THANK YOU

Just a quick word to say THANK YOU to everyone.

After my last post about my kidney disease, and being on the transplant list, I got such an amazing response from so many friends, it was a little overwhelming. Thank you for all the kind messages of support and love.

With all of this crazy Covid19 pandemic happening, take care of yourselves everyone. Wash your hands, be safe. Keep yourselves, and the people around you, as healthy as you can!

I’m trying, like most of you, to just get through this chunk of our history the best I can. With my kidney disease and immunodeficiency I have to be a little extra careful, which is frustrating because, frankly, I don’t like to admit that those weaknesses exist. Still, thanks to my wonderful friends and family reminding me that I should take care of myself, I’ve been working on it. I’m super grateful to those folks who care enough to say “Hey, wash your hands and stay home.”

Adding to the stress, of course, is the fact that I help run a theatre that NEEDS people to show up in groups in order to keep us going. Well, that’s always been the theory, anyway. We may be testing that over the next few months. (And we’ll be joined by theatres all over the country testing it, also, so here’s hoping that all our friends in the industry can weather this storm smoothly.) I’m thankful for all the creativity and compassion being offered from so many areas.

Still, even with all of this craziness happening, I’m grateful: I’ve got wonderful friends and family, people offering to be tested for kidney compatibility, a great job with amazing coworkers, AND a nice tax return coming this year! lol

SO – wash your hands, cover your cough, spend a while in self-isolation and enjoy some downtime. This is the perfect time to binge a series or two, read some books, take up yoga, learn a foreign language, or learn to cook beef wellington. (I’ll take two, thank you.)

Take care of yourselves, and stay in touch.

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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Mid-December round up – keeping the plates spinning….

Still catching my breath after a wonderful trip to Actor’s Express in Atlanta for the NNPN National Showcase of New Plays (followed almost immediately by a trip to Buffalo with family for some much needed family holiday time!)

The NNPN Showcase was terrific.  (NNPN is National New Play Network, in case I haven’t mentioned it in a while.)  We saw 6 readings, some of which I absolutely loved, and I had a ton of good conversations and chats with theatre makers from all over the country.  I love the readings, but sometimes just being immersed in that energy is the perfect thing to recharge my batteries.  It’s energizing to get that reminder that everyone deals with the same challenges and struggles, the highs and lows of this industry – all on a variety of wildly different points on the scale, of course – from companies with a $50,000 annual budget up to ones with many millions of dollars to spend, and raise, every year.  But the wonderful part is the belief and faith in the power of storytelling, and of having an impact on your community, and the pursuit of excellence in the craft – AND allowing for a whole variety of opinions on HOW to make all that happen.  It’s really good stuff.

And then our trip to Buffalo was fabulous.  We continued our decades long family Christmas tradition of holding a big dinner at one of the relatives houses, and that person (or family) cooks a giant dinner for everyone that consists of food from some other country, or culture, from anywhere in the world.  No one knows what it’s going to be until we get there, and it’s a big fun reveal and feast, with lots of lovely family time and board games and presents and laughter.  This year my brother and sister-in-law made an amazing Jamaican dinner that was delicious!  The kids played games, built an igloo in the snow, and generally had a good time.  It was fun to see all the cousins together, the six of them don’t get to visit as often as they used to. The age range goes from middle-school up to college now, and it was terrific to see them having such a good time just enjoying each other’s company.

Now I’m neck deep in prep for 900 Miles to International Falls, by Annie Martin, the show I’m directing next.  We start rehearsals at the end of this month, and I can’t wait.  It’s a big thoughtful, meaningful piece about mothers and sons and war, but it’s also about trust, and compassion.  We get to do a lot of “world building” because it’s set in 2054, when the planet is at war with an alien race who have landed seeking a new home!  I have an amazing production team to work with, and I’m so excited to launch into rehearsals for this world premiere in a couple weeks.  Learn more about the show here!

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Until then, though, our production of A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show is going wonderfully!  It’s essentially completely sold out this weekend, except for the occasional person calling in to cancel one or two from a group, but then those are scooped up by someone calling wanting to see it before it closes.  Aral Gribble is wonderful in it, and the whole production team did some really fantastic work. Check out more info here!

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Now I’m looking forward to the next couple days, when both kids will be back home with Jeanne and I for a couple weeks, and we can all enjoy some holidays relaxing at home with the Christmas tree, the dogs, and some friends and family.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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!

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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!