Some great reviews for our big dystopian tale of mothers, sons, war and “othering”!

900 Miles to International Falls has gotten a couple of great reviews!  The production has been a wonderful challenge – it’s unlike most plays I’ve directed before, and it’s fun talking with our Williamston Theatre audiences about this different kind of production.

Set a mere 30 years in the future, in the middle of a huge war, this tale about mothers, sons, war and “othering” is provoking a lot of thought and discussion, which is very fun to see.

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An excerpt from the Lansing City Pulse review:

It’s a time of war, government propaganda and lies — and when mothers are asked to give up sons to fight never-ending battles. 2054 is when citizens are fighting aliens trying to occupy our lands.

Sound familiar?

Except in this new era, the “aliens” aren’t Mexicans, South Americans, or other foreigners fleeing horrific and unlivable conditions. The future invasion is actual alien beings from a distant, uninhabitable planet. Who look just like us. And care for their babies, just like us. And who really want to be our friends.

The world premiere of Annie Martin’s play is full of parallelisms, surprises, shocks and novel storylines. Getting to International Falls isn’t its real focus. “900 Miles” has flashes of aggression, emotional outbursts and genuine scares. Martin’s script also includes humorous and touching moments.

What helps make her very adult play succeed and come alive are the grand elements of the Williamston production.

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The Lansing City Pulse really got the show:  Click here if you want to read the full review.

This is a big production for us – a lot of tech elements, a larger cast that many of our shows, a set with lots of moves, and it’s a big epic storyline. I’m really pleased with the way the entire production team, the cast, and the playwright brought their A-Game. IMG_0240.jpg

I like this quote from the City Pulse:  “If the Orwellian and horrific future “900 Miles” portrays isn’t scary enough, the thought that a similar scenario could be less than 30 years away is terrifying.”

IMG_0134.jpgThe other great review, from Encore Michigan (Bridgette Redman), is available by clicking here if you want to read it.  It contains some terrific insight, and a couple of quotes I love, like this one:

900 Miles to International Falls asks questions about what we might do in a war-weary world where it seems impossible to make a difference because the odds against us are so great. What can any one individual do? When is it important to break free from our isolation and reach out to others, whether it is to help them, to let them help us or to learn to trust and care. It is ultimately a beautiful work by Martin interpreted with heart and love by the artists at Williamston Theatre.

The pics above are courtesy of the Williamston Theatre.  I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to bring this thoughtful, unsettling play to the stage, and work with Annie again.  The fun of the world-building in a piece like this was embraced by everyone involved.  I encourage you to check out the play, and also the list of wonderful people who made it all come together! You can learn more about them by checking out the website: Click here!

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Thankful

Taking a minute to acknowledge and thank the universe for all the wonderful things in my life.

With Thanksgiving just happening, and then so many wonderful things around it, it’s easy to take for granted the things I have. Sometimes I just need to look around and, to quote Kurt Vonnegut’s Uncle Alex, say out loud “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

It was so great to have the kids back home with Jeanne and I for a couple days. Just talking and hanging out and eating and playing games and watching them play with the dogs. Loved it. Going to sleep that night with everyone in the the house, knowing they were safe and home and happy, it was pretty terrific. And soon we’ll do it again for a few days for Christmas.

Plus we had a wonderful Opening week for A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show at the theatre, which is just lovely and so engaging and such beautiful storytelling, it gets me every single time, and watching packed houses fall in love with it is both inspiring and affirming.

Then we had a fantastic “Giving Tuesday” Play Reading Marathon, where we read a seasons worth of plays onstage in a day, 12 hours of readings, all open to the public, and we had so many people stop by for a play or two, or three, and a big group who stayed all day to see five or six plays! It was amazing, people came and went all day as their schedule allowed, and it felt like such a day of communion and togetherness and magic as we shared and discussed six wildly different pieces. Truly it was a humbling thing. Someone asked “Did you ever imagine this when you started this place 14 years ago?!” and the question AND answer got me all choked up because, no, we hoped but had no idea if it would work. Tuesday was pretty damned great.

And now I’m getting ready for the National New Play Network annual Showcase of New Plays – a weekend of staged readings and chatting about new plays and the challenges, joys and pitfalls of producing them with people from all over the country. This is going to be fun.

So much to be grateful for.

I hope you’re able to look around this weekend and find the same things in your life! ❤️

Tech Day!

The calm before the….. well, I was going to say storm, because that’s the phrase, but that’s not really accurate. A good tech day is nothing like a storm. So really, I guess this is the calm before the…. well orchestrated day full of hard work and creativity that results from months of planning combined with in-the-moment inspiration? Sure, let’s go with that. So here we are, a deliberate air of busy-ness in the building, with 8 different things being tended to by different teams of people, all working together with, or around, each other. All so that when the Stage Manager calls “places, top of show” everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen.

I love Tech Day. When you add in the lights, sound, sometimes projections, later in the weekend costumes, all of the technical elements blend with the cast and you really get your first true look at what the play is going to be. Some people dislike the tech day process but for me, as a director, I love it – it’s like Christmas! You work for months with the design team and look at sketches and images and discuss renderings and 3-d computer walkthroughs and you listen to sound samples and play with fabric swatches and plan each moment….and then on tech day you GET THEM! All these magical little moments! AND you get to work with a team of creative, passionate people who combine ideas and talents and brainstorms and suddenly things from your imagination are there in front of you.

A college professor of mine, George Bird, once said to me about theatre “It’s not magic, Caselli, it’s hard work.” I think about that often, and it inspires me. Because he’s right, of course: But the thing is, all that hard work can give us magic in the end!

pictured above – the set from A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show at Williamston Theatre. Set design by Kirk Domer.

THE SAFE HOUSE

The current show at Williamston Theatre is a lovely, moving piece by Kristine Thatcher and directed by Casaundra Freeman. Reviews have been universally wonderful, and this is one of those shows that SO many people can directly relate to, people are loving it. Charming, funny, heartbreaking and uplifting, it’s a beautiful piece about family, change, and the power of being there for each other. A terrific start to our 14th Season!

Read one of the reviews HERE!

Karen Sheridan and Dani Cochrane

Tobin Hissong, Karen Sheridan and Dani Cochrane

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Opening Night production team photo.

Back row: Chris Purchis, scenic designer Gabriella Csapo, assistant stage manager Matt Kowalczyk, set dressing/properties designer Michelle Raymond, apprentice Becca Bedell, stage manager Stef Din, tech director Aaron Delnay, sound designer Sonja Marquis, costume designer Holly Iler, apprentice Ariel Sheets, John Lepard, Emily Sutton-Smith, Tony Caselli. Not pictured: lighting designer Shannon Schweitzer.
Front row: Tobin Hissong, director Casaundra Freeman, playwright Kristine Thatcher, Karen Sheridan, Dani Cochrane.

Ch-Ch-Changes…..

Sat down to update my journal, and realized it’s been two months! Amazing, where did that time go? Well, life got crazy:

*We sold our house in Chelsea and moved to Williamston!
*We have officially become “empty-nesters” with both kids now moved out of the house and into their universities, University of Michigan and Western Michigan University!
*A BIG renovation has been taking place for the last 7 weeks at Williamston Theatre, at the same time that we’re rehearsing and about to go into previews for the beautiful play The Safe House by Kristine Thatcher.

So – life has been busy!  And WONDERFUL.  We’re about to open SEASON FOURTEEN at Williamston Theatre!

The kids:

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The building renovation.  We tore out our old Stage Manager tech booth and put in a new one!

How it looks now:

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How it looked a few weeks ago:

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and a couple weeks before that….

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…aaaaaand from the other side….

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Also, here’s our new house!

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AND here are a few rehearsal shots from the BEAUTIFUL show The Safe House by Kristine Thatcher, directed by the wonderful Casaundra Freeman, and starring Karen Sheridan, Dani Cochrane and Tobin Hissong.

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So, the last 8 weeks have been insanely busy, but also pretty darned wonderful.  I’m so grateful for my family, and my work, and the people I get to work with!

I hope everyone else has had a good summer as well – now that Fall is upon us, and my that wonderful Autumnal feeling is in the air, I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up. I hope you all are too!

Next season!

Our Williamston Theatre – Season 14 brochures will be out in a few days, but here’s a sneak peek!  We’ve already announced the shows, and here are the blurbs with graphics.  Man I’m excited about this season!

 

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The Safe House
By Kristine Thatcher

October 3 through November 3, 2019

In 1982, Bridget returns home to Lansing looking for a respite from a failing NYC acting career, and a troubled, abusive marriage. Longing for the comfort of a stay with her grandmother Hannah, what she finds is a family struggling with change.  Hannah, the strong, independent matriarch of the family, is no longer as self-sufficient as she was: The challenges of aging have caught up with her, and her family is at odds on how to best ensure her safety.  With gentle humor, honesty, and heart, this play is a beautiful examination of family, transition, and the importance of being there for each other. 

Williamston Theatre’s first production of a play by Lansing’s own Kristine Thatcher.

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A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show
By David Albert

November 21 through December 22, 2019

It’s Christmas Eve, and with the actors snowed in and unable to make it to the studios of WXMS for the live radio performance of A Christmas Carol, the sound effects man decides to take the audience through the classic tale himself. A rollicking, creative adaptation of Dickens’ classic work that is sure to warm the hearts of even the chilliest audience members. This one-man tour de force features WT favorite Aral Gribble as our endearing and engaging storyteller.

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900 Miles to International Falls
By Annie Martin
A World Premiere

January 30 through March 1, 2020

The year is 2054, and our world is unrecognizable: aliens, war, and a congratulatory sheet cake for each baby born. In this future, a woman’s work is never done but always vital.  Tanya remembers a world where there was more than war, though, and refuses to surrender her son to the chaos surrounding them now. When she befriends a new young mother she thinks she’s found an ally…. but the universe has other plans for them.  This compelling drama explores mothers, sons, and the importance of connections.
Contains adult content and language.

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These Mortal Hosts
By Eric Coble

March 26 through April 26, 2020

“Don’t get in the car”, the voice said.  So, Meaghan didn’t.  And then her world turned upside down.  After a tragedy devastates tiny Dove Creek, Colorado, the Mysteries begin. Earl can’t explain the change coming over him… Phyllis knows the impossible has become possible, and… is the voice in Meaghan’s head still her own?  Three seemingly random strangers find themselves thrust together at the center of the Mysteries as their lives, and bodies, hurtle them toward events far beyond their comprehension.  But what are the Mysteries?  Whatever is happening, the whole town is suddenly swept up in events of epic proportion, and the question is: Are they preparing for a miracle, or are they succumbing to madness?  A riveting exploration of faith and community in small-town America.
Contains adult content and language.

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Alabaster
By Audrey Cefaly
A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere

May 21 through June 21, 2020

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 theatre magic, this play will rip your heart out, make you laugh, and remind you to hold close the people in your life.
Contains adult content and language

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Be Here Now
By Deborah Zoe Laufer

July 9 through August 9, 2020

Bari’s always been a bit of an angry, depressed misanthrope. When she loses her job teaching nihilism in New York, and has to work a local dead-end job in her rural hometown, she spirals into despair. Suddenly, her recurring headaches manifest bizarre, ecstatic, almost religious experiences, and they’re changing her entire view of life. She’s in love! She’s almost… happy! When she finds out the headaches are also killing her, she must decide whether it’s better to live a short, joyful life, or risk a lifetime of misery. And she must also ask herself… what’s it all for anyway?  A wonderfully funny and heartwarming tale that asks the question “We know how life ends, so can’t we enjoy the beauty in now?”

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I’ve said before how excited I am about this season. To quote myself from an earlier blog post, in Season 14 “we’re deliberately and enthusiastically presenting a slate of plays that will run the gambit from big laughs, to big thoughts, to big tears.  Working around a couple of key themes like empathy, compassion, and the idea of being open to a world wider than our own, we’ve got six pieces from some fantastic playwrights that I just can’t wait to share with our community.”

For now, though, everyone has a couple more weeks to catch Popcorn Falls, the delightful comedy that audiences and critics are loving!  (Nominated for Best Comedy of the year by the Wilde Awards, and the actors Pat and Aral are nominated for Best Teamwork!)  See you at the theatre!

Amazing Anniversaries and Other Awesome Things

The last couple of weeks have been full of positive things.  Not everything, of course, but right now I feel like focusing on the things that are making life wonderful.

My son came home from Germany!  After 7 months, it’s great to have him back.  Now he’s prepping for Western Michigan University in the Fall.

Jeanne and I celebrated 25 years of marriage.  Can’t believe it’s already been that long!

This week is my 5 Year Anniversary of coming home from the hospital after my meningitis coma “vacation”, as my wife calls it.  So many memories popping up on Facebook, and nice comments from people.  It was 5 years ago yesterday that I came home after being gone for two and a half months in St. Joe’s of Ann Arbor.  So, as I do every year, I celebrated by taking them fruit and chocolate gifts, and “Thanks for keeping me alive” cards!  If you see a doctor, or a nurse – thank them.  They’re heroes.  Without those amazing people I would’ve missed my kids graduating high school, my 25th wedding anniversary, the pride of seeing my kids go to other countries and become independent amazing human beings… and so many other things.

Other great things:  Opened The Gin Game, the 76th production at Williamston Theatre, to great reviews and thrilled audiences.  Held general auditions for our upcoming 14th Season, which I am IN LOVE WITH.  Our summer show, which is a co-production with Tipping Point Theatre, opened at their space and is terrific, and I am excited to get it to Williamston.  The new season of Major League Baseball is upon us – and even though the Tigers are going to have a challenging rebuilding year, it’s going to be fun to watch.

Jeanne and I have had a fun time looking at houses lately.  We love the house we’re in, but with us entering the “Empty Nest” phase of life, we’re looking to downsize a little bit.  It’s been 17 years – I’m done raking so many leaves!  🙂   So, big changes coming there, which are exciting!

So much happening.  I hope things are going well for you, too.  Spring is finally here, and with the new warm weather and sunshine we can enjoy looking forward to what comes next.