Our Upcoming 2014-2015 Season:

Our Upcoming 2014-2015 Season:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dour Doman Plays It Sweet and Sour as Auntie Florence

Ellen Doman plays feisty Florence Snider who is unhappy with her physician, Doc Meyers (Jim Snideman)
In the Farmington Players’ production of Leading Ladies, Ellen Doman play surly millionaire Florence Snider, the richest woman in York, Pennsylvania.  Florence is supposedly on her deathbed, yet seems revived by the sudden reappearance of her long lost nieces, “Maxine” and “Stephanie,” the apparent heirs to her fortune.   Florence doesn’t even notice that her “nieces” are actually imposters, Leo Clark (played by Keith Firstenberg) and Jack Gable (Lance Alan), who have dressed as women to stake their claim to her fortune.

Ellen describes her character Florence as an “elderly, wealthy, crusty woman.  I do not think that the two first adjectives apply to me, but my husband would attest to ‘crusty’ now and then.  Florence, having two sides to her personality, gives me the chance to be both sweet and ornery. (Personally, I like ornery better!).”  On stage, Ellen enjoys sparring with Mike Gingerella, who plays the reticent Reverend Duncan Wooley, saying “While they are supposedly friends, I can see how he drives Florence up a wall, so no matter what he says to me, I answer with impatience as though I would literally like to wring his neck.” 

Ellen said, “The thing that appealed to me the most about the show is the sheer absurdity of two men even thinking that they could pull the hoax off about them posing as ‘long lost nieces’ of Florence. I don't think you could have found a more perfect pair to play the roles of Maxine and Stephanie. Their timing is great, not to mention their English dialect. The quick changes in gender and dress will provide the audience with many laughs.”   While Ellen is not the “leading lady” in this hilarious farce, she takes pride it throwing herself fully into the part: “The size of a role is of mere importance to me, but big or small, I try to give it all that I have.” 

Love at first sight is one of the themes of Leading Ladies.  Ellen can attest to that phenomenon, “considering that my husband and I have gone together since juniors in high school!  Guess you could say we are practically joined at the hip when you consider all that we do together. We are involved in various activities both inside and out of the Barn. In short, you could say "Domans live life to the fullest!”  Ellen last graced the Barn stage in 2011, as the frisky “Hold Me, Touch Me” character in The Producers.

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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gingerella’s Great at Playing it Straight

Mike Gingerella plays it close to the vest as the straight-laced Reverend Duncan Wooley
Leading Ladies is a fun-filled farce with crazy characters that are willing to do just about anything for love and/or money.  In fact, the “ladies” are actually cross-dressing gents that are determined to steal an inheritance, until one of them falls in love with Meg, their intended victim.  In counterpoint to this frivolity is the Reverend Duncan Wooley, the straight-laced minister that is already engaged to Meg.  In the Farmington Players’ production of Leading Ladies, Mike Gingerella of Royal Oak plays Duncan.   Mike carefully navigates the tightrope of playing it straight when all around him are a bit loopy.  As he says, “Playing the antagonist is always a challenge. In the role of Duncan, the trick is to present him in such a way that, although the audience may not like him, they don’t hate him. It’s also a challenge playing the straight man in a farce. Besides holding back the temptation to laugh, it’s important to be as sincere and straightforward as possible to present a counter balance to the bizarre behavior displayed by the other characters in the show.”

Mike is no stranger to this genre of comedy, having played in Noises Off, and he especially enjoys farces “because they are so difficult to do well. When successful, there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve got the audience in the palm of your hand. It’s not unlike the ‘high’ experienced by stand-up comedians when they the have a great show.”   Like other well-written plays by author Ken Ludwig, Mike knows that the Ladies script is loaded with “a treasure trove of terrific jokes, sight gags, puns and slapstick. And just like a great drama’s ability to move and inspire an audience, a great comedy provides an entertainment experience people will find themselves laughing about for weeks after.”

I had the pleasure of working with Mike several years ago when we appeared as dysfunctional brothers in the comedy Funeral for a Gangster.  Mike recalls the experience fondly and says, “I’m proud to be part of Tony’s directing debut, and have been impressed by the enthusiasm and attention to detail he brings to the creative process.”   Mike’s own journey to the stage has been a circuitous one.  After working as an automotive writer, Mike made his Barn debut in 2008 as George Schneider in Neil Simon’s Chapter Two.  He says that experience “reignited a passion in me that led to my decision to pursue a career as a professional actor, and to teach theatre at the university level.”   Mike went back to school and is currently a fourth-year theater major at Wayne State University, and will be pursuing an MFA degree in acting next year.  In addition to making his professional debut in the Water Works Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet, Mike’s other favorite roles include Don Browning in Leaving Iowa, Phillip Gellburg in Broken Glass, Al Manners in Trouble In Mind, Garry Lejeune in Noises Off, Father Flynn in Doubt: A Parable, and Dr. Jim Tennyson in Dr. Cook’s Garden.

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.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

To Be A Boy, Or Not To Be

Keith Firstenberg as Leo Clark as "Maxine" and Lance Alan as Jack Gable as "Stephanie" 
When I tell people that I am directing Leading Ladies at the Farmington Players, they usually ask me if I am “in the show” too.   While I am not a cast member, in reality, I am “in” this show more than any other that I have ever acted in.   Ken Ludwig (author of Lend Me a Tenor and Moon over Buffalo) has written another brilliant farce.  Each of the eight cast members is perfectly suited to his or her role.  The set has been beautifully constructed and decorated.  But make no mistake:  This is “my” show.  Not “my” as in “mine” alone, but in that the show reflects my creative vision and has my fingerprints all over it.  I have blocked the actors’ stage movements, including over 100 entrances (which is a lot, even for a farce).  I have suggested subtle ways to get more laughs from each punch line.  And I have been consulted on everything, including costumes, wigs, furniture, paint colors, Shakespeare, and even sword fighting.  (Yes, there is a sword fight!)  

While I am new to the director’s chair, I know from my own acting experience what actors respond to.  Actors are not puppets or marionettes, so I try not to give line readings or ask them to parrot back what I’ve said.   And no matter how experienced, all actors need “T.L.C.”  For some, that means Tender Loving Care, but for others, it simply means Time to Listen Carefully to what each actor is saying, both verbally and through body language. By definition, actors are very vulnerable when stepping out on stage, so my job is observe what is working and to make adjustments to get the best performance out of each person.  It’s part teaching, part cheerleading, and part psychology, but if I act my “part” well, all the other pieces should fall into place when the cast gels.

So, why should you come see Leading Ladies?  Have you ever been in love?   Have you ever done something foolish to be with the one you love?   Do you love to laugh?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this show is for you.  Leading Ladies is about the crazy things we do for love.  In our show, Shakespearean actors Leo Clark (Keith Firstenberg) and Jack Gable (Lance Alan) scheme to steal an inheritance by posing as long-lost relatives, Maxine and Stephanie. But when the cross-dressing “ladies” fall in love with real women, they must switch between their male and female identities. As author Ken Ludwig says, cross-dressing is “just part of the joy we get out of our sexuality. There’s a bit of the female in all men and a bit of the male in all females; it’s just how we're made. To see it emerge full blown like that can be very funny and very joyous.”

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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Learn from a Master: Seth Rudetsky Brings Broadway to the Barn

Seth Rudetsky bring Broadway to the Barn
This Sunday November 2nd (noon – 3:00) at the Barn Theater, the Farmington Players are hosting a Master Class Workshop with Seth Rudetsky. This unique event begins with an informative lecture from Seth, continues with each of the Master Class students’ performances, and ends with a Q&A session with the audience. Rudetsky is well known for his Sirius/XM Satellite Radio show “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” and his viral “deconstruction” videos on YouTube where he breaks down the elements of classic musical theater songs and singers, so he is the perfect person to provide this type of critique. Each of the 15 performers will receive personal attention and advice from Seth on how to improve his or her audition and performance skills. Registration is still open to be an audience member for only $25, so whether you are an aspiring singer or just want to listen, get your tickets ASAP at farmingtonplayers.org.

The singers selected for Seth’s Workshop include some of the area’s finest local performers.  At least five of the participants are planning on pursuing theatre, and are currently either already in college in musical theatre programs, or getting ready to audition for musical theatre programs. Several others are local performers who also teach and coach students that are prepping for college auditions and have indicated that they are looking forward to helping their students incorporate some of the techniques used in the Workshop. And some are just doing it for plain old-fashioned fun.

The Workshop students (with hometown and theatre affiliations) are:

Taylor Alfano, age 25 (Livonia), The Farmington Players, Canton Spotlight Players

Tony Battle, age 48 (Royal Oak), Stagecrafters, Birmingham Village Players, Grosse Pointe Theatre, Actors Company
Rachel Biber, age 37 (Huntington Woods), The Farmington Players, Stagecrafters, St. Dunstans, Grosse Pointe Theatre, Canton Spotlight Theater and Birmingham Village Players

Gary Castaneda, age 38 (Warren), Stagecrafters, Birmingham Village Players, St. Dunstan's
Joshua Coates, age 21 (Fraser), Fraser High School, Grosse Pointe Theatre
Katie Dodd, age 18 (Farmington Hills), Harrison High School Theatre Program, Actors Avenue, Sky's The Limit and now CMU Theatre Dept
Elizabeth Heffron, age 22 (Farmington Hills), The Farmington Players, Ladywood High School, Eastern Michigan, Marquis Theater, Sky's the Limit

Joel Hunter, age 22 (Commerce), Starlight Theater, The Farmington Players, Lakeland Players, Pontiac Theatre IV, Fuse Theater Company, Huron Valley Community Theatre, Monster Box Theater, The Ringwald, St. Dunstans, and the Smith Theater
Grace Knoche, age 26 (New Baltimore), Warren Civic Theatre, Grosse Pointe Theatre, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and her band Sharp City

Maryanna Lauter, age 11 (Farmington Hills), The Farmington Players, Community Theatre of Howell, Bloomfield Players, St. Dunstans, Novi Civic Theater and Grosse Pointe Theater. 
Amy Malaney, (Farmington Hills), Meadowbrook Theatre, Michigan Opera Theatre and MOT Community Programs and Lake Superior Theatre in Michigan.
Marc Meyers, age 49 (Ferndale), Stagecrafters, St. Dunstans, Birmingham Village Players, Grosse Pointe Theater, Arbor Opera Theatre
Roy Sexton, age 41 (Saline, MI by way of Columbia City, IN), Penny Seats (co-founder), Farmington Players, Spotlight Players, Grosse Point Players, Birmingham Village Players, Cabaret Detroit, and Ford Performing Arts Center

Nina White, age 16 (Grosse Pointe), The Farmington Players, Windsor Light Opera, Stagecrafters, Birmingham Village Players, Grosse Pointe Theatre
Jason Wilhoite, age 36 (Commerce Township), The Farmington Players

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Never a Dull Moment: Rebecca Dull is Sharp in Arsenic

Rebecca Dull (center) as Miss Witherspoon as she is about to imbibe wine offered by the aunties. 
Putting a new twist on a classic tale, the Farmington Players’ production of Arsenic and Old Lace introduces Rebecca Dull in the modified role of Miss Witherspoon.  As Rebecca notes, “this role is usually played by a man so I have had to create her with no examples to follow. Since the play takes place in the 1940s it would have been extremely unusual to have a woman in an executive position, yet here she is, head of Happy Dale. The directors wanted to explore the idea of the aunts changing tactics by choosing to poison a woman when all the other victims were ‘their gentlemen’.”

Rebecca calls Arsenic one of her “all time favorite shows ever since I saw it performed at my high school.  There are so many funny comments and references to things that I always seem to find something new every time I see the show.”  She loves how the murderous aunts become the protagonists, saying, “Audiences are drawn to these endearing ladies so strongly that when it is revealed that they are murdering people, the audience members are in disbelief. People are drawn right into the action as bodies are all over the house and they want the aunts to beat Jonathan Brewster, even though that means committing more murders.”

Rebecca is making her Barn debut after moving to Farmington Hills a year ago, having spent the previous 21 years in Grand Rapids.  She says, “This is a great area and I love the vibrant theatre community at Farmington Players, and even in the whole Detroit metro area. Being a part of this show with such talented actors and directors has been amazing. I am thankful for this opportunity to be on stage at the Barn.” Just before moving here, Rebecca completed her B.A. in Theatre Arts at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids. During that time she was involved in many aspects of theatre and “found that I very much enjoy working on props.” She won Cornerstone’s award for Best Technical Award for work on props in 2012, and even spent one semester working with the props master for Opera Grand Rapids.  Her acting credits at Cornerstone include Tuck Everlasting (Elemental, Constable), The Little Princess (Marietta), Sound of Music (Nun), and Taming of the Shrew (Servant).

The Farmington Players' production of Arsenic and Old Lace runs through October 18.  The show is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C.). Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Off-Beat Officers Moll and Reinke Add Comic Relief to Dark Arsenic

Dave Reinke (Lt. Rooney), Jim Moll (Officer O'Hara), and Jared Kovach (Officer Brophy) Lay Down the Law
In the Farmington Players production of Arsenic and Old Lace, the Brewster sisters literally get away with murder right under the noses of unsuspecting police officers.  Jim Moll (Officer O’Hara) and Dave Reinke (Lt. Rooney) play two of the cops, and this dynamic duo seems more concerned with self-promotion than crime fighting. 

Moll plays the “oh-so-affable and somewhat dim-witted police officer, Officer O'Hara.  He's well intentioned and a long time friend of the Brewster sisters -- especially Martha who likes to cook for him.  Playing him gives me the opportunity to unleash my hokey Irish accent and bumble around the stage in search of an audience for the play that he is writing -- in spite of what is occurring around him.”  Jim calls Arsenic “a classic, and a mainstay of theatre companies.”  In fact, this is the second time it has been performed at the Barn.  As he says, “It's fun to be in such a well known show and add my own twist on the character and to be in a show that has characters that rely so much on one another.”  

One of the characters that he relies on is Lt. Rooney, played by Dave Reinke. Dave describes Rooney as “the man in charge at the local police precinct. Very early on in the show we gain a pretty strong understanding of the caliber of men he has to manage under his watch. As such, he’s forced to run a pretty tight ship. Rooney has very little patience for blunders and mistakes, most of which deems inexcusable. He has a strong, commanding presence. He’s loud, decisive, and clearly in charge of every situation in which he finds himself.  It's a fun role as I have a lot of interaction with many different characters while having a commanding presence.  It's a lot like Stage Managing.”

In a bit of role reversal, Reinke and Moll are switching who’s the boss.  As Dave says, “I was last seen on stage at the Barn in 2012's production of 1940's Radio Hour, where Jim Moll played my boss.  Now I get to play his boss, which has been a lot of fun.”   Regardless of who is in charge, Arsenic is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.  Jim thinks it is “because the twist in plot is so delightful.  This is especially true when the sisters play things straight and earnestly, as our two ladies do.  Seeing the delight that the two little old ladies take in performing their ‘service’ to the lonely old men is great fun if it is believable.  Mary Ann Tweedie and Cynthia Tupper do a great job of conveying this.  And, since they've been onstage quite a bit together at the Barn in other shows, their chemistry together goes a long way to sell the humor.”   Dave also thinks “audiences will enjoy the show because of the chemistry of the cast and the humor.  The show is not your typical farce but a black farce where the humor relies on distasteful ideas, such as death by poisoning, in a way that the audience forgets to be appalled.”

When they’re not busy “policing” the Barn stage, Moll and Reinke each have a very full slate.   Jim recently retired as public school educator after 40 years.  He and his wife Denise celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this summer by going to NY and taking in several Broadway shows.  Jim has been quite busy on the Barn stage lately, appearing in the last three Barn shows (Assassins, Rumors, and now Arsenic).   Dave has either appeared on stage with, or stage-managed, most of his fellow cast members. His stage managing credits at the Barn include Noises Off, State Fair, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Producers, Proof, Dracula, and Rumors. Dave is current 50/50 chair at the Farmington Players and serves on the Board of the Rosedale Community Players.  However, his says his “best role is being Dad to three wonderful children, Adam, Hailey, & Brianna.”

The Farmington Players' production of Arsenic and Old Lace runs September 26 through October 18.  The show is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C.). Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reality is All Relative: Weinstein IS Einstein in Arsenic

Gary Weinstein transforms into Dr. Einstein, to the chagrin of Mortimer Brewster (David Gallido)
In Arsenic and Old Lace, Dr. Herman Einstein is an unscrupulous plastic surgeon that helps people transform their appearance and change their identity.  In the Farmington Players production, Gary Weinstein plays Dr. Einstein, and Gary truly relates to how his character enables people to become someone else on stage.  As Gary says, “The prevailing thread in most of the Arsenic characters, as I see it, is that no one is who say they are.  I, from time to time, take on other characters within myself to get away from reality -- I don’t always want to be who I truly am.  I can relate to people wanting to change their appearance and who they are in the world and how they want other people to see them.”  

It’s hard to blame Gary for wanting to get away from reality sometimes.  In 2005, he lost his wife and two children instantly when a drunk driver took their lives in a tragic accident.   Gary has used his experience to help local directors create documentaries entitled: Project: Forgive and Transforming Loss.  As he says, “Although I will always wrestle with the grief of losing my family, I live a blessed life.  My mission is to inspire people to create a powerful future built on a foundation of forgiveness.”

I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Gary a few times, and I have never met an actor who becomes his character so completely.  His preparation begins the moment he sets foot inside the Barn, and he never breaks character until the final curtain.  In Dr. Einstein, Gary has found his muse, saying, “I knew I was perfect for that role.”   Gary plays Einstein as “an alcoholic, German-Jewish, subservient, unlicensed plastic surgeon with a nervous disposition.”  As he says, “I enjoy letting myself go in the development of the character and speaking with a pseudo-German accent.  The challenge is to give myself the license to take ownership and development of the accent.” 

Despite the creepiness factor in this black comedy, Gary is certain that Arsenic audiences will enjoy the “excellent cast, direction, and humorous story line, which will provide a wonderful evening at the theatre.  You can’t help but love the sweet, old ladies while at the same time finding their ‘charity’ a bit gruesome.” Gary also notes that the female leads Cynthia Tupper (Aunt Abby) and Mary Ann Tweedie (Aunt Martha) “combine their experience as actors and directors and it comes through as a well developed, comedic partnership.” His own partner in crime Guy Copeland portrays Jonathan Brewster with a “seasoned characterization of the villain that makes it an absolute joy” to work with. 

When he’s not working at his jewelry store (Weinstein Jewelers of Novi) or acting on stage, Gary loves to golf.  He’s played golf in all 50 states (twice), and in 30 countries in the past 7 years with the goal of reaching 100 countries in 20 years.  Gary most recently appeared at the Barn as Renfield in Dracula and his productions include Legally Blonde, Little Shop of Horrors, The Producers, Miracle on 34th Street, and Fiddler on the Roof. 

The Farmington Players' production of Arsenic and Old Lace runs September 26 through October 18.  The show is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C.). Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955.