m lucky enough to work with a wonderful team of artists, and this time we’re doing a revival of a production we last did 10 years ago, as a celebration of our 15th Season.
On top of that, there is so much going on in the building the last couple of weeks, it’s amazing. Contractors are everywhere: Our renovations are nearing the completion of this phase of work in the theatre space itself (and with the giant metal beams that go up through the second floor of the building and out the roof!) Plus there are HVAC people doing heating and cooling things in the lobby, there are duct-work people doing things in the basement, the IT firm we hired is building us a new website from scratch, our box office, management and development teams are working on our new ticketing and patron management system, I’m reviewing the many many audition videos we got sent over the last couple months, and we are about to start interviews with our top apprentice applicants. Plus we’re accepting applications for our newly created Office Manager position.
Our hope, of course, is that Covid doesn’t raise up and slap down our reopening attempts. We’ve got strict protocols in place: Vaccination requirements for all employees and patrons, masks in the building at all times – and we’ve seen those work for some theatres, and we’ve also seen it not. Broadway’s Aladdin reopened on Tuesday… and closed on Wednesday because of Covid cases in the company. So, as we join the world and try to move forward, all we can do is do our best and take every precaution, and then respond to each moment as it happens. We’re working with the unions and staying in touch with theatres across the state and country as everyone shares best practices. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, as the saying goes.
SO – keep an eye out for the announcement about our new website, and for tickets going on sale for This Wonderful Life, our first show back. And wear your masks. 🙂
We’re so excited to finally be able to announce the 2021/2022 Season, our 15th!
After a year and a half we’re so glad to be back in the building with the staff, prepping everything and getting out from under the dust of our long intermission.
Over the next couple months we’ll be finishing up some renovations and getting ready for first rehearsal of our first show back. As a celebration of reaching 15 years, we’ll be starting the season by bringing back a classic production that’s often asked about by our patrons, This Wonderful Life starring John Lepard. It’s a perfect holiday show to bring family, friends and colleagues to. And of course we’ve implemented lots of Covid protocols, including extra deep cleaning with all new equipment, wall mounted hand sanitizers, high efficiency air purifiers around the building, and new Ion Wave filtering technology on all of our HVAC systems, and more!
Can’t wait to see everyone at the theatre. Here’s the lineup for our 15th season:
This Wonderful Life
By Steve Murray Directed by Tony Caselli November 18 – December 19, 2021
To celebrate our milestone 15th Season, we’re bringing back a fan favorite from our early days! John Lepard reopens the Williamston Theatre stage by reprising his award-winning role as George Bailey, Mr. Potter, and the entire population of Bedford Falls in this theatrical re-telling of the classic holiday film It’s A Wonderful Life. Superbly adapted from the most irresistible and entertaining “what if” story of all time, this beautiful, heartwarming tale reminds us of the power of perspective, friendship and faith. A holiday experience for the whole family.
9 Parts of Desire
By Heather Raffo Co-Directed by Ed Nahhat & Sarab Kamoo January 27 – February 27, 2022
Featuring Sarab Kamoo in a one-woman, tour-de-force performance, this play details the lives of nine Iraqi women that span the decades between the first and second Gulf Wars and occupation. It is a stunning portrait of the extraordinary (and ordinary) lives of a whole cross-section of Iraqi women: a sexy painter, a radical Communist, doctors, exiles, wives and lovers. This riveting work delves into the many conflicting aspects of what it means to be a woman in a country overshadowed by war.
By Bekka Brunstetter Directed by Jasmine Rivera March 24 through April 24, 2022
All is going well for Della. Her North Carolina bakery is legendary and she’s just been cast on her favorite television baking competition. But then, her late-best-friend’s daughter comes home from New York City to ask her to make a cake for her upcoming wedding. When Della learns that Jen’s about to marry a woman, she is forced to re-examine her deeply held beliefs, as questions of morals, judgment and family swirl around them all. An emotional and deliciously funny play.
By Stephen Kaplan Directed by Tony Caselli May 19 – June 19, 2022
Tracy Jones finds herself alone, and lonely, in life. In a last-ditch effort to find any kind of connection, even a forced one, she throws a desperate party to which she’s invited every woman in the world who is also named Tracy Jones. Her uproariously disastrous encounters with the few guests that attend expose a vision of the isolation we experience in our increasingly busy world. Tracy Jones is a funny, touching story that explores the power of human connection. World Premiere.
The Hat Box
By Eric Coble Directed by John Lepard July 14 – August 14, 2022
Two sisters discover a hat box hidden in the back of their recently deceased father’s closet. What sits inside sends them off to visit eccentric Aunt Esther and on an increasingly wild ride down memory lane. With surprising twists and hilarious turns, Cleveland playwright Eric Coble’s brand new comedy of family lore revels in the bizarre and beautiful mysteries that make up a life. World Premiere.
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!