Our Upcoming 2014-2015 Season:

Our Upcoming 2014-2015 Season:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

“How to Succeed” Actors Draw on Business Experience

Jared Kovach (far left) and Katie Walker (fifth from right) are World Wide Wicket workers experiencing caffeine withdrawal
"There are no small parts, only small actors.”  So said renowned theater director Constantin Stanislavski of the Moscow Art Theatre, meaning that all roles are important and must be performed well.  Stanislavski’s system or method requires actors to utilize their emotional memory, based on a recollection of past experiences and emotions.  So when it comes to playing in the Farmington Players production of the classic corporate comedy How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, it certainly helps that Jared Kovach and Katie Walker are experienced business workers.

Jared plays several parts, including vice president of advertising Benjamin Burton Daniel Ovington (“B.B.D.O.”), a security guard, and an office worker in “Coffee Break.”  B.B.D.O is Jared’s primary role:  his initials are an acronym for a prominent New York advertising agency.  Jared describes B.B.D.O. as “your typically Ivy Leaguer.  He’s a little full of himself and kind of pretentious, but can also be down to earth.  He’s the ‘new kid on the block’ so he’s got to be tough from the get-go.”  Jared relates How to Succeed to his own experience climbing the corporate ladder:  “I started out working in a fast food restaurant in high school and took a job waiting tables in college, and in less than two years I was traveling around the country opening new restaurants and training managers on the day-to-day operations.”  Today, Jared is a catering sales manager for a luxury hotel in Rochester. His personal experiences have helped him prepare for his businessman role: “Working in a professional role has taught me proper posture, clear speaking and a lot of hard work.  B.B.O.D doesn’t mess around, and he’s straight to the point. Success is really what you make of it; you really can’t measure it.  It’s a personal goal that you make for yourself.”   

Similarly, Katie Walker knows her way around the office environment.  As an ensemble member, Katie plays a secretary that she has named Gladys, as well as a cleaning lady and various other chorus parts. Katie explains her connection to Gladys:  “Not only do I play a secretary on stage, I play one in real life too!  I work in a small office, but I can understand the sense of urgency one may have working in the hustle and bustle of a large corporate company.”  In addition to sharing a “desperate need for caffeinated beverages,” Katie draws on her secretarial experience to shape Gladys’ character:  “My daily responsibilities include answering multi-line phones, which I imagine a large corporation like World Wide Wickets would have many phone lines... I work in a doctor’s office and the majority of my responsibilities are assisting patients. I imagine my character Gladys is a very social person and is always happy to help the company's customers, and is an irreplaceable asset to her department head.”  Like a good multitasking secretary, in addition to her day job, Katie also aspires to become a hula hoop instructor and is busy planning her own wedding. 

Jared is also a relative newcomer to the Farmington Players, but his experience echoes the sentiments of many longtime Barn members: “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know different people and have had a lot of fun in the process. It truly is like a family.  I always feel like I’ve learned something after a show closes, either personally or in my acting career that helps me the next time around, and I look forward to many shows at the Barn.”

The Farmington Players production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Advisors.  The show includes 13 performances from April 24 – May 16 and tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You’ll Love Sarah Lovy as Bodacious Hedy LaRue

Sarah Lovy as Hedy LaRue, perched on the lap of J.B. Biggley (Dorne Lefere)
Photo by Jan Cartwright
Fresh on the heels of her Barn debut as the adorable Audrey in Leading Ladies, Sarah Lovy is back as the femme fatale in another Farmington Players production.  This time Sarah portrays the vivacious and curvaceous Hedy LaRue in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.   Like Audrey, Hedy’s vocabulary is full of humorous malapropisms and both characters strive to improve their lot in life.  But while 1950’s Audrey is an innocent small-town girl, 1960’s Hedy is fully aware of her sexuality and is not ashamed of flaunting her assets to get ahead in the big city.  In that way, she is clearly as ambitious as protagonist J. Pierrepont Finch (played by Jason Wilhoite);  It’s just that Hedy takes a different path to the top of the World Wide Wicket Company.

As the mistress of company president J.B. Biggley (Dorne Lefere), Hedy first uses her relationship to get hired as a secretary. But she is clearly willing to hitch her caboose to any train that can advance her career faster. Sarah has always wanted to play a character like Hedy, saying, “It’s easy to write her off as a funny, sexy character, but there is so much more to her. She wants to be a businesswoman. She wants to be independent and not to have to always rely on her looks to get what she wants (but it doesn’t hurt!). She can be spoiled and brainless, but she’s also so witty, spunky, and most of all, kind. She isn’t the vixen that’s gonna come in and steal all the men just because she can. Hedy honestly wants to try and make something of herself.”

Sarah appears very extroverted backstage and confident onstage, so it might surprise you to hear her say: “I’m a very self-conscious and self-aware person, so playing a character that’s so overtly bodacious was definitely something I had to work on. But, in the end, I think the role has actually helped me a bit with my confidence. I walk a little taller and my head’s held high a little more. If Hedy can walk like that, so can I!”  And while Hedy is definitely a material girl, Sarah knows that money can’t buy you love, saying, “I measure success by happiness. I have seen people with all the money and things in the world who are absolutely miserable. I didn’t grow up with lots of money but I was taught to value the happiness of you and your loved ones. When I see a couple who love each other together or am surrounded by my friends I think, ‘What success!’”

Sarah has been in love with How to Succeed since age 16 when she saw it on Broadway during a class trip (“Me and my friends were singing ‘Coffee Break’ the rest of the trip.”)  She thinks How to Succeed’s appeal is universal: “I think people will enjoy the most zaniest parts and the most heartfelt parts. You get to see a guy move through an entire company. From the mailroom to almost being president! It’s the everyman’s fantasy.”  But beyond the fantasy, the theme of Brotherhood resonates even more strongly with Sarah: “In my opinion, that is the most important theme (and song) of the show. It doesn’t matter where you are. Whether in a company or life. In the grand scheme of things, we are all a community of people that need to rely on each other more. Whether you’re fighting a corporate battle or personal, you are not alone in this world. The membership is free!”

Sarah is from Berkley, MI and currently works for the Murder Mystery Improv Troupe. In addition to theater, she enjoys reading, writing, and her dog.

The Farmington Players production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Advisors.  The show includes 13 performances from April 24 – May 16 and tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nancy Boyd Lives Her Dream as Witty Smitty

The irrepressible Nancy Boyd (center) as Smitty, who fixes up Finch (Jason Wilhoite) and Rosemary (Emilie Tole)
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
For Nancy Boyd, it happened when the curtain went up on her very first Broadway show.  That moment when your dreams unfold before your eyes and the possibility of your own onstage success becomes tangible.  The show was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Nancy was hooked: “As cheesy as it sounds, when that curtain rose in the first number, there were tears in my eyes. How to Succeed will always have a special place in my heart because it will always remind me of why I love what I do and encourage me to work hard at my craft.​ So actually having the opportunity to be in a production of the show is so exciting!”

In the Farmington Players production, Nancy plays Smitty, who “says it like it is, and is not one to sugarcoat the truth. Because of this, she gets a lot of one witty one-liners! I think that Smitty is someone who doesn't care about how other people in the office view her as much as she cares about getting her job done, whether it be getting new tax withholding blanks or setting up her best friend on a date! Although she is skeptical of people's intentions, she believes that Rosemary deserves the ideal fairy tale romance that everyone wants, and she will encourage her and Finch to live out this dream.”

Nancy’s natural inclination is to be “a cockeyed optimist” and “too trusting of people.”  By contrast, Smitty is bold, cynical and honest to a fault.  So Nancy decided to model Smitty on two “very strong women in my life: my best friend Meghan Griesbeck and my mother Suzanne Boyd!”  Nancy defines success as “’effort. If someone is always trying to improve themselves and the world around them, they will always be moving forward and will make changes and have ideas that no one could ever imagine!”  She sees How to Succeed as “timeless” because all “people can relate to the struggle of climbing the ladder in their career and their love life. We all have goals that we want to achieve, and this musical brings to life how we strive for them every day (including when things go comically wrong!). People will be able to relate to it, and laugh along whenever something doesn't go quite as a character planned!”  (Such as when Smitty loses her cool after discovering that there’s no coffee!)

Nancy hails from Highland, Michigan and is currently double majoring in Music and Broadcast and Cinema Arts at Madonna University. She enjoys photography, unicycling, playing with her three-legged cat, and “making videos that for some reason usually involve pastries!”

The Farmington Players production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Advisors.  The show includes 13 performances from April 24 – May 16 and tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Laurel Stroud Succeeds as Not “Just” a Secretary

Laurel Stroud plays "Peggy" -- one of the secretaries that make "How To" succeed!
While the Farmington Players production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying just happens to open during Administrative Professionals Week, it’s not a coincidence that much of this show’s success rests on the secretaries in the chorus.  Laurel Stroud plays one of the office “girls” and she has named her character “Peggy.”  As Laurel says, “While Peggy is ‘just’ a secretary, she has a vital job at a big company in an exciting city, and for the 1960's, that's significant for a woman.”   In the song A Secretary Is Not a Toy, a secretary is described as “a highly specialized key component of operational unity.  A fine and sensitive mechanism to serve the office community.”  Just as Sixties’ secretaries supported their executives and helped them shine, Laurel loves being in the chorus “because it adds dimension to the show, and puts the leads in context.”

Given the show’s theme of accomplishment, I asked Laurel how she measures success, personally and professionally.  She answered, “I can relate to people getting ahead based on things other than what they do for a living. I can relate to people seeing women as extraneous. I think professional success is when you have reached the point where your job enables you to live your vocation, or ‘purpose.’ Personal success, for me, is becoming more and more the person God intended me to be.”  Laurel knows How to Succeed will be successful with Barn audiences because “this show is so relatable. Everyone knows a Finch, a Frump, a Biggley. Everyone has had a Coffee Break moment. Plus, there are amazing voices that are worth the price of admission all by themselves.”  Also, given that Laurel has shared the stage with so many of same Barn alumni before, she “knew it would be a fun show with fun people. There's nothing like putting on a great show for patrons with a bunch of great friends.”

Laurel grew up and still lives in Redford.  She lists cooking, baking and gardening among her hobbies.  She works for Lone Buffalo in Ann Arbor, but goes to Ford Motor Company every day to create the "clipsheet," a compilation of media mentions about Ford and the industry.  Laurel has been a Barn member for over 10 years and recently won the prestigious Torchbearer award.  She is currently on the Board as Director of Communications.  Some of her favorite roles include Becca in Rabbit Hole, Jennie in Chapter Two, Mom in Leaving Iowa, Essie in You Can't Take It With You and Laura in Whose Wives are they Anyway?

The Farmington Players production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Advisors.  The show includes 13 performances from April 24 – May 16 and tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Revival of How to Succeed Combines Youth and Experience

Erik Carlson as Mr. Gatch in the 1995 production
The Farmington Players rarely do a revival of a previous play, but for the second time this season that’s the case at the Barn.  After the staging Arsenic & Old Lace last fall, the Players are bringing J. Pierpont Finch out of retirement in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.  It’s been 20 years since Mr. F-I-N-C-H climbed the corporate ladder at the World Wide Wicket company, but it will be very familiar territory to one cast member.  Erik Carlson, who plays Wally Womper in the current production, is the only returning cast member from 1995.  It’s understandable that Erik “really wanted to be in this production. Back then, I played Mr. Gatch and the Security Guard as well as a few other lines in the chorus. I really have to hand it to our chorus members this time as they do such a marvelous job and have much more demanding dancing than we had to do back then.” 

This time around, Erik enjoys playing the irascible chairman of the board.  As Erik describes his character, “Wally Womper has to get his role across mostly with just scowls and pacing back and forth when you first see him on stage even though everyone is afraid of him and of losing their jobs. That is until he meets Finch (played by Jason Wilhoite) and then you get to see the softer side of Womper when he finds ‘it's been a long time since I had someone around here I could talk to.’”   Erik enjoys plays roles “where I come in near the end of the play and create havoc.”  (In his previous role at the Barn, he played no-nonsense Officer Welch in Rumors.)  So how does Erik succeed in How to Succeed?  “Being the oldest member of the cast I’ve been trying to keep up with everyone. I do have my ability to project my lines and be heard throughout the building that comes from teaching in different environments. I will measure success when people quote back some of my lines to me … no kidding!” 
Emily Stewart (right) and Stephaney Vietor (left) just say "NO" in "A Secretary is Not a Toy"
At the other end of the age spectrum is 17 year-old Emily Stewart, who—like several of the cast’s ensemble members—was not even born the last time How to Succeed was staged at the Barn!   Emily enjoys dancing and playing a secretary, saying, “I love the fact that I can create my character by just a few dances steps.  The role of a secretary can also be very challenging.  I think that women in the fifties and sixties were very submissive to men because males held much more power in the business world.  Where as now, women have equaled men in the business world and have really come a long way.”  As explained in the song A Secretary is Not a Toy, Emily can relate to her character because “I don't like the way it feels to be objectified and considered attractive solely because of my appearance instead of who I am, which is way more than I am on the outside.   But it's funny how different my reaction is now than what it would've been if I was living in the fifties or sixties.”  Emily thinks How To Succeed is “the funniest, most clever musical comedy I've ever seen.  I think people will enjoy this show because it is the perfect balance of comedy and drama, plus the bonus of amazing musical pieces.”

The Farmington Players production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Advisors.  The show includes 13 performances from April 24 – May 16 and tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Barn Raising: Players Take Tragic Amish Project to AACTFest Saturday

Maryanna Lauter and Madison Krumins play Amish sisters Velda and Anna
Drama is hard.  Tragedy is tougher.  Tragedy based on true atrocities?  That’s a real gut check.  Such is the challenge faced by The Farmington Players as they present The Amish Project, a fictional exploration of the 2006 schoolhouse shooting in an Amish community in Nickel Mines, PA.  Jessica Dickey’s play is a dramatization of the tragic event, and it is admittedly a very difficult subject matter.  Amy Lauter, who plays the widow of the gunman, says, “Although the play is not an exact factual account of the incident, it is based on a true story. So trying to wrap my head around what this woman went through has been a challenge.”  Amy’s daughter Maryanna Lauter plays one of the schoolgirls, so the drama hits very close to home.

The Amish Project is the Barn’s entry into this year's Michigan AACTFest competition (American Association of Community Theatre).  The first round of the festival is hosted by Owosso Community Players this weekend (March 27-29). Eight community theaters from around the state will participate.  (See information on show times and tickets below.)  

Based on the preview I saw at the Barn last weekend, the Farmington Players have selected a very challenging piece, but it is executed superbly.   It is honest and emotional without being sentimental or preachy.   I wondered how hard it must be to make the characters human when what happened was so inhumane.  How do you give voice to people who have committed or lived through such an unspeakable horror?  Director Terie Spencer says, “The playwright's emphasis is less on the details of the tragedy and more about the path of forgiveness and compassion forged in its wake.”  She describes the characters as going through personal journeys during the course of the play and dealing with issues such as loss, guilt, anger, forgiveness and ultimately, hope.

The cast includes: Maryanna Lauter as Velda (Farmington Hills), Madison Krumins as Anna (Waterford), Amy Lauter as Carol (Farmington Hills), Dan Tarjeft as Eddie (Southfield), Paige Osgood as America (Brighton), Bonnie Fitch as Sherry (Southfield), and Steven R. White as Bill North (Plymouth). The Farmington Players performance of The Amish Project will be on Saturday March 28, starting at 4:40 and followed by an adjudication at 6:00. Individuals can register for the whole weekend for $70 (which includes VIP access to receptions and the awards brunch), or session tickets may be purchased for $10 (two shows per session).   Tickets and more information at www.owossoplayers.com. The first round of Michigan AACTFest is hosted by the Owosso Community Players and will be held at the Lebowsky Center (122 E. Main St, Owosso, MI 48867). 
Theaters competing include:

Center Stage Theatre (Midland), performing The Sugar Bean Sisters
Tawas Bay Players (Tawas), performing Women of Lockerbie
Ichabod’s Little Theatre (South Haven), performing Belle of the Bijou
Holland Civic Theatre (Holland), performing Revival at Possum Kingdom Community Church
Riverwalk Theatre (Lansing), performing The Passion of Richard II
The Farmington Players (Farmington Hills), performing The Amish Project
Rosedale Community Players (Southfield), performing Dear Me
Players de Noc (Escanaba), performing The Hairy Ape

Two of the eight competing teams will advance to AACTFest regionals in April, which are being hosted by the Midland Center for the Arts in Midland, Mich.  Grand Rapids will host the national competition in June.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sue Roger’s “Miracle” Puts the Community Back in Community Theater

Director Sue Rogers (seated) reviewing the Miracle script with Maggie Gilkes and Katie Bigwood during rehearsal
If you haven’t seen Miracle on South Division Street yet, what are you waiting for?  A sign from God?  In all seriousness, the Farmington Players’ production of Miracle has been – in its own humble way – a miraculous coming together of faith, family and community, highlighting the most positive aspects of community theater.  The play features mother Clara Nowak’s soup “prepared on holy ground,” so director Sue Rogers got the idea of doing an opening night fundraiser to benefit Manna Community Meals, a Detroit soup kitchen.  Pastries were provided by On the Rise Bakery and coffee donated by – who else? – Miracle Coffee.  And best of all, show sponsor Varsity Automotive Group matched the entire pot from the 50/50 raffle, generously benefitting Manna and On the Rise.  Sue said, “Given our extremely cold winter, it was fabulous to see how generous others were with caring for the less fortunate in our own community. Given our sometimes cynical times, I’m reminded of Clara’s rhetorical line, ‘So the miracle’s over, huh?!’”

While Miracle is not overtly religious, Sue found it “very meaningful for me to do a show that has a spiritual dimension. I think this is something people in general are searching for and theatergoers in particular have found it a refreshing positive experience in the midst of this cold and sometimes depressing winter. I really like the way the author uses humor to talk about the serious divisions in our society. You can’t turn on the news without feeling the sense of sadness that as a society we are too often in conflict, judging others who are different, and unable to find common ground. Miracle speaks to people who have that yearning to ‘get along,’ as Jimmy’s character says.”  Sue used a short excerpt from the Beatles song Let It Be to convey that in times of trouble, people tend to lean on their faith and their family, especially their mother.  As she explained, “Some people have wondered why we sampled Let It Be in the end, referencing Mother Mary when the play actually extends its message of faith well beyond the Christian community. I used it because Paul McCartney actually wrote the song about his own mother and the show certainly has a strong feminist element that honors motherhood in a unique way. I think of the statue as a universal mother (my mother, your mother, Clara’s mother, the Blessed Mother, Eve, Mother Earth, etc.).”

Another special aspect of directing Miracle has been the input and encouragement that Sue has received from author Tom Dudzick.  Sue said that he “has a beautiful way of reminding us that we are all so much more similar than different and that’s an important message to hold onto these days. Plus he’s been great about making himself available for consultation.”  In fact, Mr. Dudzick sent the cast a congratulatory letter on opening night, in which he wrote, “I’m so excited for you guys. I feel like I’m part of your production, there’s been so much contact between Sue and myself. I hear business is booming for our little show. And I LOVE the story of Katie and Margaret Gilkes playing themselves [as mother and daughter] on stage!!  Break a leg everyone! Remember -- hold for laughs. I guarantee you’re going to get some.”

Indeed, Miracle has plenty of laughs, as well as heartfelt moments.  It is a show that audiences have really connected with, and that is a tribute to the cast’s strong bond with one another.  As Sue says, “The cast has been a joy to work with. We’ve said repeatedly that with a cast this small, we have truly become like family. The camaraderie, jokes, kibitzing, and playfulness have all felt like a fun family vibe. Some of us have never worked together before, so it was amazing to see how everyone connected so readily.”

The Farmington Players' production of Miracle on South Division Street has three performances remaining:  Thursday February 26, Friday February 27, and Saturday February 28, all at 8:00.  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.