Our Current 2017-2018 Season:

Our Current 2017-2018 Season:

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.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Jordan Gagnon Is Practically Perfect as Marcy Park in Spelling Bee

Jordan Gagnon as practically perfect Marcy Park
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
The dictionary defines a “perfectionist” as “a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.”  While the pursuit of perfection may help you overachieve, it also leaves very little margin for error.  Anything short of 100 percent is, by definition, a failure.  Such is the conundrum faced by Marcy Park, a character in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

In the Farmington Players production, Jordan Gagnon plays Marcy in the adult cast.  Jordan has given a lot of thought to her character, saying, “She's such a fun character to play because she's someone that we've all known, or maybe even been, at some point our lives. She's the stereotypical overachiever who seems like she doesn't even have to try to be perfect at everything. I love playing Marcy because she makes it so hilariously obvious that she knows she's better than everyone, and doesn't want to waste her time with anything.”  

Marcy’s super serious demeanor is a source of great fun for Jordan:  “I pretty much get to straight-face everyone during the entire show, which is so fun! It's also been really interesting to explore her character and to discover how she really feels about her life, because she doesn't necessarily love the ‘perfect’ life she leads.”  Jordan can definitely relate to Marcy because “in elementary school I was that kid who didn't have to try to succeed, which is funny. In the same breath, I also remember how frustrated and down on myself I'd get when I couldn't do something right the first time, and I still deal with that a little bit even now. I understand Marcy's internal standards for perfection, and that's helped me to find her character a lot more. I also did spelling bees in elementary and middle school, and I remember how quickly they get super serious! It's intimidating!”

Jordan knows that audiences will enjoy Spelling Bee because “everyone can relate to at least one character in this show. Every time I watch this show, I find something new to love in each character. I also adore the fact that the audience gets to participate because that creates a different show every night, which I think the audience will really enjoy.”  Beyond its sheer entertainment value, Jordan believes that “this show also speaks to more than just a spelling bee. Everyone can walk away from this show having learned something about their awkward relationships with other people, and about how they look at the world. A lot can change when you look through the eyes of a 12-year-old for a while!”

Jordan is 16 years old, and currently a junior at North Farmington High School. She’s worked with Sky's the Limit Productions, North Farmington High School Theatre, Madonna University's Lyric Theatre, and Forever After Productions and plans on studying and pursuing a career in musical theatre. Her hobbies include reading, shopping, and spending time with her friends.

Jordan treasures her first time at the Barn, saying, “I'm so happy I've had the opportunity to work with this amazing team. Amy Lauter has been such a creative and open director, and all of my cast mates are now amazing friends of mine. I have no doubt that we will all stay in touch in the future.”

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.  If you want to #BeeAtTheBarn, tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Yakob Engel Dares to be Different as William Barfee in Spelling Bee

Yakob Engel as the lugubrious William Barfee
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
Fourteen year-old Yakob Engel knows what it’s like to be different – an outsider.  “I don't really have a hometown. I have never lived somewhere for more than 5 or 6 years at most. Over the past 6 years I have moved about 3 times.”   This sense of displacement or not belonging is something that helps Yakob relate to his character William Barfee in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.   As Yakob says, “the theme I can relate to most is the theme of being different. All the spellers are portrayed as weird and awkward each in their own way. And as a theater-loving kid who has been home schooled for several years, you can see why I can relate to not being the most normal kid out there.”

In the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee, most roles are double-cast with teens in the youth cast and 20-somethings in the adult cast.  But despite being only 14, Yakob has both the stage presence and the physical stature to pull off playing Barfee in both casts.  He has embraced his character’s differences and turned them into a strength.   Yakob believes that Spelling Bee will resonate with audiences because it is so different from the typical musical:  “I think people will like this show because it is so original and unique. Everything feels new in it. From the concept to the style of humor to the music it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

One of the unique aspects of Barfee is that he uses his “magic foot” to spell out words before he says them in the Bee. Yakob prepared for this role by learning beginner tap dancing, which “got me used to doing strange things with my feet.”   But his favorite aspect of playing William Barfee is “the singing. In my every day life I sing more than I talk and feel really blessed that I can go on stage with this role and sing so much. But at the same time the singing is probably the biggest challenge that comes with this role. Willam Barfee's singing rang is huge and it is usually accompanied by dancing which makes it challenging but fun at the same time.”

Yakob “wanted to be in Spelling Bee was because I thought it would be a good experience for me. The show is very wacky and zany and that is way easier for me to do than being serious.” Theatre and music are hobbies now, but he wants to pursue them as a career. Yakob says his fellow cast and crew members are “amazing to work with. The cast is insanely talented and they put so much energy into their roles.”

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.  Come see the Bee at the Barn (#BeeAtTheBarn)!  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.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jonathon Stecevic Aces the Bee as Underdog Leaf Coneybear

Jonathon Stecevic (helmeted, center) as Leaf Coneybear with the youth cast of Spelling Bee
PHOTO courtesy of Brigid Blaschak
Of all the characters in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I find myself rooting for Leaf Coneybear the most.  While all six students are quirky and each has his or her own challenges to overcome, Leaf is the squarest peg of them all.  Jonathon Stecevic plays Leaf in the youth cast of the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee.   Jonathon describes Leaf Coneybear as “a home-schooled speller in Putnam County.  He has ADHD and is easily distracted.  His family thinks he is dumb.  He is very sensitive and gentle and loves animals.  He makes his own clothes (perhaps his big family can't afford to buy him clothes) and he is looked down upon by his family.” 

Unlike Leaf, Jonathon’s family is very supportive, but there are some comparisons that ring true. Jonathon said, “I really identify with Leaf Coneybear.  I have a little bit of ADHD and really love animals. I also understand what it's like to sometimes not fit in.”  Leaf is the biggest underdog in the Bee as all other students won their school tournaments to get there.  Though he is the least competitive speller, he has a knack of rising to the occasion and exceeding others’ low expectations for him.   Jonathon “wanted to be in this show because I love the music. I also love the strong youth characters that showcase what kids in junior high are experiencing.  I think audiences will love this show because it is funny and fast moving, but also addresses topics that other shows don't, like problems kids experience growing up and issues with parents.”

Jonathon (16) also enjoys working with the adult cast, which he finds “fun and very productive.  It's interesting to see the role from an adult's perspective.” He finds Lloyd Platis (age 20) – the "adult" Leaf – “very nice and easy to work with.”  Jonathon began acting when he was six years old and hopes to pursue musical theater in college. He lives in Farmington Hills and is a junior at Aim High School.

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.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jamee Perryman Goes Back to School in Spelling Bee

Jamee Perryman plays Rona Lisa Peretti, emcee of the Bee
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee begins with Rona Lisa Peretti, local realtor and hostess of the Bee, proudly reminiscing about her own success at the same competition many years ago.  As Rona passes by the microphone, she has a flashback to the moment when she won the 3rd annual spelling bee by correctly spelling “syzygy.”  Jamee Perryman plays Rona in the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee.  Jamee describes Rona as “a strong woman who has a soft spot for kids, which I can relate to, being a middle school choir teacher in St. Clair Shores. I literally talk just like I would in my classroom.  It's nice, because half the time it doesn't even feel like acting!  I just get to be myself.  Also, I deal with middle schoolers every day, so the youth/teen cast is easy for me to interact with.  I'm so just used to it.”

Jamee knows that “audiences will love this show because it is full of fun music and a ton of laughter.  We have a ton of talent in our cast, and it will be so fun!”  But beyond the fun factor, the show should resonate with audiences because it recalls the challenges we all face as teenagers trying to find ourselves as we navigate the path to adulthood.  As Jamee says, “I think everyone can relate to the show.  There are struggles so many of us went through as kids, and sometimes as adults.”  While singing comes easily to Jamee, whose vocal talents are featured in Rona’s theme song, "My Favorite Moment of the Bee," she is “most nervous about having to improv with the audience spellers!”

Jamee feels “so lucky to have developed some great relationships with people in this cast.  I love working at the Barn, and didn't know too much about the show when I auditioned, but it was a great reason to get back to the Barn!”  Jamee last appeared on the Barn stage in 2013 as Vivienne in Legally Blonde.  She has an 18 month-old daughter, Skylar, and loves to read. 

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.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Matthew Baker-Grunza is Chip Off the Old Block

Matthew Baker-Grunza as Boy Scout Chip Tollentino
You could say that acting is in Matthew Baker-Grunza’s blood.  The twelve-year old plays Chip Tollentino in the Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  Matthew is in the youth cast, featured in three Saturday matinees, and shares the role with Daniel Murray (age 24) who plays Chip in the adult cast.  

Matthew credits his grandmother Jane Macfarlane for his love of acting.  As he says, “I’ve been in ten productions before this and I’m a straight A student and participate in multiple sports, but out of all of those things I love theatre the most.  The reason why I got into acting was because of my grandmother.  She is truly an inspiration!”  Matthew’s grandmother Jane is a Maryland native who moved to Michigan "for the theater” and won the 2013 Wilde Award for "Best Performance, Actress – Drama" in her first professional appearance as the vindictive matriarch in The Ringwald's August: Osage County.

For his part, Matthew loves playing Chip because he is “a very fun character to play. The real challenge with him is that he is a emotionally confused teenager with many different sides and this is challenging because I can not pin him down.”  Matthew decided to audition for Spelling Bee because “I heard about the Barn from a friend and the show sounded fun so I auditioned. That’s what I love about the theatre community: you hear about shows and audition, then make new friends. The whole cast is awesome.”

I asked Matthew whether anything in his real life had helped prepared him for this role.  He answered, “the horror and the gift called puberty … and that’s all I have to say about that.”  (You’ll have to come see the show to know what he’s talking about!)  Matthew loves being paired with Daniel, who plays Chip in the adult cast.  As he says, “having an older counterpart is great because I can talk to him about our character and I can talk to someone about my life outside of the Barn.”


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.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Paige Osgood is “Super Intense” as Marcy Park in Spelling Bee

Paige Osgood (speller #7) plays overachiever Marcy Park in the youth cast of Spelling Bee
Overachievers often internalize the pressure they put on themselves.  They hide their emotions behind a tough exterior and overcompensate for their own insecurities by projecting a false bravado to others.  Such is the life of Marcy Park, one of the six teenage characters portrayed in the Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  Marcy is played by Paige Osgood (14) in the youth cast and Jordan Gagnon (16) in the adult cast.  (Jordan will be featured in a future edition of Playing the Barn.)

Paige describes Marcy as “a super intense girl with overbearing parents.”  In Marcy’s signature song “I Speak Six Languages,” we also learn that Marcy plays Mozart and hockey, and when she stretches, she “stretches without getting sore.”  Paige says, “Marcy has been one of my dream characters, so every single thing from dancing, to singing and acting is so enjoyable for me.  Marcy is a quite demanding role and it's been hard to force myself to stretch everyday (for the splits) and to maintain a straight face throughout the funniest of lines.  Spelling Bee has got humor in it for everyone. Occasionally, I'll tell my parents and friends lines from the show and we'll spend five minutes cracking up over it.”

But life is not all laughter for Marcy, or Paige. As she says, “Marcy struggles with what makes her happy and what her parents want from her. I feel that in a similar sense as I put so much pressure on myself to excel in school and at theatre. The way Marcy acts is a lot like how I act so I've basically grown up as the character. I have huge social anxiety when it comes to public presentations, so anything from book talks to debates makes me feel sick to my stomach.”  Despite this occasional anxiety, Paige projects confidence on stage, and gave a standout performance as teenage mother America in The Amish Project, the Barn’s AACTFest entry this year.

Paige loves sharing the role of Marcy with Jordan Gagnon, saying “Jordan is so amazing at what she does and she has completely inspired me to take the challenge of harmonizing (which I've never had to do before). I'm so grateful for being cast with someone as amazing as her.”  Paige lives with her family in Brighton, Michigan and is a 9th grader at Brighton High School. She describes her hobbies as “flute, piano, tennis, and eating.”  Paige also mentors elementary school children under the B.I.T.E program at her high school and participates in Model UN.

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.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lindsey Brenz Lives Her Dream as Schwartzy in Spelling Bee

Lindsey Brenz as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre
Remember middle school?  Do you recall those carefree days of your youth when kids were friendly and helpful and nobody made fun of you and everyone just accepted you for who you are?   Yeah … neither do I.  In fact, our teenage years can be among the most dramatic, traumatic and angst-ridden times of our lives.   Such is the backdrop for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a musical comedy that centers on a fictional spelling bee at Putnam Valley Middle School.  Six quirky adolescents compete in the bee, which is run by three “grown-ups,” although I use that term loosely.   The “kids” are played by adults in nine performances; the three Saturday matinees feature 12-to-16 year-old spellers along with the regular adult cast.  Another interesting twist is that four audience members (including some local celebrities) will be spellers at each performance and actually compete in the bee!

If you think spelling challenging words in front of a live audience is tough, you’ll get little sympathy from Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (aka “Schwartzy”), whose last name alone would knock most spellers from the competition.  In the Farmington Players production, Schwartzy is played by Lindsey Brenz (age 24) in the main cast and Hallie Fox (age 15) in the youth cast.  For her part, Lindsey describes her character Schwartzy as “extremely intelligent, strong-willed, yet innocent, and hilarious! I adore everything about this girl.  This role is particularly challenging for me because Schwartzy speaks with a lisp and that’s something I don’t have a lot of experience with.”   Lindsey says that being in Spelling Bee has “always been a dream show of mine. My cast mates joke that I am the ‘Spelling Bee expert,’ which is true in a way. I have loved and followed this show for many years. Schwartzy in particular is the main reason why I fell in love with the show.”

Lindsey knows that “audiences will admire the charm of this show. Each character is very relatable and has moments of vulnerability which will either pull at your heart or make you smile.”  So how does Lindsey relate to her character’s challenges?  As she says, “Schwartzy has two very strict and controlling fathers. She struggles and tries so hard to make them proud. I think this is something we can all relate to. Everyone has that one person in their life that they want to please. Personally, I always strive to make my mom proud. She shares similar qualities with Schwartzy’s dads. No, she is not strict or controlling like the dads, but she has been a ‘coach’ for me throughout my acting career.”

Lindsey has enjoyed bonding with her castmates, saying, “I have never been in a show where a cast bonds as fast as we did! We truly have become a family in a very short period of time. I feel like this will transfer to the stage very well and can only benefit our show!  Lindsey calls Hallie – her Schwartzy counterpart – “an extremely talented and gifted young lady! Although she and I play the same character, we have some different character choices and that is fun to see her develop as time goes on.”  Lindsey currently lives in Troy and went to Grand Valley State University where she studied psychology and theatre. She works at Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine and does psychological testing. Besides theatre, she enjoys spending time with her family, watching Netflix/Bravo/Food Network, and going to the gym.

The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  The show includes 12 performances (with six matinees) from December 4 – 20.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Gary Weinstein Plays It Straight In Crazy Comedy Boeing Boeing

Gary Weinstein (Robert) is looking for love in all the wrong places
Anyone who has ever seen Gary Weinstein perform on the Barn stage knows that he is a real “character.”   Whether he is playing a masochistic dental patient in Little Shop of Horrors, the deranged Renfield in Dracula, or the creepy Doctor Einstein in Arsenic & Old Lace, Gary’s roles are larger than life and he always steals the show.  By contrast, in Boeing Boeing, Gary plays mild-mannered Robert Lambert, a Wisconsinite looking for love while visiting his old school friend Bernard in Paris.

For Gary, “the most challenging thing about the role is playing it 'not as a character'.  This is the first role I've had where I play it pretty straight. My mantra is 'how would Gary play it.'”  Even though the role may be straight, the romantically charged show ventures far from the straight-and-narrow and the pace is as fast as the new Boeing jet airliners.   Gary says, “I really wanted this part because I've never had the opportunity to be in a fast-paced comedy like this, and I consider it a real challenge to keep up the energy. I think people will enjoy the show because the theme of love is ancient and here nothing gets lost in translation.”

I asked Gary his favorite part of playing Robert.  His reply: “Being overly animated when things start to unravel.  And of course, getting to kiss the pretty girls!”    Given the manic pace, was Gary concerned about whether his fellow actors and directors could really pull off what's demanded of them?   Not a chance!  Gary exclaimed that, “In this show I am delighted with my fellow actor and actresses and what they're able to bring to this performance. Their power and energy is something that I've never had the privilege before of performing next to, and the vision and the timing that our directors are demanding of us will make the show a real joy to witness.”

Gary is an avid golfer, having played in all 50 states (twice) and in 35 countries in the past seven years with a goal of reaching 100 countries in 20 years. Since losing his wife and two children into 2005, he has collaborated with two local directors in creating documentaries entitled: Project Forgive and Transforming Loss. Gary 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 the foundation of forgiveness.”

Boeing Boeing has three final performances:  October 8, 9 and 10.  The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel, including special prizes for 50/50 raffle winners and a chance to win a $500 travel voucher on closing night.   Tickets are still available at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the Farmington Players box office at 248-553-2955.  Find us on Facebook under "Farmington Players Barn Theater".


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Kristin Heitmeier Makes Barn Debut as Fetchin’ Gretchen in Boeing Boeing

Kristin Heitmeier as Gretchen, the German flight attendant
It’s the Sixties, and swinging bachelor Bernard couldn’t be happier: a flat in Paris and three gorgeous stewardesses all engaged to him without knowing about each other … Until a faster Boeing jet plane throws off his careful planning, and all three women arrive in town simultaneously!  Such is the plot of Boeing Boeing, a fun-filled farce coming soon to the Farmington Players Barn Theater.

One of the three fiancées is Gretchen, a German air hostess for Lufthansa, played by Kristin Heitmeier.  Kristin’s German heritage appears to make her a perfect fit for the part, but she points out that despite her married name of Heitmeier and maiden name of Gritzmacher, she’s “only 25 percent German…and actually 50 percent Scottish.”  Kristen describes Gretchen as “very passionate, intelligent, strong-willed and she resorts to brusqueness when challenged. She’s dramatic, but actually a romantic, honest person at heart with a strong moral compass.  Gretchen’s bark is definitely worse than her bite…at her core, she just wants love!”  Kristin thinks that everyone can relate to these overarching themes of honesty and love because “we all want honesty, trust and loyalty from our loved ones … with lots of laughs and romance mixed in.  I think people always enjoy watching a show that’s intentionally humorous and where one can watch foibles and fumbles from afar. That’s timeless … as is love: falling in, falling out.”

Boeing Boeing is Kristin’s Farmington Players debut and she auditioned because “the pacing and comedic plot reminded me of one of my favorite shows and roles: Rosalind in Moon Over Buffalo. It’s a clever, fast-paced farce that will make people laugh aloud.”  While she’s a newcomer to the Barn, Kristin is no stranger to the stage and loves acting, directing and theatre in general.   She resides in Northville and also enjoys writing and “travel, especially to any beach, New York or Italy.”  She holds a dual degree in Business and Communications with a minor in Industrial Psychology and works as a communications writer, editor and project manager in the health insurance industry.

Just like it takes a whole flight crew to fly a plane, Kristin knows that Boeing Boeing will take off at the Barn due to the cohesive cast and crew:  “Our Boeing cast and crew is a true ensemble and if you only knew how happy I am to be a part of it and to make my debut at the Barn! Just like our pilots, our fearless directing team wrangles a holistic map to get us to our destination. And our cast has such defined and individualistic characters that it’s a joy to watch them take flight.  Combined, it makes Boeing Boeing a delightful romp for all involved.”

Boeing Boeing opens at the Farmington Players Barn Theater on September 25 and runs through October 10.  The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel.  Thanks to Cadillac, 50/50 raffle winners will also receive a special prize – a carry-on bag valued at $99 – and become eligible for the grand prize drawing – a $500 travel voucher – on closing night!  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Laurel Stroud Plays Berthe Proud in Madcap Boeing Boeing

Laurel Stoud runs a tight ship as Berthe
I often find that song lyrics are a great way to succinctly describe situations.  So if you asked me, “What is Boeing Boeing about?” I’d be inclined to tell you that it’s a cross between these Beatles lyrics: “All you need is love” and “I am he as you are he as you are me … and we are all together.”   If that seems a bit nonsensical, then you’re getting the picture.  Boeing Boeing is a madcap farce where anything can happen and often does.  People mistake one another’s identity and affections.  The play is set in Paris in the Swinging Sixties, baby, and disaster looms behind every swinging door. 

In the Farmington Players’ production of Boeing Boeing, Laurel Stroud plays the dour Berthe, Bernard's maid.  Laurel describes Berthe as “a fatalist.  She has been living and working at this apartment for years and she's seen it all.  Although she claims to be ‘a cheerful person at heart,’ keeping up with her latest boss and his three fiancés (and the changing menu) is proving to be too much.”  Laurel said that she relates to Berthe and her fatalism:  “I've been told I'm an adapter - I figure out how to make the situation work.”  But she can also “relate to Robert striking out and looking for adventure, and not being sure he can deal with what he finds.”  It’s this combination of playing the hand you are dealt, but remaining optimistic about the future that makes Laurel a great fit for Boeing Boeing.  Laurel “fell in love with the show when I saw it in London in 2007.  I thought it was a smart farce, as opposed to slapstick or lowbrow humor.  Berthe is a great part, and I'm very fortunate to have it.” 

While Berthe can be a bit of a Debbie Downer at times, her acerbic wit and sarcasm adds punch to the rollicking hijinks going on all around her.  As Laurel says, “the challenge is to represent the ‘these people are crazy’ side of the roller coaster ride we want the audience to go on, while keeping Berthe a sympathetic character.”  Laurel knows that audiences will love Boeing Boeing because “we will take them on a ride through a ridiculous situation.  They will go back and forth between ‘this is crazy’ and ‘this might work!’  I think people like to see if characters can ‘get away with it’ because it's a departure from real life.  I think Love Conquers All is the main theme of the show.  It certainly doesn't go out of style.”  

Laurel is a long-time Barn member who enjoys cooking, baking, gardening and doing home improvement projects (“I just put in a patio in my backyard!”).  She teaches Sunday school at Christ Church in Redford, and works as a clipsheet editor for Lone Buffalo.

Boeing Boeing opens at the Farmington Players Barn Theater on September 25 and runs through October 10.  The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel.  Thanks to Cadillac, 50/50 raffle winners will also receive a special prize – a carry-on bag valued at $99 – and become eligible for the grand prize drawing – a $500 travel voucher – on closing night!  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

ShareThis