Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Monday, November 28, 2016

No More Miss Nice Girl: Maryanna Lauter Gets Mean In “Christmas Pageant”

Maryanna Lauter is no angel as Alice Wendleken in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

By her own recollection, Maryanna Lauter “practically grew up here at the Barn,” and has always played the “quiet and nice young girl” in such roles as a 5 year-old in A Wonderful Life, Olive in Spelling Bee, Velda in The Amish Project, and the title role in Annie.  Maryanna’s natural sweetness made her a great fit for those good-girl roles, and while she relishes those past experiences, now she’s singing a different tune:  No more miss nice girl! 

In the Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Maryanna plays Alice Wendleken, who she describes as “a stuck up, know-it-all who loves to be in the spotlight. I love getting to be the mean girl for once. Alice is self-absorbed, self-righteous and thinks she's the perfect Christian girl, but in truth, she is nasty and inconsiderate.”   Alice looks down on the Herdman children, who are newcomers to church and first-timers in the annual Christmas pageant.  So how did Maryanna learn how to get so mean?  “I prepared for my role by basing Alice off of real people I've come across in life as much as possible, and even trying to mirror mean girls I see in TV shows and movies.” 

Besides the fun challenge of playing her opposite, Maryanna wanted to be in Christmas Pageant because her mother Amy “was in this show when she was around my age. She played Gladys and I've always heard her saying it was one of her favorite shows she'd ever been in and I thought that I could pay homage to her by doing this show!”  Maryanna also credits director Terie Spencer for inspiring her to do her best work as an actor:  “Every show I've done with her has always been so memorable. I've grown not only as an actor, but as a person whenever she directs me in a show.”  Plus, it is especially fun to do a show with other kids from Warner Middle School (where she is in 8th grade), including Madi LaJoice, Hannah Weinraub, Michael Soverinsky and Ben Rakolta.

Beyond the fun and frivolity, Maryanna thinks audiences will enjoy this show because “not only is it a hilarious play for people of all ages, it has such a beautiful meaning that no matter how old you are, what your religion is, or what your past is, you can change for the better.”  In preparing for this role, Maryanna drew on some of her own earliest memories at church:  “I had heard the Christmas story countless times when I was younger. I went to Vacation Bible School every summer from ages 5-8. I remember hearing about God and Jesus and the Bible but never truly understood what those meant. … Flash forward to when I was 10 years old and I had to go with my dad because he had an organ gig at a church in Royal Oak. I didn't plan on really listening to the service but I did. I experienced a feeling I'd never felt before. It was the first time in a long time I had felt happy, as I was having a rough couple of years.  I wanted to cry because I felt so close with the Lord and I finally realized I had someone and something to turn to in times of hopelessness, anxiety and sadness.”  

Maryanna equates her own revelation with the children’s realization of the true meaning of Christmas in the play.  As she says, “I think that's what happens to the Herdmans, especially Imogene in our show. I'm lucky enough that something like that happened to me pretty early in life. On the other hand, I also relate to the church kids in our show from that story. They are raised hearing all about the Christian faith and what it means but probably don't get to experience the true meaning of religion until later in life, but like I said before, I was lucky enough to learn the true meaning at a young age.” Maryanna shows a level of maturity well beyond her 13 years, and to develop such a depth of understanding at her young age is no mean feat!

The Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is proudly sponsored by The Life Chest. The 12 performances run from December 2 - 18, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pastor Drex Morton Plays Baffled Reverend in “Christmas Pageant”

Bringing Order to Chaos:  Rehearsal for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Sometimes actors complain of being type cast, but in the case of Drex Morton, he considers it a compliment. In the Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Drex plays Reverend Hopkins, and as he says, “I am a pastor, so playing the part of a ‘baffled’ one is certainly fun.”  Drex has been a pastor for 30 years, so the role must come naturally to him.  He and his wife Mary reside in Canton and he currently serves a church in Bridgewater, Michigan.

Even though Christmas Pageant is a holiday play, its message is nondenominational.  Director Terie Spencer says, “I hope audiences will see the connection we all have as people regardless of religious belief.  It's been a wonderful experience finding common ground as we prepare to present this charming story.”   Drex says, “I wanted to receive direction from Terie once again, because she is an excellent director and mentor for actors of all ages.”

Christmas Pageant truly has something for everyone, and while the play doesn’t attempt to convert anyone, it may transform you!   Drex knows that “audiences will love the mix of comedy and nostalgia, the talented children, and the introduction of a universal truth, as Terie stated it, that all the characters grow through the challenges presented.   Also, the kindnesses expressed toward those who are considered outcasts in the play within the play will bring out the very best in them, inspire generosity, and transform all who are involved, including the audience.”  

Like Reverend Holmes, Pastor Morton has a passion for helping folks.  In Drex’s case, he especially seeks to help those who are bereaved, and officiates about three funerals weekly.  In his few spare moments, he enjoys distance running, community theater, and choral singing.

The Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is proudly sponsored by The Life Chest. The 12 performances run from December 2 - 18, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Brotherly Love: Rakolta Brothers Play Herdman Boys in "Christmas Pageant"

L to R—Saskia Koenig as Imogene Herdman, Suzi Collins-Duprey as Mother, and Ben Rakolta as Ralph Herdman.
Mother fails to maintain even a bit of decorum as the Herdmans take over the pageant rehearsal.
PHOTO by Jim Kelly
In this hilarious Christmas classic, a couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids, six loveable delinquent children (Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie, and Gladys) who are probably the most inventively awful kids in history. (In fact, this play was titled "The Worst Kids in the World" in Australia, New Zealand and England.)  The Herdmans collide head on with the Christmas story, but their nonconventional telling unexpectedly sheds light on the true meaning of the holiday.

In the Farmington Players production, two of the Herdman boys are played by real-life brothers Benjamin and Nathan Rakolta.   Benjamin describes his character Ralph as “tough, yet cool. I like the role of Ralph because we share few personality similarities and it is fun to act in ways that are opposite of my usual self.”  His younger brother Nathan describes his character Claude as “combative and he asks a lot of questions. He is a tough kid. What I enjoy the most is the physical funny actions of my character. They are fun. I find playing a mean character challenging because I am not mean.” Like the Herdmans, the Rakoltas have a large family, which helped the boys prepare for their roles.  Benjamin and Nathan already have a lot of stage presence from dancing on stage with the Earth Angels, a 1950s and 60s dance entertainment group.

The brothers have a lot of friends in the cast, which is a real family affair that includes other siblings and several parents acting along side their own children.  Benjamin liked the script and he was looking for a play that was not a musical.  He thinks the Barn is “a perfect place for me to have my first acting experience.”  Similarly, Nathan wanted to be in this show because “I like to be on stage and acting is something I wanted to try. I also wanted to find out how productions were made, especially behind the scenes. When I grow up, I want to be a writer and producer.”

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a funny and energetic play with a lot of heart.  Benjamin thinks audiences will connect with the story because it shows that first impressions are not always right.  As he said, “the Herdmans were judged as the worst family in the community, yet their addition created possibly the best show yet. Their donation of the ham showed that they really did care and they are not as bad as they are perceived.”   For his part, Nathan thinks that the play reinforces “the true meaning of Christmas – to be kind and to give to others.” But he also observes that “there is a lot of chaos in the show and I can relate to that because there is chaos at school, especially when kids fight in class.”  But there’s no fighting among this cast.  As Nathan said, “The cast is friendly and everyone is nice to me and each other. The director [Terie Spencer] is helpful because she tells me what to work on and helps me with my acting.”

Benjamin is an 8th grader and Nathan is a 6th grader at Warner Middle School. Both boys are members of the Forensics team. They are entering their fourth year of performing with The Earth Angels. When not on stage, Benjamin enjoys robotics, Legos, reading, bike riding, and hanging out with his friends. Nathan loves to swim, play Pok√©mon, read DC comics, practice his percussion instruments, and be imaginative. 

The Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is proudly sponsored by The Life Chest. The 12 performances run from December 2 - 18, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Just What the Doctor Ordered: Kandi Krumins Embraces Her Role as Dr. Howard

Kandi Krumins kills it as the doctor in red, in The Vast Difference.  With Kyle Bushre as George.
The Vast Difference challenges sexual stereotypes in a comedic look at the chasm between men and women.  Jeff Daniels’ quirky comedy was written in 1993, when male flight attendants and female doctors were an anomaly.   And though acceptance of women in different professional roles has improved, sexism still prevails in many areas of life.  In the Farmington Players’ production of The Vast Difference – three shows left, October 13-15 – Kandi Krumins plays Dr. Hala Howard, a urologist.   Kandi can definitely relate to “being a well-educated, professional woman and sometimes not having been taken seriously… particularly with a name like ‘Kandi’.  It’s changed some over the last 20 years, but some of that sexist attitude still lingers. Life has prepared me for dealing with this role.” 

Kandi’s describes her character, Dr. Howard, as “a urologist with a dry sense of humor.”  She interacts mainly with George Noonan (played by Kyle Bushre), who is terrified to get the vasectomy she would perform for him.  While Kandi usually portrays the doctor with a no-nonsense approach, she explains how she gets to have fun with the role:  “Because the play takes place in George’s mind, there are times when Hala gets to show a different side to her, so I get to change her character up several times in the show, based on George’s imagination. That is fun!  One of the biggest challenges of this role is staying serious when I must. I often want to laugh at the others on stage … even now.” 

Kandi’s character change is the most striking during a fantasy scene when George imagines he is dancing with Hala, as Kandi’s red dress is in stark contrast to her white doctor’s uniform.  Kandi’s graceful performance, both as dancer and doctor, makes it look so easy that audiences would never know that she only had a dozen days to prepare for the role of Hala.   As a late fill-in for an actor who had to drop out of the show, Kandi stepped up to the challenge with her usual enthusiasm: “Instead of feeling ‘stressed’ over the time crunch I had in order to learn lines for this show, this fun show was something I needed right now in my life… for me.  99% of my lines are with Kyle (George) who is not only a wonderful person, but an amazing actor with great sense of comedic timing. I’ve learned a lot from him.  The rest of the cast, and I mean every one of them, have been a joy to work with. Being around a cast like this makes me want to ‘step up my game’.”   Kandi has definitely embraced the challenge and knows that audiences have loved the show because “it’s funny, but also has serious heartfelt moments. It is well executed.”

Kandi grew up in Dearborn, the youngest of six children.  She taught public middle school most of her life, then in 2010 left the profession to homeschool her children and write a musical.  She calls this decision “one of my better choices in life.” 

The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 3 remaining performances are October 13, 14 and 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Charlie Gass Goes Way Above the Norm in the Vast Difference

Charlie Gass (upper left) is having a blast playing multiple roles in this Jeff Daniels comedy



























Charlie Gass is having a blast.  His appointed role in Jeff Daniels’ comedy, The Vast Difference, is the generically titled “Various Male #4.” Yet Charlie imbues every one of his male personas with his own personal touch, “trying to add wrinkles to each character to differentiate them from one another.”   Charlie knows that Farmington Players audiences will enjoy the show as much as he is because, “it breaks most common conventions in theatre. The story has many layers and you really don’t know where it’s going next. In addition to the show being very funny, the convolutions of the show will leave audiences contemplating gender “Norms” (ironically the name of two of my characters).”  Specifically, Charlie’s “Norms” are Norm, a George Costanza-type guy at a men’s support group, and Detroit Tiger legend Norm Cash.  In addition, Charlie plays: Dave, a workout guy at the gym; Douglas, an old-timer in a barbershop; and an unnamed bleacher bum (picture the guy who always tries to start the Wave at the ballpark).

In each of these stereotypical male roles, Charlie interacts with the main character George, who “uses a vasectomy as a metaphor for his insecurity about his manhood. I don’t think this internal struggle has changed much at all in the last 20 years.”  As Charlie observes, “men are constantly heckled with condescending statements like ‘your man card should be revoked’, or ‘man up,’ which implies that certain behaviors or perceived mental and physical strengths should inherently apply to men.”  If so, where do we draw the line?  What makes a man a “real man”?

Charlie jumped at the opportunity to be in a show at the Barn, his third including Annie and The Full Monty, saying, “I’ve stated to the rest of the cast my strong feelings about the organization several times. For this show I have to credit director Dave Reinke for selling the show to all of us during The Full Monty. He sent me the script and I was immediately intrigued by all of the possibilities it presented. I also have to credit my dad, Jerry Gass for encouraging me to come out and audition. I was thrilled when Dave told me I could be in the show.”

Charlie is a Farmington Hills native and attended and played football at Harrison High School. Now 30, when he was 23, he taught English in Korea for a year. He has a Finance degree from Michigan State and now works in Data Analytics at Meridian Health Plan.  Charlie’s interests include playing and follow sports – especially college football, college basketball, and the Tigers.

Charlie had nothing but praise for every one his fellow cast mates,: “Sa’ku Floyd is the nicest person you will ever meet. He’s completely professional and puts tremendous effort into every detail of his characters. … Rob Wise is completely fearless on stage and will inevitably make you laugh. The guy can find humor in anything. … Armand Banooni brings a very special rhythm to the show that’s very hard to put into words. … Kristi Schwartz is seriously the sweetest girl on planet earth. She never shows anyone up, always has the time of day, and has a great sense of humor. … Kandi Krumins is making everybody else look bad by mastering her role in just two short weeks. It was such a boost the day she joined the cast, you could immediately see everybody’s energy level rise. … Gary Weinstein is another guy whose sheer presence raises the quality of a show. He performs at a 10 EVERY rehearsal, inspiring everyone else to do the same. … Kyle Bushre is on stage for 99% of the show. So much of his character is created by him. Every movement, stutter, and voice inflection is carefully crafted. I can’t imagine the character of George Noonan any other way.” 


The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Kristi Schwartz Sparkles as Lovely Rita in The Vast Difference


Kristi Schwartz plays nagging yet supportive wife Rita Noonan.
(Pictured here with fellow 
Torchbearer award winner Barry Cutler.)  
Jeff Daniels’ 1993 comedy, The Vast Difference, is all about relationships:  fathers and sons; husbands and wives; men and women.  While protagonist George Noonan’s primary relationship is with his father Earl, George has a lot of key female figures in his life.  George has five daughters, a female doctor, and most important, a loving – if sometimes nagging – wife, Rita.  Kristi Schwartz plays Rita in the Farmington Players production of Vast, which opens this Friday September 23 at the Barn.

Kristi jokingly describes Rita as the “mother of five girls and one boy (George!).  She is trying to be patient with George during this conflicting time, but she is also sick of being patient herself.  She has been pregnant five times and it is time for him to go through a little pain!”  Rita asks George to undergo a vasectomy, saying, "Honey, all I'm asking you to do is meet me halfway."  Kristi’s biggest challenge in playing Rita is to “make sure that I am not just nagging the whole show.  I want to be able to show her compassion, her laughter, her anger, her craziness, her jealousy, her need for affection, etc.”

Kristi knows audiences will enjoy this show because everyone will be able to relate to someone: “There are many eccentric characters in this play, so everyone will find some connection.  It is also about vulnerabilities, which we all face on a daily basis.”  Kristi uses her own vulnerability by connecting with the show’s theme of loss, saying, “I lost my own father to cancer when he was only 57 back in 2002. This devastating loss leaves an impression on you.  Earl's final speech always strikes a chord in me.  When he talks about how it is harder to picture his face as time goes on and when he says something about forgetting more than you remember, this speaks to me every single time.  I find myself forgetting how my dad's own voice sounds and I feel guilty if I can't recreate an accurate picture in my mind.  This play reminds me to cling on to those good memories because the rest, ‘It ain't all worth rememberin!’” 

Kristi has always been drawn to Jeff Daniels' comedies, having served as co-producer and Wolf Moon Dance in the Barn's Escanaba show in 2007.  While every show is special, Kristi thinks the Vast cast is “amazing ... they make me laugh and I get ‘shushed’ all the time because I can't control myself backstage!  The directors and production team are all so supportive and make the stage a safe place to try new things and come out of our comfort zones.  I appreciate all of their coaching and support!”  Kristi recently received the Barn’s Torchbearer award for her longtime service, and she lists her “loves” as theater, RV-ing with her family, music, dance, and (of course) her husband, Keith, and three children (Colin, Allie, and Drew).


The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kyle Bushre Draws on Own Father-Son Bond to Play George Noonan

"Nervous?  Who me?" Kyle Bushre (left) as George Noonan with Sa'Ku Floyd
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
The Vast Difference opens with protagonist George Noonan strapped to a gurney, about to undergo a vasectomy.  Most of the play’s action takes place in George’s mind while he’s under anesthesia, which explains some of the bizarre imagery and absurd humor in the show.  But ultimately, this quirky comedy by Jeff Daniels is a touching tribute to fathers and sons, and how that bond shapes so many of our life choices.

In the Farmington Players production, Kyle Bushre plays George, who he describes as “a guy struggling to grab hold of the kind of manliness he saw in his father and his father's heroes, Al Kaline and John Wayne. George sees his dad as the epitome of a man's man, and George simply isn't. He's a flight attendant on a regional airline, has a wife who nags him, five daughters who look like him, and the constant unsettling feeling that his father wouldn't be proud of the life he's living. On top of all that, he's contemplating a vasectomy, which he sees as the final assault that will triumphantly destroy the last bit of man left in him.”

Kyle draws on his relationship with his own father when playing opposite Gary Weinstein, who plays George’s father Earl Noonan.  As Kyle says, “There is a genuine love between George and Earl, and playing those heartwarming moments of joy and loss between father and son are the most rewarding for me. I think Gary and I have developed quite a bit of chemistry in playing that relationship. He's an outstanding actor, by the way. His performance alone is worth the price of admission for this show.”  In real life, Kyle’s father had a heart attack earlier this year and flat-lined for 17 minutes before doctors revived him, so “coming that close to losing my dad was one of the reasons I wanted to do this show about a guy and the dad he admires.”

The Vast Difference was first performed in 1993, and Kyle calls author Jeff Daniels a “prophet” for “correctly identified a slide toward gender ambiguity and the downplaying of masculinity that we see today. I think Daniels does a good job nostalgically reflecting on the days when ‘men were men and everybody knew it’ while at the same time suggesting that even in that by-gone era, the men had vulnerabilities that should be considered part of what it means to be a man.”

Despite the show’s more serious themes, Kyle knows that audiences will love this “mad-cap romp with razor-sharp wit that is absolutely absurd.”  Four guys in this show – Sa’Ku Floyd, Charlie Gass, Rob Wise, and Armand Banooni – each play about half a dozen characters, and “these guys are funny.”  A native Michigander, this is Kyle’s first show at the Barn, having moved back last year with his wife after a 13-year absence.  In a stroke of luck (or perhaps fate), he found out about the show by doing a Google search of "community theatre."  Kyle is the pastor of Doxa Church, a new church in Rochester Hills.


The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. 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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