Our Current 2015-2016 Season:

Our Current 2015-2016 Season:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Like Petronella, Nancy Cooper is the Life of the Party in Anne Frank

Getting Petronella Van Daan (Nancy Cooper, seated) to give up her comforts is like pulling teeth
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
When Nancy Cooper moved to Michigan 13 years ago, she found a flyer in the library for The Farmington Players and showed up for a meeting.  She soon found herself onstage, and has been an active member of the Barn family ever since.  Nancy admits that after growing up in a very small Ohio community in the 1970s, she had “never met a Jew, an African-American, a vegetarian, or a homosexual before I started school. The lessons about understanding the differences and the similarities among people were priceless and I am forever grateful to have learned them.”  Nancy broadened her horizons at the University of Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts: “I learned so much about the arts, but I also learned so much about other people. The school was a mix of students from all over the Cincinnati area that represented a blend of race, religion and culture unlike any other place.”

Nancy brings her perspective on the human condition to the Farmington Players’ production of The Diary of Anne Frank, where she plays Petronella Van Daan.  Nancy describes her character as “the kind of woman who would always be the life of the party. She enjoys laughter, dancing, good food, and expensive things. At the critical point of her life portrayed in the play, she is in fear of losing everything she has enjoyed. Removed from her home, her friends and extended family, and her creature comforts, she adjusts as well as she knows how. She is not unrealistic and understands that lives are at stake, but tries to hold on to the hope that some day things may once again be as they were before the war.”  What is her biggest challenge in playing Petronella?  Nancy answers, “To balance her humor with the gravity of the circumstance. She attempts to keep things lighter than some other characters in the annex. I believe that if I were plunged into a similar circumstance, I might behave exactly like Petronella.”

Nancy understands that while Anne Frank is about the Holocaust, it is “also about relationships, love, and above all hope. I think that the audience will soak up the sense of seeing the best when you are in the midst of the worst. And that is always relevant. The theme I relate to the most is hanging on to each other to get through the bad times in life. Life is hard. People have problems, illnesses, and sometimes seemingly hopeless circumstances, but I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by the love of friends and family that make all of life's misery bearable. I think that the eight people in the annex, and the people outside supporting them hold onto each other to get through the most difficult time of their lives out of hope for a better future.”

Nancy first saw The Diary of Anne Frank when she was 10, and was so moved by the ending, “I literally could not breathe. I knew that I wanted to be a part of that show, to tell that story with such impact. For years I have waited for the show to be produced in a venue that I am connected with, and finally, I have my opportunity to tell the story.”   Nancy can certainly relate to director Maureen Mansfield’s “long driven passion for this show, and it shows in rehearsal. Her insight is beautiful and comes from a place very deep inside her. It's hard to put into words, but I know the audience will see it in the production.”


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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Amy Cassell Travels the World to Find a Home at the Barn

Amy Cassell contemplates her next diary entry as Anne Frank
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
Amy Cassell’s world travels have taken her far and wide, but she never expected that a visit to Amsterdam would prepare her so well for her first role at the Barn.  Amy is playing Anne in Farmington Players’ production of The Diary of Anne Frank, and she previously visited the Frank house in Amsterdam.  Amy says she can “actually picture the cramped living quarters. I remember seeing the bookcase and feeling especially confronted. That one piece of furniture was the last thing protecting them from an outside world that was hunting them. The terror they must have felt when they heard unidentified rattles outside it is almost unfathomable.”

Amy considers playing the role of Anne Frank an “incredible honor and challenge to portray and do justice to, just because of her contribution to society in her short life. What would she have done had she been allowed to live? The role is such a fantastic one because of Anne's growth throughout the play; you can see her maturing and really coming into her own, while maintaining that incredible vivacious energy. At the same time, it's a challenging development to portray with subtlety, but I'm so glad I have the opportunity to do it.”   Like Anne, Amy was “a very energetic and creative child, so I can definitely relate to Anne's aversion to any form of stasis. However I was lucky enough to have freedom and a wealth of creative outlets, so I can only imagine the pain and immense frustration she must have felt in the suffocating annex.”

So what brought Amy to the Farmington Players?  As she says, “I started researching them because I'd heard great things about the shows they put on and the people in the company. When I saw they were putting on The Diary of Anne Frank, I knew I wanted to be involved. I've always had a passion for history and this is such a classic and important story. It's such a powerful play, no matter how many times I've seen or read it, how many different ways it's interpreted, it still clutches at my heart. It never becomes less shocking, the atrocities that humans are capable of committing, and getting to know these families, and knowing how it all ends, it really hits home. I felt ready to take on the challenge of a play of this magnitude and I felt it was a very important production to be a part of.”

Amy enjoys the challenges of playing such a thematically dark show, but also believes that audiences will “enjoy being able to relate to the family dynamics and the adolescent experience that is portrayed,” including the humorous exchanges between Gary Weinstein and Nancy Cooper as Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan.  Amy feels “the play will be relevant forever because of the themes of family and growing up, but also because history does repeat itself.  I think it's important to always remember the Holocaust, especially as similar atrocities are occurring around the world right now.”

Amy is an Australian native, and in the past 18 months, she has backpacked around Europe and learned to ski in Banff, Canada, before moving to Michigan four months ago.  She studied Journalism in college but now works as a Patient Advocate in a women’s clinic in Southfield.


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, January 21, 2016

Cage Match: Laurel Stroud Fights Internal Strife as Mrs. Frank

Laurel Stroud as Mrs. Frank overlooking Amy Cassell as daughter Anne (seated) in a rare happy mother-daughter moment
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
In The Diary of Anne Frank, one of the central relationships is between Anne and her mother Edith.  Anne is just entering her teenage years, and like many teens, the mother-daughter dynamic can be an emotional rollercoaster. In the Farmington Players’ production of Anne Frank, Laurel Stroud plays Mrs. Frank.  Laurel “can relate to Mrs. Frank and Anne's bumpy relationship.  I often feel that the people around me don't understand me.”

Laurel also connects with Mrs. Frank’s feelings of displacement: “Before the war, her life had always been very comfortable, and I think living in the annex was a shock to her system.  Her manners and upbringing keep her from venting her feelings, making her feel caged emotionally as well as physically.  I like playing her because although I have thankfully never been confined geographically, I have felt pressure to ‘mind my manners’ at all times.  The acting challenges come from the confined space of the set.  There are eight of us in an intentionally small space.  There really is nowhere to go.” 

Laurel re-read Anne’s diary to prepare for her role, saying, “It helped me focus on the family, on Anne and her personal experience. I wanted to be a part of this important and relevant story.  It is important that we keep Anne's story alive, keep her famous.”  Laurel believes that Anne’s story still resonates today:  “At its core, this is a story about a young girl who refuses to lose hope.  Her willingness to dream of the future in the midst of horror encourages all of us to do the same.  The show is especially relevant today as we are still and again exposed to the voices of those who would discriminate against people who are not like themselves. The play is a reminder of why we can't let those voices prevail.” 

Laurel lives in Redford and loves to cook, bake, and garden.  She is active at Christ Church in Redford and works for Lone Buffalo where she helps edit the clipsheet for Ford Motor Company.  Laurel is a recent winner of the Barn’s Torchbearer award and CTAM’s volunteer service award.

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, January 14, 2016

Light in the Midst of Darkness: Madison Krumins Shines as Anne Frank's Sister

Madison Krumins plays Margot Frank, Anne's older sister

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”  Anne Frank wrote this in her diary in the midst of the darkest days of World War II.  It says a lot about her as a person – defiant, yet optimistic in the face of unfathomable desolation – and it also reminds us why her story still resonates today.  The Farmington Players’ production of The Diary of Anne Frank opens on February 12 and includes a matinee on Valentine’s Day.  So why would you want to see such a dark drama on a day devoted to love?  I suggest that finding a little light in the midst of darkness will make you value life, and your loved ones, even more.  

In the Barn’s production, Madison Krumins plays Margot Frank, Anne’s older sister.  Madison finds Margot to be “a surprisingly challenging role. She doesn’t speak much, and is very meek and quiet. She’s very fragile. It’s hard for me to connect with Margot. Even though people see me as quiet, and even the ‘Margot type,’ it’s really not me at all. I like the challenge of playing this role.”   Despite this challenge, Madison definitely connects with the story, saying, “I can relate to Anne’s love for her diary! I hold my journals very dear to me. I write to express myself, relieve stress, and just for fun sometimes.”

In talking about the play, Madison displays a maturity well beyond her 16 years: “I wanted to be in The Diary of Anne Frank because it’s been on my bucket list for a while. It’s a sad story with an unpleasant ending, but it shows the strength these people had to stay in hiding for that long, and it shows Anne’s wonderful positivity that we can all look to as an example. I believe audiences will enjoy the show—just like the cast and crew are still able to enjoy the show—because of the deeper messages of strength, hope, love, and faith.” 

The events depicted in Anne Frank happened over 70 years ago.  I asked Madison why this story is still relevant today.  She said, “The story of Anne Frank is important to remember especially in today’s world, because it gives us an up-close and personal look at people who are persecuted. Politics tend to dehumanize and desensitize death, and the only way we can break that view of the world is through compassion. There are many people in the world today being persecuted, not unlike how the Jews and many others were in World War II. There are Anne Franks still today.”

Despite the dark subject matter, Madison said that “the cast always finds a way to smile during rehearsals. Sometimes we can get a little unfocused when we’re joking and laughing, but it keeps our heads up amidst the heaviness of the story. I’m happy to be working with this wonderful cast!”  Madison is a sophomore at Waterford Kettering High School, and plays saxophone, guitar, and piano, sings in U of M’s Youth Chamber Choir, and is a Drum Major for her school’s marching band.  Among Madison’s favorite shows/roles are: Betty Haynes in White Christmas, Anna in The Amish Project, and Juniper in Midwinter Break.

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.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Shorter and Snideman Refuse to Act their Age as Spelling Bee “Grownups”

 
Cory Shorter (center) hams it up as Mitch Mahoney with Lloyd Platis (left) as Leaf during Spelling Bee.
SELFIE by Cory Shorter
 While The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee focuses on six middle school students (played by actors in their teens and twenties), the three adult characters are a testament to the fact that some people never really grow up.  In the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee, the “grownups” are played by Cory Shorter as “comfort counselor” Mitch Mahoney, Jim Snideman as Vice Principal and word pronouncer Douglas Panch, and Jamee Perryman (previously featured in this blog) as Bee emcee Rona Lisa Peretti. 

Cory has developed his own back story for his character:  “Mitch grew up in a broken home and turned to the streets as a way to make money and support himself. He was arrested and instead of spending time in jail he needed to complete a community service project and that was being the comfort counselor at the spelling bee. When the spellers have been eliminated he was there to comfort them and reassure them that they were going to be okay.”  While Cory has never been arrested, he “can relate to Mitch by simply growing up in a neighborhood that was not the best. But I have grown up around people who have been, and are now, back on the right track. Just like Mitch!” 

Cory prepared for this show by “really getting in touch with my character!  I did not watch a lot of videos or try and mimic somebody else's character, but I took my own personal experiences and tried to create my own character.”  Although he has not been in a play since 2011, Cory is no stranger to the spotlight, having been crowned Mr. Gay USA in 2010 (!!!), which gave him the opportunity to travel the country performing and showcasing his talent.  Cory knows how to engage an audience, saying, “the fact that we incorporate the audience in the show so much makes me feel a part of it, and that is always a good feeling!”

Jim Snideman as ringer-happy Vice Principal Panch
Jim Snideman plays Vice Principal Panch, who not only pronounces the words for the spellers, but gets to “riff” his own improvisational ad-libs in response to spellers’ requests for definitions and sample sentences.  As Jim notes, “Because Panch uses index cards as props, why not actually use the cards as vehicles to carry the words of the bee? At that point, Spelling Bee also becomes a bit of ‘reader’s theatre’.  The opportunity to flex the ol’ improvisation muscles adds to the draw … so no two shows will be alike.” Like most of the spellers, Panch has his own foibles and quirks, and his responses are often unconventional and occasionally controversial.  Coloring outside the lines has always come naturally to Jim, who enjoys playing real “characters” realistically.   As he says, “I tend to take roles that present an opportunity to explore a different aspect of performance.  In Leading Ladies, it was playing a part, while not playing a ‘character’.  In Annie, it was playing multiple roles.  In Avenue Q, puppetry and voice characterization.”

Despite enjoying the role, Jim does not have fond memories of his own first spelling bee:  “I represented the elementary grades of Emerson, at the City of Detroit Spelling Bee.  I believe I was the fifth speller and the first to require a “comfort counselor”.  My nemesis:  ‘ab·hor·rence - noun - a feeling of repulsion; disgusted loathing.’  Indeed.”   Jim’s latest adventure was completing a season as the Events Coordinator for The Adventure Park at West Bloomfield.

The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  Four audience members (including some local celebrities) will be selected as spellers at each performance.  The show includes 12 performances (the three Saturday matinees feature 12-to-16 year-old spellers along with the regular adult cast.) from December 4 – 20.  Your last chance to #BeeAtTheBarn for Spelling Bee is this weekend.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Maryanna Lauter Is No Wannabe; She’s the Real Deal as Olive in Spelling Bee

Like Olive Ostrovsky, Maryanna Lauter loves her dictionary!
PHOTO by Brigid Blaschak 
All good actors know that your character will be more believable if you can draw from your own real-life experiences.  So when Maryanna Lauter (age 12) was cast as Olive Ostrovsky in the youth cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, she decided to enter a spelling bee at Dunckel Middle School in Farmington Hills, where she is a 7th grader.  As Maryanna says, “I competed in a spelling bee at school, partly for character study but mainly to compete. I wasn't really expecting to win or anything, much like Olive. I got 9th place but I was just happy to be there. I closely watched everyone there to find inspiration for my character to watch how middle-schoolers at spelling bees act.”  But just like Olive, it turns out that Maryanna is a really good speller.  In fact, she entered another bee and got second runner up and qualified for a regional bee in Dearborn Heights in January!

Maryanna has a lot in common with Olive, who she describes as “a quiet, shy middle-schooler who is going through an awkward and tough time in her life. I love playing her because I relate to her because I'm an awkward middle-schooler who loves words and has weird interests like reading the dictionary for fun. So the acting comes pretty naturally.”  Maryanna knows that audiences will love this show “because it's so relatable, even if you're not in middle school or a speller, because it brings a new perspective to life and you learn a lesson from the show, that winning and competing isn't everything.”

Maryanna fell in love with Spelling Bee when she first saw it two years ago: “I connected to every single character. The whole show itself was hilarious and a pretty accurate portrayal of middle-schoolers. I started listening to the music a few months ago and became obsessed! I learned literally every song and every harmony and decided that it would be fun to be in the show.  I definitely want to break out of the standard of playing it the exact same way that everyone else plays it. I want to bring something different.”

Maryanna shares her role with Mackenzie McIlory, who plays Olive in the adult cast:  “Mackenzie is awesome! She never treats me as if I'm a child and I really admire that about her because she can recognize that the youth cast are a mature group of kids. I was a little nervous about that at first, wondering if the adults would look down at us, but they really haven't!”  Maryanna is in the Bravo Choir at Dunkel and aspires to be an actress one day.

The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  To see the Bee at the Barn (#BeeAtTheBarn), order tickets online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mackenzie McIlroy is 20 Going on 12 as Olive in Spelling Bee

Mackenzie McIlroy is the fastidious Olive Ostrovsky
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
Remember when you were 12 years old?  You’re definitely not a child, and will scorn anyone who treats you like one, but you’re not quite ready yet to be a “grown-up.”  You have a hard enough time figuring yourself out, let alone navigating the perilous and hormonally charged waters of teenagehood.  The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee explores those not-so-Wonderous Years from the eyes of six middle school student spellers.  

In the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee, Mackenzie McIlroy plays
Olive Ostrovsky, who struggles with being a lonely only child.  Mackenzie describes Olive as a “very timid girl who has never really made any friends in life. She starts to read her dictionary due to the absence of her parents throughout her childhood.”  Mackenzie is now 20, but she definitely remembers “just trying to fit in when you’re 12. Not knowing what to say to the boy next to you, or if you should go up to the cool girl in the class and say hello.”  Mackenzie says her “whole life” has prepared her for Spelling Bee: “Taking certain moments Olive has and seeing myself back in school with the same issue, maybe not in the exact way, but I can relate to maybe how she is feeling. I was in a spelling bee in the 5th grade and I got out in the second round.”

Mackenzie loves playing Olive because “she is a very determined and hopeful little girl. You can tell she is upset by her parents not being at the bee, but she still has this light of hope that maybe they will show up. Later she proves to herself she can do just about anything when she believes in herself.”  Like many of her cast mates, Mackenzie believes that “there is a character that every audience member can reflect on being when they were in middle school. I think they will be able to relate to the awkward middle schooler moments as well as enjoy themselves with laughter, heartbreak, and accomplishment. Also, four lucky audience members get to be in the show!”           

Mackenzie plays Olive in the adult cast, and her counterpart in the youth cast is 12 year-old Maryanna Lauter.  Mackenzie says, “Being paired with someone who is actually the same age as my character has really helped me to understand how 12 year olds feel now. Little things they say or do. Hearing about what happened at school and the drama of the day really takes me back to when I was in middle school and almost helps me get into character when I talk to the younger kids.”  Despite her youth, “Maryanna is by far the most professional 12 year-old I have ever met. She had her lines memorized the second week of rehearsal and knew all the songs. I was really blown away with how talented she is and she keeps me on my toes every rehearsal. It was very fun getting to know her and bond over this character together. She has so much potential and I can’t want to see where it all takes her.”

Mackenzie is from Commerce Township and is a junior at Oakland University, majoring in communications.  She hopes to start her career in communications in New York City or Washington DC, and to continue in theater.  Her hobbies include golfing with her dad and exploring new things.

The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  Four audience members (including some local celebrities) will be selected as spellers at each performance.  The show includes 12 performances (the three Saturday matinees feature 12-to-16 year-old spellers along with the regular adult cast.) from December 4 – 20.  See the #BeeAtTheBarn,  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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