Our Upcoming 2014-2015 Season:

Our Upcoming 2014-2015 Season:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Making Miracles is a Family Affair for Maggie Gilkes

Maggie Gilkes (center) keeping the peace as mother Clara,
in between daughters Ruth (Katie Bigwood, left) and Beverly (Kristi Schwartz, right)
As Sheryl Crow sang, “Making miracles is hard work. Most people give up before they happen.”  Miracle on South Division Street is about a hard-working family that makes the most of its own miracle.  The Nowak family legend began when Grandpa witnessed a holy vision right in his barbershop, which inspired a commemorative shrine on his property that gave the family its identity. In the Farmington Players production of Miracle, Maggie Gilkes plays the kind-hearted family matriarch Clara Nowak, who runs a neighborhood soup kitchen and offers “healing soup” prepared on “holy ground.”  But when the family gathers to discuss daughter Ruth’s plans to write a play about that family miracle, a deathbed confession shakes their faith to its core.

Playing a mother is familiar territory to Maggie:  In addition to playing Mother Superior, a nun and widow in Doubt at SRO in 2009, Maggie says that her real life experience as a mom should make Clara “a natural part for me. I have two daughters and five grandchildren. This means being true and honest to the part you are playing.”  Adding to the realism, Maggie’s own daughter Katie Bigwood plays Clara’s daughter Ruth in the play! 

This happy accident came together rather fortuitously.  As Maggie, says, “As for a mother/daughter playing together, I had never thought in a million years that this would happen. Katie came to read with me at an early audition because I was in a show when the open auditions were being held. It was very comfortable at auditions having Katie on stage with me. On the way home we were talking in the car about how good it felt, how natural it felt, and how it had given Katie the ‘bug’ to be on stage.”  Director Sue Rogers also saw how natural mom and daughter were together on stage, and was glad to cast them together. 

Maggie has high regard for Sue’s directorial abilities, saying, “Having Sue as a director is proving to be a wonderful experience. She knows what she wants and is very articulate in her actions. Very knowledgeable, with a clear vision of the show.”   Maggie believes that “this show will warm everyone's heart, they will see people they know as far back as their own childhood.”  In addition to Katie as daughter Ruth, Maggie’s stage “family” includes Kristi Schwartz as daughter Beverly and Michael Soave as son Jimmy.  Like any family, they quarrel and kibitz and interrupt one another constantly, but the underlying love is always apparent.  As Maggie says, “This play is a true life drama/comedy. It is the everyday life of a close-knit family.  I can relate to this in that I am one of six kids, and yes, we still all get together and we all get along very well. Even to the point of traveling together.”

Maggie’s husband of 41 years (Dave) and family are long time residents in the Farmington area.  She recently retired after working the past 12 years as a dealer at Greektown Casino, and she now fills her time with grandkids, building the sets at Two Muses Theatre and set dressing at the Barn. 

The Farmington Players' production of Miracle on South Division Street opens February 13 and runs through February 28.  The show is proudly sponsored by Varsity Automotive Group. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Keith Firstenberg Plays Role of a Lifetime as Leading Lady Leo / Maxine

Keith Firstenberg as Leo Clark (right) implores Lance Alan as Jack Gable to embrace the "role of a lifetime."
As the Beatles sang in I Am A Walrus, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”  Keith Firstenberg can certainly relate to this lyric when it comes to playing multiple identities in the Farmington Players’ production of Leading Ladies.  Only in Keith’s case, some of the “He”s are “She”s!  Keith’s primary role is Leo Clark, an amateurish professional Shakespearean actor who just can't seem to catch a break … until he decides to dress as a woman to steal an inheritance!

Keith describes the challenge of playing multiple roles:  “It's hard to keep track of where the actor stops and the character they are playing begins.  At one point in the show I am playing a role (Leo) who is portraying an affect (Maxine) who has taken on a character from Shakespeare (Olivia).  And how good is Leo at playing Maxine?  Can Leo do a good job convincing everyone that he is Maxine, and then show how Maxine would play Olivia, as opposed to how Leo himself would do it?  And then I take a step back and realize that I have to bring all three characters across and show how the first two are struggling with the character they are portraying.  I can't just figure out how I should present Maxine, because I have to play Leo portraying Maxine.  And I have to do all this in only a few words; It gets a bit heady.  But then it's the challenges that we enjoy, isn't it?”

As Leo says, “It’s the role of a lifetime!” and Keith certainly rises to the challenge, constantly switching back and forth between Leo and Maxine, sometimes in the same scene.  Keith was familiar with Leading Ladies and said he wanted to be in the show because “I just like farce; it suits my sense of humor. It's funny. Plain and simple.  Ken Ludwig makes it easy to understand your character's motivations; the fun part is working out the timing.”  Speaking of timing, Keith’s constant costume changes require synchronized movements and the assistance of a personal offstage dresser – in Keith’s case, his lovely wife Jayne.  I asked Keith if he had ever done anything silly to impress his wife, and he answered, “I thought just doing theatre was impressive enough to win me my love; turns out I just had to go dancing.”   As it turns out, Keith is an excellent dancer and he even choreographed the dance sequences between Leo and Meg in our show.

Theatre is Keith’s main hobby and he's been doing it for as long as he can remember.  He grew up just north of New York City and has lived in Minnesota and Traverse City, before moving to the Detroit Metro area in 2012. He currently works for the Federal Mogul division that makes Champion Spark Plugs.

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies has three more performances, December 18 – 20.  The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel Group. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

If You Don’t Know Jack, Let Lance Alan Introduce You

Lance Alan as Jack Gable, questioning the far-fetched schemes of Leo Clark (Keith Firstenberg)
Lance Alan is a man of many talents.  While this is his first time on the Barn stage, he has appeared in Metro Detroit theaters for the past 16 years. He is also an accomplished playwright and director.  I first met Lance last year when we performed together in his two-man, one-act play called The Wager.  I was struck by his creative vision, drive and energy, and how he embodied his character (Lucifer) so completely on stage that at times I thought he was possessed.  Much of Lance’s writing is dark and surreal, so I was pleasantly surprised to see him audition for Leading Ladies, a light-hearted farce, where I cast him in the role of Jack Gable. Jack also doubles as Stephanie – and Olivia in the Shakespeare scenes.

As Lance says, “This play and this role, it's a departure from the kind of thing to which I'm usually drawn. I've performed in my fair share of comedies but nothing this farcical. I've never performed as a man pretending to be a woman, so there's an appeal to that, to try something new, to challenge myself as a performer. And it's a lot of fun. And people have been telling me for years that I need to perform at The Barn. It really is a beautiful facility. I'm glad to finally have the opportunity.”

Lance has some great insights into his character Jack, who starts out as Leo’s sidekick but eventually learns to stand on his own two feet – which is harder than it looks in high heels!   Lance describes Jack as “a lost soul. He's a struggling actor, playing roles, second fiddle to Leo, without a real identity of his own. He lacks the talent or the confidence to be a successful actor but he presses on with Leo because he doesn't have any other options. What he really wants is a place to call his own, to be able to look down and see his feet on the ground and know where he's standing -- to know who he is. That's the dream that keeps him going. Stephanie is the most important role he's ever played because, through her, he gains the confidence to be himself, to get what he wants, to get the girl in the end and finally establish his identity.”  

I asked Lance if he had ever done something in the pursuit of love (a common theme in Leading Ladies).  He replied: “I grew up in Bad Axe, smack dab in the thumb of Michigan. It's entirely possible that I would still be there had I not met and fallen for a young lady who was also from the area but was going to college in Detroit. When she went back to school, I did what any rationally smitten young man would do. I chased her down here. Eventually, I lost the girl but, by moving to the Detroit area, I gained so much more. So while that was hardly a situation where I did something silly, it definitely was a life-changing situation motivated by what I perceived as love.”

In addition to performing in and writing plays, Lance has been a musician, worked in radio, acted in commercials, and done voice over work. He recently performed in Collabfeature's Train Station, to be released in 2015. He lives in West Bloomfield where he enjoys running his own dog walking/petsitting business.

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies runs through December 20.  The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel Group. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Emilie Tole Dares to Dream as Big as Meg

While Meg (Emilie Tole) may believe that "Maxine" (Keith Firstenberg) is a woman, she's not as gullible as she seems
While Leading Ladies describes two men who pose as women to steal an inheritance, the true leading lady in the play is the character of Meg Snider, portrayed by Emilie Tole in the Farmington Players’ production.  Author Ken Ludwig describes Meg as follows:  “Our play is all about Meg, really….  She knows there’s a big world outside York, PA, but she hasn’t seen much of it yet.  She harbors a world of dreams, and sleeps on them every night.  They keep her alive, but she doesn’t know it.” 

Emilie describes Meg as follows: “I like that she is poised and ladylike, but still so girlish in the way she dreams. I've become so cynical and to play a character who finds so much joy and truly believes the best of people, even against her better judgment, is quite refreshing. I don't think she puts on rose-colored glasses; she's more sincere than that. She sees the beauty in even the strangest of situations, and doesn't give up hope. I'm learning a lot from Meg.”

Of all the characters, Meg grows the most, transforming herself from an obedient girl into a self-assured woman during the course of the show.  As Emilie says, “The parts I love about Meg are the same parts that I have found difficult to portray. I'm not as optimistic as Meg, so it's been a challenge to play her truthfully and not sarcastically. But I also like making her strong. She goes from being a bit insecure to standing up to her fiancé. That challenging character progression has perhaps been the highlight of this experience for me.”  Emilie says that she can relate to Meg because “I know what it's like to have something turn out so differently than you expected. Meg gets her bubble burst a few times in the show. It hurts when someone or some unstoppable force bursts your dream bubble. But like Meg, I have taken those truths and learned from them. You can decide to either let it destroy you, or to let it strengthen you. I like to think that Meg and I both have been resilient.”

A newcomer to the Barn stage, Emilie had just moved to Farmington from near Kalamazoo when she heard about Leading Ladies auditions.  As she says, “I was heavily involved in my hometown theatre and was nervous to not have that connection anymore. I needed to find another theatre and quickly! I read the play and loved it. I've never done a farce before so it's been fun to try something new and stretch myself as an actor a bit.”  Emilie has natural comedic timing and her physical humor and facial expressions (especially when Meg is flustered) may remind Barn patrons of classic comediennes like Carol Burnett or Lucille Ball. 

Emilie studied musical theatre performance at Columbia College Chicago and performed with the Three Rivers Community Players. Some of her theatre credits include The Music Man, Quilters, The Robber Bridegroom, Honk!, Guys and Dolls, and Anne of Green Gables.

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies runs through December 20.  The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel Group. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jim Snideman is Suitably Snide as Doc Myers

Jim Snideman (Doc) shares a laugh with his son (Dan Tarjeft as Butch) at Reverend Wooley's expense
Without a doubt, Jim Snideman is a “character” and he admits that he is “usually drawn to character roles.”  Barn patrons will definitely remember Jim’s portrayal of Trekkie Monster in Avenue Q, and Ickes and Wacky (among other roles) in Annie.   So when he was cast as Doc Myers, the cantankerous country doctor in Leading Ladies, Jim thought it would be a nice change of pace, “since I am playing Doc essentially as myself. I am becoming more of a curmudgeon, as time goes by.”

In this show, Doc wears multiple hats.  He constantly spars with Reverend Duncan Wooley (played by Mike Gingerella) and threatens to strangle his own patient, Florence Snider (Ellen Doman).   He also doubles as the Chief Moose of the Shrewsbury Moose Lodge and plays Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, the play-within-the-play.  Doc freely imparts life wisdom to his son Butch (Dan Tarjeft) and dances the tango with “Stephanie” (Lance Alan).   As Jim says, “While Doc doesn't have the most lines, those he does have, are, well … rollicking!"

Jim wanted to be in Leading Ladies because he was “hooked by the humor in the script.”   Like author Ken Ludwig's other plays (Crazy For You, Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo), Jim thinks that "Leading Ladies is chock full o’ fast paced, wacky moments.  Not to mention, a wacky cast, crew and a downright dandy set.”

One of the themes of Leading Ladies is love at first sight. I asked Jim if he could relate this to his own experience, and he replied, “In fifth grade, I bought a large, stuffed animal and covertly placed it in the front door of a crush.  Alas, no puppy love was requited.” Jim’s philosophy on life is simply this: “Life is short.  Enjoy it, while you can.”  His credo is embodied in his favorite line from the script – said to Reverend Wooley: "It's called living Duncan.  Sex.  Living.  Humor.  Have you heard of these things?"

When not onstage or helping backstage (“I have spent many hours painting, dressing and tweaking the set for Leading Ladies”), Jim has been a lifelong modeler/tinkerer and enjoys collecting and building scale automobiles.  He also admits to watching, reading, and creating sci-fi “to nerd/geek levels” and even speaks Klingon!   He was an extra in a local sci-fi series, "InZer0", in 2006 and later served as the Art Director, Prop Master and Fabricator, and Set Dresser, for the production.

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies
 opened November 28 and runs through December 20.  The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel Group. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lovely Sarah Lovy is Adorable as Audrey in Leading Ladies

Sarah Lovy as Audrey is No Dumb Blonde
Ken Ludwig’s play Leading Ladies is set in Pennsylvania Dutch country in 1952.  It was a more innocent time and people were willing to believe the world as presented to them in the movies, theater and TV.  Of all the characters, Audrey, a 20 year-old blonde bombshell, best represents that blend of innocence and naïveté, but she turns out to be much more than the stereotypical “dumb blonde.”   In the Farmington Players production, Sarah Lovy plays Audrey with wit, charm and intelligence, bringing a depth and maturity to her character beyond her years.

Sarah says, “I love playing Audrey! She’s a little like me in the sense that she likes to try out new big words and is always open for learning. What I love about Ken Ludwig characters is that a lot of them don’t fit into a standard character archetype (ex; the brains, the muscle, the beauty).  Sometimes the pretty one is the klutzy one, or the smart one does something outlandishly stupid to achieve something. They’re human, and these silly high stakes are real and important to them.  With Ken Ludwig shows, you’re always in for fun farce!”

Audrey’s character has even been the subject of a master’s thesis!  In Beyond Blonde: Creating a Non-Stereotypical Audrey in Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies (2009), Christine M. Young described Audrey as follows:  “For Audrey in Leading Ladies, understanding the dumb bombshell stereotype allowed for a mix of two stereotypes: the bombshell and the girl-next-door, and the opportunity to develop a nuanced performance. Mixing the two created an interpretation of Audrey that refrained from overt sexuality, allowing Audrey and Jack to fall in love based on story line and personal traits instead of proximity and superficiality.  Her mistakes are made out of innocence instead of unintelligence. This also made her jokes funnier; instead of laughing at a stereotypical dumb blonde, the audience was engaged with an innocent, slightly wacky character who made endearing mistakes.”

In the play, Audrey makes an immediate connection with Jack when she collides with him on rollerskates.  I asked Sarah if she had ever experienced love at first sight like Audrey.  Sarah answered, “Of course I’ve experienced love at first sight, I’m 20!  Every love is a big deal to me right now. I think something foolish I do for love is try to make myself into a totally different person so they will love me back, and I’m slowly learning – very slowly – that me is enough. That’s kinda what I like about my character. Herself is enough.”   Audiences are sure to find Sarah’s adorable portrayal of Audrey to be way more than “enough.” She steals several scenes, including playing Shakespeare with a Marlon Brando accent!

Sarah hails from West Bloomfield, and moved to Berkley last year.  She works for the Murder Mystery Company performing murder mystery dinners.  She’s also a part of the digital series Wicked City Girls.  By day, she works at Panera Bread and “sings Paul Simon SUPER LOUD when I’m in the back.”   Sarah has really enjoyed her first show at the Farmington Players, saying, “This cast and crew and director is so much fun to be around and they could not have been more welcoming! I come for the theater and stay for the people. They are what make the process relaxing and fun!

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies opens November 28 and runs through December 20.  The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel Group. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dan Tarjeft Plays from His Heart as Lovelorn Butch

Dan Tarjeft (right) as "Butch" is yukking it up with his stage dad "Doc" (Jim Snideman)
“Follow your heart.”  In the Farmington Players’ production of Leading Ladies, Maxine gives Meg this advice, assuring her that it is always the best path to happiness.  Dan Tarjeft, who plays our Butch Meyers, connects with this theme in the play, saying, “I can relate to following your heart (wherever that leads), appreciating the arts, and bantering with family.”  In Dan’s case, it is his love of theater that has brought him to the Barn stage for the first time.  Dan is confident that audiences will love this show because “everyone loves to laugh! This particular production of Leading Ladies has many side-busting moments on top of an already hilarious script.”

Dan describes his character Butch as “a bit of a simpleton who tends to take everything a little too extremely. I most enjoy playing with his enthusiasm, and the most challenging part about the role is the dancing. I'm inexperienced as a dancer, and learning to dance well enough to be good at dancing poorly is an interesting challenge.”  Butch’s love interest is Audrey (played by Sarah Lovy), but Butch’s father Doc Meyers (Jim Snideman) encourages him to marry for money, not for love.  Although Dan can commiserate with the lovelorn Butch, he admits, “I've never done much of anything specifically to impress a girl. I'm not very conscious of those sorts of things.”

While Leading Ladies focuses on romantic love, Dan thinks it is also about "the bonds of friendship."  Butch and Doc share some nice father-son moments in this show, and Butch confides to Meg, his best friend, about his feelings for Audrey. Dan himself is good friends with cast member Lance Alan (Jack Gable), and he says he’s had “a lot of fun working on the production; everyone I've worked with is excellent, without exception. Leading Ladies is terrifically cast! I can't help but picture the actors that play the parts when I read the script.”

Dan grew up in Trenton, MI, and is a Computer Science student at Wayne State.  Most of Dan’s recent theater experience is with the Rosedale Community Players, including roles in Picasso, Deathtrap, Superior Donuts, Leaving Iowa and in various one-act plays as part of the RCP One-Act Festival. 

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies opens November 28 and runs through December 20.  The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel Group. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955.