Our Current 2015-2016 Season:

Our Current 2015-2016 Season:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Michael Rea Fights Battle of Bulge as Dave Bukatinsky in Full Monty

Michael Rea as Dave Bukatinsky:  Before there was Spanx, there was ... Saran Wrap?
PHOTO by Anne Craft
For an actor, sometimes the toughest roles to play are those that hit close to home.  While “method” actors like to channel real life experiences to shape their character’s emotions, separating yourself from your stage persona can get complicated at times. In the Farmington Players production of The Full Monty, Michael Rea plays Dave Bukatinsky, who he describes as “jovial and fun-loving, but he has to face some serious demons: his weight, his depression and anxiety over being out of work, his sometimes complicated relationship with his best friend, Jerry.  By the end, he finds the self-confidence that had been pretty hard to come by.  Exploring these ups and downs and being alternately strong and vulnerable is what I love most about playing Dave.”

Like Dave, Michael can relate to “struggling with weight, depression and self-doubt. And having a wife who supports you through your lowest lows. I have been Dave many times in my life.”  Michael has been enjoying the process of becoming Dave – he’s even “stepped up to the plate” to gain several pounds for the role – and he has no qualms about baring more than his soul onstage, saying, “How many times in your life to you get an opportunity to do something like this?”   Michael knows that audiences will love The Full Monty because “the whole show is hilarious. The production quality is really high.  Everything about this show is just fun.  The story is about figuring out how to believe in yourself, and that is pretty timeless.  As for everybody else involved in the show, WOW what a talented group.  All I can do is work my ass off trying to keep up.  I am having so much fun and I can't wait until opening night.”

Michael grew up in Clawson and now lives in Livonia. He’s 38 and holds two engineering degrees.  When he’s not working or rehearsing, he says, “It's all about family.  And occasionally karaoke and really good beer.”  Farmington Players production of The Full Monty is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Management. The show is definitely R-rated for sexually suggestive content and language.  There are 12 performances from April 29 – May 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Just Like The Full Monty, Katie Gunning is a Great Comeback Story

Katie Gunning (center, holding the blue G-string) plays Joanie Lish, who's single and ready to mingle
PHOTO by Anne Craft
Everybody loves a feel-good, comeback story.  We all root for the underdog, and if you’ve lived in the Detroit area for any length of time, you’ve probably had your own share of ups and downs, whether personally or professionally.  That is why The Full Monty resonates with audiences.  The musical is set in Buffalo in the Nineties after a plant closing, but it could just as easily have been set in Detroit.

In the Farmington Players production, Katie Gunning plays Joanie Lish, who works with Pam at the factory and is a good friend of Georgie's. Katie describes Joanie as “a single, working girl, and she's definitely ready to mingle. You can tell that she's a little boy crazy and maybe it's because she's looking for the right one or maybe it's because she's just having fun. I like to think it's a little bit of both. She's a lot of fun to play. She's got some great, comedic one-liners, and I'm loving the dancing and singing she gets to do.”

Katie has also had a recent “comeback” in her own life, as she spent much of last year battling cancer.  Now that that is behind her, she is “very focused on making 2016 a year where I do things that make me happy and doing this show definitely brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart.  I have always had a passion for singing, acting and dancing and this was an opportunity to weave all those wonderful things together.  I have met so many wonderful people working on The Full Monty. The cast and crew are all such lovely, fun people, and I feel blessed to get to play with them every week.”  

Beyond the wonderful musical numbers, Katie knows that audiences will love The Full Monty because “this show has themes that transcend time: relationship/marriage problems, being unemployed, dealing with the fall-out of divorce and children involved, body image, discovering your sexuality, etc. These are all serious themes, but they're painted in a light where they're easy for people to digest because they're saturated in humor. There is so much comedy in this show, from the conversations to the songs, it's going to have people rolling in the aisles. And even if some people may initially be nervous about the nudity involved, they will quickly find out that they're going to be laughing so much, they won't be uncomfortable, they'll be rooting for all of the characters involved.”

Katie lives in South Lyon and moved back to Michigan in 2011 with her husband after living in New York for 7.5 years. She has worked in fashion, television and radio. Since the birth of her daughter in 2012, Katie has been a stay-at-home mom, saying, “I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to be with her every day, even on the days where she is a total three-nager.”  Katie’s hobbies include knitting and other crafts, playing volleyball and the piano (not at the same time), and singing karaoke.


The Farmington Players production of The Full Monty is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Management. The show is definitely R-rated for sexually suggestive content and language.  There are 12 performances from April 29 – May 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Eric Henrickson Transforms Loneliness into Friendships in The Full Monty

Eric Henrickson (second from right) plays loner Malcolm MacGregor, one of the six "Hot Metal" dancers.
PHOTO by Anne Craft
In the Farmington Players production of The Full Monty, Eric Henrickson’s character Malcolm MacGregor describes himself as “a complete loser who still lives at home with his mother."  As Eric says, “Malcolm starts the show as a very lonely man. He's let his sick, domineering mother pretty much dictate his life, and he feels cut off from the world around him. He doesn't have any friends because he's spent so much time taking care of his mother. But things turn around quickly for him when he becomes part of this ragtag group of amateur strippers. He finally has some friends, and he gains the confidence to be his own man.”

In developing his character, Eric tapped into his own experience, saying, “With Malcolm, I can relate to his loneliness. It's never gone to the extreme Malcolm feels, but it's definitely been there. And not too long ago, a friend from another show committed suicide. He was in his mid-20s. The visitation was held in a huge room in the funeral home, and it was packed and overflowing into the hallway, and I thought, ‘With all these people, how bad was it that he felt he had nowhere to turn?’ So as I started working on lines for that scene in the show, that experience jumped to the front of my thoughts.” 

Fortunately, Eric’s family is very close and he can rely on them and his network of friends to get through any hard times. Similarly, Eric thinks that local audiences will connect with the story of The Full Monty, saying, “As we continue to pull ourselves out of the economic downturn, I think everybody in Michigan can relate to a bunch of guys who were laid off in a plant closing and unemployed for more than a year. We still have divorce, we still have crushed dreams, we still have insecurity, we still have domineering mothers, we still have suicide ... These are all issues that aren't going away anytime soon.”  And like Detroiters, the “show is blue collar but has a sweetness underlying it. It's a cliché, but it has heart. Movie translations don't always go well, but this one made it. Every character comes to this moment with a real emotional need that goes beyond needing some quick cash. And it's those emotions that will keep audiences interested and entertained.”

Beyond connecting with these themes, Eric’s real motivation to audition was the opportunity to sing Malcolm’s song, You Walk With Me:  “It's such a beautiful song. I loved the movie when it came out, and the show when the tour came to the Fisher years ago, and since then, I've thought it would be great to play Malcolm. He's such a sweet character in a show that has its own sweetness.”  About his male cast mates, Eric says, “I kind of feel like we're echoing the show's story arc as we get to know each other through rehearsal. And I'm sure that first time we get on stage in our underwear, it won't be hard to act that feeling of awkwardness in that scene.”

Eric lives in Ferndale and worked at The Detroit News for 19 years as a copy editor, writer, food editor, and blogger (“Geek Watch”), and he now writes content for Meemic Insurance Company's website and runs their social media. His other big loves are baking (see his work at facebook.com/cupcookiebakery) and theater, having played Bill in Kiss Me, Kate at the old Barn, Rapunzel's Prince in Into the Woods at Ridgedale, and Linus in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown at Grosse Pointe.

The Farmington Players production of The Full Monty is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Management. The show is definitely R-rated for sexually suggestive content and language.  There are 12 performances from April 29 – May 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Who’s the Boss? Jim Moll Loses More Than Control in The Full Monty

Jim Moll as Harold Nichols (seated left) has some 'splainin to do to his wife Vicki (Pat Rodgers)
PHOTO by Anne Craft
As a retired school principal, Jim Moll is used to being in control and serving as an authority figure.  In the Farmington Players production of The Full Monty, Jim plays Harold Nichols, the former plant executive who can’t quite come to terms with his own unemployment.  While being the boss is a fitting role for Jim, his portrayal of Harold takes him into unchartered waters.  But Jim is not afraid to dive into the deep end when it comes to challenging himself personally.   As Jim explains, “I am playing Harold Nichols, the laid off plant executive who is the oldest member of Hot Metal – fitting as I am the oldest member of the entire cast!  Harold is a devoted husband and, through the course of the play and interactions with the other men, finds a new side of both himself and his relationship with his wife.  I think Harold is well intentioned but misguided in his insecurities about his marriage and himself.  I like that he finds deeper meaning – even if it involves taking his clothes off in front of an audience!” 

The Full Monty is quite a departure from Jim’s previous roles, but as an actor, he thinks “it's important to stretch comfort levels and try challenging things.  I've been onstage quite a bit in ‘dad’ roles and comedic parts that have been great fun, but this one does take me to new experiences both in the obvious ‘revealing’ parts and in the amount of dance that is required.”

The Full Monty is set in Buffalo in the 1990s, in the midst of tough economic times that drive the men to take some pretty desperate measures.  Just like Buffalo, Detroiters have always found ways to persevere when the chips are down.  As Jim observes, “the themes of economic struggle faced both by the characters in the play and an entire city certainly ring true for us living in the greater Detroit area. What audiences will find, I think, is a combination of edginess in the language and topic with some very touching moments and songs.  The play is about relationships when you get beyond the surface – marriages, fatherhood, fulfilling responsibilities as a man – all of which rings true and are relatable.”

A native Detroiter, Jim has lived here all of his life except during college.  He served 40 years in public schools as a teacher, counselor, and administrator, and now consults part time for Oakland Schools.  Jim has been married for 41 years (so far) to his college sweetheart Denise.  In addition to acting in both community and professional theater, Jim is attempting to train for the Detroit marathon in October.  Jim says he is “so grateful to be a member of the Hot Metal 6 and appreciate my castmates support and the bond that has grown directly in relation to the amount of clothes we shed!”

The Farmington Players production of The Full Monty is proudly sponsored by Truvista Wealth Management. The show is definitely R-rated for sexually suggestive content and language.  There are 12 performances from April 29 – May 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Anne Frank Story Hits Close to Home for Two Family Men

Jerry Gass (left) as Mr. Kaler and Dorne Lefere (right) as Otto Frank share close family ties
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
Anne Frank’s story would never have been told were it not for those who survived her.  In the Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank, Dorne Lefere and Jerry Gass play characters based on real people who continued to tell Anne’s story well after World War II:  Dorne portrays Otto Frank (father of Anne and Margot, and husband of Edith), and Jerry plays Mr. Kaler, who is based on the life of Victory Kugler.  It’s hard to imagine how life went on for Otto Frank after the war, but after publishing Anne’s diary in 1947, he eventually remarried a fellow Jewish survivor Fritzi Markovits, in 1953. The couple lived Switzerland until Frank died in 1980.   Victor Kugler was an employee of Otto Frank who helped run his business after he went into hiding.  As shown in the play, Kugler secretly bought supplies and money to the Franks, at great personal risk to himself and his family.  Although Kugler was arrested with those in the Annex, he escaped during a forced march from a concentration camp.  He remarried, moved to Canada -- where he gave talks in schools about Anne Frank -- and died in 1981.

Dorne Lefere can relate to the Anne Frank story because, like Otto, he knows what it’s like to have a close father-daughter relationship.  However, as Dorne says, “that close relationship cuts both ways.  I am constantly reminded that, unlike Otto Frank, I am a man who was able to: raise a daughter and watch her become woman; walk her down the aisle on her wedding day; and hold her own children in my arms and sing them to sleep.”  Dorne connects with Otto by “my being not only the father of a girl, but also now the grandfather of three girls. My oldest granddaughter is only a few years younger than Anne was when she first went into hiding.” 

Jerry Gass is married (to Jan Cartwright) and has “five fabulous kids, plus in-laws, and grandkids,” so he can also appreciate the joys of family and feel the tragedy of the lives cut short. As Jerry says, “I love that the play touches on aspects of family, loyalty, courage, and perseverance.  Visiting the Holocaust Center bonded the cast.  My memory of that day will always be not only what I saw, but who was with me when we saw it.”  Jerry feels strongly that “this play deserves to be embraced by audiences. Director Maureen Mansfield has shown great leadership in encouraging all of us to bring personal experiences into the show, and I believe it will resonate with anyone who sees it, regardless of their personal background or perspective.”   Dorne adds that Anne Frank is still relevant today because of the “parallels to the bigotry and suspicion exhibited by some of our political leaders and general population towards minority religious groups.”

Among his many passions, Jerry includes “my zealous allegiance to Michigan State athletics, Tiger baseball, and Summer-league softball.”  Dorne recently retired as a business owner and lawyer.  However, as he jokes, “I keep my membership in the Michigan Bar active in order to continue to represent my children in traffic matters, which activity constituted the bulk of my practice when they were teenagers.  I still get Christmas cards from several collision shops in the Detroit area.”

The Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. The show has three remaining performances from March 3 – March 5. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Friday, February 19, 2016

If You Don’t Notice Annie Schunior, She’s Played Her Part Well

Annie Schunior as Miep Gies brings news of the outside world to Anne (Amy Cassell)
PHOTO by Brigid Blaschak 
Annie Schunior caught the acting bug when she first got involved in community theater at age 13.  At Churchill High School’s Creative and Performing Arts Program (CAPA), every role she played was “either a villain, self-absorbed diva, or person of very questionable morals,” including her favorite part, the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz.  But it wasn’t until she was cast as Miep Gies in The Diary of Anne Frank at the Farmington Players that she came to the following realization: sometimes the “true hero” of a story is the one who acts selflessly, outside the limelight, without ever getting recognition or attention for her deeds.

Annie didn’t even remember the role of Miep when she’s seen the play staged before, but now she understands how instrumental Miep’s anonymity was to the survival of those in the Annex.  As Annie said, “I think it is very fitting Miep does not have a large role. I think she would have wanted her role to be very small because everything she did, she didn’t do for recognition. She did it to save lives. I can’t even imagine the pressure she must have been under trying to save the lives of eight others, all the while keeping it a secret for her own life and the life of her husband. I think that is a true hero -- someone who puts others before themselves when it seems hardest. If it weren’t for Miep, we wouldn’t have Anne’s diary (as the Nazis later raided the Secret Annex, but not before Miep stashed away the diary to give to Anne after the War). We wouldn’t have this play. We wouldn’t have this huge insight into the lives of Jews in hiding.”

Annie was 13 – the same age as Anne Frank – when she first ready The Diary of Anne Frank.  She immediately felt connected to the WWII era story from “listening to my grandpa tell bits and pieces from his times in the Navy and his own personal experience with the Normandy invasion.”  Even though WWII ended over 70 years ago, Annie thinks “people will be able to recognize our own modern world in Anne Frank’s 1940s Amsterdam. This was a travesty that should never have happened. And yet similar travesties are happening around the world today. I think it can show how much we still have to learn and yet in the midst of turmoil, hope and the human spirit are stronger than we give them credit for. We will all go through tough times in our lives, but Anne gives such a beautiful and innocent example of being a light in dark times.”   During college, Annie studied in Austria for four months, an experience that was “life changing for me. I traveled to see some of WWII’s historical landmarks firsthand like Auschwitz in Poland, Vienna, the Eagle’s Nest, Salzburg and Munich, and parts of England, Italy and France.”

Although this show portrays tragic events, Annie says, “I feel very grateful for Miep and the rest of the staff’s sacrifice because it led us to this story, it led me to this show, and this show has helped me realize the need for people like Miep, the need for sacrifice and being there for others, stranger or not, no matter the cost.”

The Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. The show includes 12 performances from February 12 – March 5. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Connor Green Taps His Inner Boy to Find the Joy in Anne Frank

Connor Green as Peter Van Daan and Amy Cassell as Anne Frank share a tender moment
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
The Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank opens Friday February 12, with three shows over Valentine’s weekend.  While everyone knows how the story ends, 19 year-old Connor Green of Farmington prefers instead to focus on the positive aspects of the play. As he says, “even under the threat of death and persecution, life as well as love can and will find a way to overcome any adversity.”   Connor plays Peter Van Daan, the adolescent son of Hermann and Petronella Van Daan, played enthusiastically by Gary Weinstein and Nancy Cooper, respectively. Connor thinks this family dynamic will resonate with audiences.  As he says, The Diary of Anne Frank is “a story about how unique and intricate families can be, how even when things are at their worst a silver lining can be found and joy can be had. There are even some simple things like how men and women really never will understand each other, so why don’t we just agree to disagree? And as long as you have family and people who love and care about you, nothing can get you down!”

Connor sees Peter as a complex and “incredibly interesting character, a boy making the transition to manhood (which is by itself a very complex and difficult time) thrust into hiding by forces who want him dead for what he believes in. Combine that with having almost no escape from his overbearing mother and paranoid jerk of a dad, as well as the mixed bag of the Frank family, and you have a character constantly being pulled in different directions, while not compromising who he is and the person he will become.”  To play Peter convincingly, Connor strives to find “that boyish sense of curiosity; that wonder of what the future holds and how the world is yours for the taking” while never forgetting that Peter was “a real person with interests, dreams, and a unique and beautiful identity who had his life stolen by the Nazis.”

Connor wanted to make his Barn debut in The Diary of Anne Frank because he considers the Barn “an amazing place where people from all around can come together to portray amazing stories and powerful messages.”  Despite his youthful exuberance, Connor also connects with the darker themes of the play, saying, “I mostly relate to the theme of isolation. Throughout my life I can recount many, many times where I felt completely and utterly alone with no escape. Like Peter and the rest of the Annex members, life can feel difficult to impossible if there is no escape from the same mundane life, no sentiment from the outside world, to feel utterly alone in this world can be the most horrendous feeling.”

In addition to theater, Connor loves to camp, hike, fish, bike, and play all kinds of adventure sports: “If it’s in the great outdoors don’t be surprised to find me there!” He is currently a student at Oakland Community College. 

The Farmington Players production of The Diary of Anne Frank is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. The show includes 12 performances from February 12 – March 5. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


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