2022-23 season

2022-23 season

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Amy Lauter Spreads Some 1940s Christmas Magic As Ann Collier

Amy Lauter is having herself a Merry Little Christmas as Ann Collier

Amid the commotion of The 1940s Radio Hour, veteran singer Ann Collier is a steadying force and calming influence.  Likewise, Amy Lauter feels an affinity for her stable character Ann: “I feel like Ann is one of the most ‘normal’ persons in the show. When up against so many crazy characters, I have to make sure I don’t get lost in the chaos. Many of the other characters in the show are very comical, or boisterous, or have some specific characteristic that makes them stand out. Connie’s the kid, Ginger’s the bubble-head, Johnny’s the drunk, etc. I have to make sure I subtly stand out.”

Amy certainly does stand out with her stunning vocal performances as Ann, including such 1940s standards as That Old Black Magic and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.  Amy has “always enjoyed the ‘old standards’ but the main reason that I really wanted to be in this show was because I knew my grandmother, my mother and father in-law would enjoy it. The music and content in this show is something that they can all relate to and remember. I thought it would be nice to be in a show that pays tribute to an era they lived through. My father-in-law Bob (who turned 90 this year), served in the Army Air Corp. Hearing about his time there has been very interesting.”

As Amy developed her character, she discovered that Ann is “similar to me in ways that I did not realize at first. Ann began singing as a young girl, and continued to sing while in school. Although she was the featured vocalist at the Cavalcade, she still has a day job, as well as a young son that keeps her busy. She is one of those people that has a lot to juggle, but gets it done.”  Similarly, Amy began singing at a young age and began doing community theatre at age 10. Once she found the Farmington Players, she has had to juggle working full time, raising kids, rehearsing and more: “I wonder myself how I do it at times, but I think being so busy all the time keeps me at my best. You have to get things done – because there is no time to lose – so you make it happen.”

Amy has been “making it happen” for eight years at the Barn, and her favorite past roles with the Farmington Players include Claire in Proof, Dainty June in Gypsy, Laurie in Oklahoma, and multiple roles in last season's adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

The 1940s Radio Hour closes this weekend with final performances on December 20, 21 and 22.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Michael Rose Blooms as Wally the Delivery Boy

Michael Rose "mans up" as Wally the delivery boy

He tries too hard to curry favor, overpromises then under delivers, but eventually Wally the delivery boy becomes a man.  Similarly, Michael Rose has grown as an actor during the rehearsal process of The 1940s Radio Hour.  Michael describes Wally as follows: “He starts out the show very naive with a fascination -- bordering on obsession -- with becoming part of the broadcast.  He has the best intentions, but often underachieves.  He does everything he can to endear himself to Lou the stage manager.  He is star struck with Johnny, the featured vocalist.  He is enamored by the female singers but his naiveté keeps him from being any sort of player.” 

Wally wants so badly to break into show business, but after he gets his chance to be in the radio show, Michael says that he “realizes nothing has changed.  He is still treated like the delivery boy.  The luster of the being on the show begins to fade the more the war is talked about and the more Wally realizes what Biff (a musician leaving for the war) will face.”  At first, Michael was drawn to the role of Wally because of his comedic appeal, but eventually he learned to find the depth in his character.  “I have been trying to add subtle introspection of what I am doing and the pride that Biff has for what he is going to do for his country.  I am trying to convey all that building up to my final line where Wally convinces himself, ’I’m gonna sign up!.’”   Wally’s “transformation from bumbling young kid to determined young man was lost on me until the last few rehearsals when one of the cast members explained why and how to deliver that final line.  Now I get goose bumps every time I say it.”

Michael does a great job of conveying Wally’s innocence, while keeping his eagerness in check, saying, “the challenge I had playing this character was trying to not go over the top.  There were some parts that I had to reign in because it was too cheesy or just too much.”  And just like Wally has to prove himself worthy of the radio show, Michael “wanted to prove to myself that the last show (Little Shop of Horrors, also directed by his wife Rachael) was not a fluke and that I could do more than I expected of myself.  I have always seen myself as quiet shy person who doesn't like to be the center of attention.  However, I am finding myself excited and exhilarated being on stage and performing.  I hate to admit it but I do think I have been bitten by the acting bug.” 

The 1940s Radio Hour runs through December 22nd.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brittany Davenport Lives Her Fantasy as Classy Geneva Lee Browne

Brittany Davenport (left) as Geneva Lee Browne, with Grace Muawad, Taylor Alfano and Amy Lauter

In The 1940s Radio Hour, Brittany Davenport is living the dream.  Brittany plays Geneva Lee Browne, who she describes as “a beautiful, high-class black singer.  On a personality level, Geneva is basically everything I'm not.  She's loud, brassy, egotistical, flavorful, and self-assured to the point of being carefree.  She says anything and everything that she has on her mind and has no filter.  She's a star, and knows it, and wants everyone else to know it as well.”  As Geneva, Brittany offers soulful performances in Rose of the Rio Grande and I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).

It’s not easy playing her opposite, but as Brittany says, “I love her attitude.  I know that's a weird thing to say, but I'm such a reserved person that playing Geneva gives me an avenue to do things that I would NEVER do myself.  I also love her confidence.  Geneva may be overly confident, but at least she knows her worth.  Being so stiff, shy, and conscientious myself, playing a character that is my polar opposite really is exhilarating!  In some ways, I'd even say Geneva Lee Browne is my fantasy.”  Brittany has been heavily involved in music since she was a young child: “I’ve been singing ever since I was able to open my mouth, and wrote my first song at 9.  I started playing saxophone when I was 10, guitar when I was 13, and picked up a little bit of piano at 15.  I was in a band in high school, and have continued to song-write all the way up to the present time. Music has always been a large part of my life.”

While Geneva is a self-assured star, Brittany is a perfectionist.  As she says, “These concepts really do collide, and the hardest part about playing her is getting out of my own head and just letting Geneva come out.  Brittany might be worried about doing everything perfectly and analyzing every situation, but Geneva is fabulous and knows anything she does will be so!”  Brittany loves the jazzy music of the 40's and also enjoys how the 1940’s singers, “even in times of strife, were able to use what resources they had to still look put together and glamorous!”

1940s is Brittany’s Barn debut.  She participated in theatre at Ann Arbor Huron High School and the University of Indianapolis.  Her favorite productions include Anything Goes, Wit, Dogg’s Hamlet Cahoots Macbeth, Family Names, and Into the Woods

The 1940s Radio Hour runs through December 22nd.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

1940’s Youngest Cast Member Carries Herself with “Grace”

Grace Muawad is a natural as wide-eyed Connie Miller

At age 15, Grace Muawad is the youngest member of The 1940s Radio Hour cast, but she is poised and precocious beyond her years.  Grace plays the role of Connie, a 17-year-old girl who has recently moved with her mother from Utah to the Big Apple, hoping for a career in show biz with dreams of becoming a Rockette.  Grace describes Connie as “a small town girl who is new to the big city.  She is a little bit star-struck and wide-eyed while still being a typical teenager who doesn't like her mother checking up on her.” Grace really relates to Connie: “She's the youngest performer on the radio show, and I am the youngest actress in the cast.  We both love to sing and dance, and just as Connie has only been on the radio show for a few months this is my first production with the Farmington Players.  Also, Connie drinks a lot of Coke, and so do I!”  But while Connie always seems to be in love – she has a boyfriend, but is also infatuated with an older man – Grace is “a little too sensible and way too busy to have these problems, so I'm working on seeing love from Connie's naive point of view.” 

While not star-struck herself, Grace has been performing since she started dancing at age 5.  She “caught the singing and acting bug when I was about 11” and has been involved with the Michigan Opera Theater Children's Chorus and has studied musical theater at Interlochen Arts Camp.  Now a high school sophomore, she is involved in choir, student government and photography and continues her dance, piano and voice training.  She hopes to study performing arts in college. 

Grace really appreciates her directors and cast mates.  Director Rachael Rose has been “very warm and welcoming to me as a Farmington Player newcomer and a young person.  Rachael has lots of energy and a positive and encouraging manner.  She is also very musically talented.  And so is Jose Reyes, the music director.  The cast is lucky to have two such talented musical resources to draw from.”  Grace sees parallels between the cast and the characters in The 1940s Radio Hour: “Everyone comes to rehearsal from someplace else, generally from work or in my case, school or dance class.  So we all have other things on our minds as we race to rehearsals but we all love theater and put those thoughts aside when we are together, preparing to put on a show, just like the Cavalcade at WOV!”

The 1940s Radio Hour opened November 30th and runs through December 22nd.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Who’s On First? Keith Firstenberg Plays Comedian, and Vice Versa

Keith Firstenberg (right) wears many hats as comedian/singer/dancer Neal Tilden

He’s funny and talented, can sing and dance, and yet he’s a little insecure about his own abilities.  Whether this describes Keith Firstenberg, or his comedic character Neil Tilden, is for audiences to decide, but The 1940s Radio Hour actor appears to be well-suited to his role.  Keith describes his character as follows: “Neal Tilden is the resident comic of the Feddington players.  He's been with the show from the beginning just like Ann and Johnny, but for some reason he just doesn't have the ‘star power’ that they do.  He loves being the go-to guy for all things funny, but wishes they would recognize more of his singing and dancing talent, because he really does have the skills to do it all (at least he thinks so.)”  

This convergence of actor and character might seem to simplify Keith’s job, but he says that his “greatest challenge has been keeping the ‘character’ separate from the ‘self’ because I have a tendency to absorb aspects of the role that I'm playing.  Neal and I are already so very similar. I relate to his unstated insecurities -- or maybe I'm just projecting my own onto Neal!  I also really enjoy Neal's sense of humor.  Or maybe I just like my own sense of humor!”  

Despite this schizophrenic split, Keith actually does a good job of keeping it all together on stage, and is a versatile performer.  His scene as a discombobulated diction coach is sure to have audiences in stiches, and yet he brings touching vulnerability to his own vocal rendition of Blue Moon.  Like his character, Keith is trying hard to belong and feel at home after recently relocating to this area from Traverse City, and Minnesota before that.  Keith says, “I've always used theatre to meet people in a new area and I usually find that they are ‘my people’ and I feel quite comfortable very quickly; The Farmington Players is no exception.”  Keith is “very pleased with the opportunity that I've been given in this show. I can showcase my acting, my singing and dancing with a great role and some fun music that one doesn't get to sing often.”   

Keith is making his onstage debut at the Barn after helping with lights for Little Shop and sound for Avenue Q and Dixie Swim Club, but he is no stranger to the stage.  A few of his favorite shows/roles include You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Snoopy), Evita (Che), The Foreigner (Charlie), and Fiddler on the Roof (Motel). He has also appeared in Man of La Mancha, West Side Story, Noises Off, The Producers, Urinetown, Into the Woods, Cabaret, Biloxi Blues, An Ideal Husband, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Book of Mathew Lebowitz.
The 1940s Radio Hour opened November 30th and runs through December 22nd.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Newcomer Jeffrey Nelson Has the Chops to Play “Pops”

Jeffrey Nelson is stogie-smoking "Pops" -- shown (L to R) with Dave Reinke (Lou), 
Joel Mapes (Stanley), and Michael Rose (Wally).

 Jeffrey Nelson may be a newcomer to community theater, but he already has the acting chops to play “Pops” Bailey, an old hand behind the scenes at The 1940s Radio Hour.   Jeffrey describes Pops as “complicated, complex, and complacent.  He is extremely agitated by the other characters because he feels that they don’t exemplify what it takes to do good radio.  He only has respect for one person -- Ann Collier -- whom he is enamored with.  Pops is homeless, but only shares this information with Ann, and the others appear to be oblivious to his circumstances.”   

Despite his character’s hard luck life, Jeffrey enjoys playing Pops because he is “genuine and what you see is what you get; there’s no gray area with him.  He is old enough to put others in their place.  I like that he gets to yell at everybody but they don’t get offended.  I like that at the end of the show, someone in the cast showed him kindness and love and he received it rather than allow his bitterness to reject it.”  Jeffrey sees Pops as a “tortured soul who is trapped in a situation that many people will identify with – unfulfilled dreams.  I believe Pops would have been a real radio star if things in his life turned out differently.  I want to go for my dreams and not look back when I’m Pops age with regrets.”

While 1940s is his first role on stage, Jeffrey has enthusiastically jumped into theater with both feet:  “Community theater is all new to me.  I am enjoying getting to know how it works and what it takes to put on a production.  It has been an amazing journey getting to know the other cast members and learning how amazingly talented they are.  I admit I was very guarded and quiet during rehearsals at first but I have come to respect them as artists and fellow lovers of quality theater.  I really want to step into directing more than be on the stage because then you can bring your own vision to life rather than the vision of someone else.”  Jeffrey has over twenty years of experience directing and producing shows with students during his stint as a teacher and administrator with Detroit Public Schools.   He will soon follow up his Barn debut with a company role in Curtains at Stagecrafters early next year.

The 1940s Radio Hour opens November 30th and runs through December 22nd.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Taylor Alfano is “Putting On the Ditz” as Smart and Sassy Ginger Brooks

Taylor Alfano is Smartly Ditzy as Ginger Brooks

It’s hard playing opposites, especially when they are two sides of the same coin.  This is the challenge facing Taylor Alfano, who plays Ginger Brooks in The 1940s Radio Hour.  Taylor describes her character Ginger as “a waitress who always wanted to be more. She is a very clever girl, even though she acts dumber than she is when they are on the air.  It is not easy to play smart and ditzy at the same time. You have to have a lot more focus than you would expect, and when you add the dancing, singing and the rest of the show in, it does get a little overwhelming.”

Taylor loves being Ginger because of the relationships she shares with other characters: “Ginger and Clifton have a love/hate relationship that makes them more like family than they would like to admit. She plays tricks on him constantly and loves being late, just to make him insane. Ginger absolutely despises Johnny because of the way he treats women, and no matter how many times he tries, he will never win over Ginger. She does not fall for his charms or any of the games he plays with the other girls in the show.”  While Ginger loves the men’s attention, she also has “a huge heart. She took Connie under her wing when she first started in the show, and ever since then, they have been like sisters.”

Taylor wanted to audition for 1940's mainly to work with director Rachael Rose again:  “Rachael has become one of my best friends between 1940s and Little Shop of Horrors, and I couldn't be happier to be working with her again. She is so supportive and really puts her heart and soul into every aspect of the show she is directing.”  Taylor also expressed a love for Forties music, which has “stunning jazz harmonies that are pretty difficult, but when done right, they sound great. I have always wanted to sing ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ so that definitely drove me to audition. The Forties style is one of my favorites, and the actresses from those days were so wonderful.”

Taylor made her Barn debut this year as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors.  Taylor graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor’s degree of fine Arts in 2011.  While there, she portrayed Cecile in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the wicked stepmother in Into The Woods, and Sally in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown!

The 1940s Radio Hour opens November 30th and runs through December 22nd.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Now, Steve King Gets His Kicks Behind the Mike

Steve King as Sinatra wanna-be Johnny Cantone

"For everything we gain in life, there is something we leave behind."  This line from the Summer of '42 has special meaning to Steve King, who plays Johnny Cantone in The 1940s Radio Hour.  Steve regards the 1940s as “a simpler time that sadly we will never see again. All of my mom's brothers served in WWII and couldn't wait to go off and fight for our country. We are here because they were there sacrificing.”  That sense of loss, of something or someone left behind, also shapes Steve’s character.  He describes Johnny Cantone as “the featured vocalist and Frank Sinatra wanna-be. A former welterweight boxer past his prime, he’s very conflicted over whether or not he should stay with a show that he could do in his sleep (or in his case, drunk out of his mind) or to move on to something bigger.”  Similarly, Cantone is torn between two women: “Will he try to go back to his wife Angel who left him years ago or stay with Ann whom he has a strong history with?”

Steve enjoys playing this conflicted character, as Johnny is someone who “gets away with being full of himself because he is suave, cool and talented. I only wish I was that cool in real life. I have been known to trip over my own feet and tongue.”  He credits director Rachael Rose for her patience and for being a great teacher, as singing is a new challenge for Steve: “All my cast members are so talented with so many gifts I just feel lucky to be on the same stage with them.  Singing in this show is so important to me because I want be great at something different. I've been in martial arts my whole life, I'd like to succeed at something that does not involve kicking someone in the head.”  Steve is an accomplished martial artist with over 30 years experience, and he earned his 6th Degree Blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do in 2010. Steve has also studied fight choreography at The Action Film Academy.  Steve made his Barn debut last year in A Christmas Carol after a ten-year absence from the stage. He studied acting at Washtenaw Community College and played the role of Gary in I Hate Hamlet at The State Wayne Theater.

The 1940s Radio Hour opens November 30th and runs through December 22nd.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dave Reinke Finds His 1940s Alter Ego in Stage Manager Lou Cohn

Dave Reinke IS the Stage Manager, Lou Cohn

Sometimes it’s hard to play yourself on stage, but sometimes the shoe fits so well, it’s hard not to.  When Dave Reinke first heard that the Farmington Players were performing The 1940’s Radio Hour, he approached director Rachael Rose about being the stage manager.  In the past 25 years, Dave has stage managed over 30 productions including 12 at the Barn.  As Dave recalls, “Stage managing is one of my favorite jobs backstage.  In speaking to Rachael she instead encouraged me to audition for the part of Lou Cohn, the Stage Manager in the play.  In reading the script I fell in love with the character because I could relate to him.  It was basically me in the 1940s.”

Although Dave is comfortable playing a role that is so close to himself, he has developed Lou’s character and sees him as the “entrepreneur’s entrepreneur.  Big shot.  Always trying to impress Ginger, the waitress whose job here Lou is responsible for. Keeps four or five conversations going at once, and all of them straight.  The surrogate boss during rehearsals which he conducts.  Officious and obnoxious sometimes. Hardass about the seriousness of his job.”   While other characters may aspire to stardom, Dave says that “Lou has no ambitions to be anything else but stage manager. He is perfectly content with a job that has plenty of authority and no responsibility. Cues the audience, Clifton, the band, the performers, performs the sound effects, runs the lights and controls all of the stage ‘effects’.”

Like a real stage manager, Dave faces the challenge of “keeping aware of everything going on as if I was the stage manager of the show.  I also do sound effects as a stage manager for a radio show of that era would be in charge of, so I have to always be on top of things.”  The radio show setting also appealed to Dave because he studied Broadcasting at Central Michigan University and took some history of broadcasting/radio classes.  Dave loves the chance to work with this director, cast and crew, and said “It's been great working with both old and new friends.  It is such an ensemble cast.”

Dave developed his love for stage management at the Purple Rose Theatre Companies Apprenticeship program.  He has been an active member of the Barn since 2003 where he has stage managed such shows as Noises Off, The Producers, A Christmas Story and A Christmas Carol.  Dave’s acting credits include Taming of the Shrew (Barn), Moon Over Buffalo (SRO) and A Man For All Seasons (Birmingham Village Players).  He works in Customer Service for a manufacturing facility and is the proud father of Adam, Hailey, & Brianna.

The 1940s Radio Hour opens November 30th and runs through December 22nd.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jim Moll Plays “Principal” Role, Onstage and Off

The show must go on! -- Jim Moll as Clifton Feddington

Jim Moll doesn’t do anything small.  From his physical presence to his booming voice, he is larger than life.  No wonder he is such a commanding authority figure, having served as an educator and high school principal for nearly 40 years in the Birmingham and Royal Oak school districts.  Jim brings this same manic energy to his role as Clifton Feddington, one of the principal characters in The 1940s Radio Hour.  Clifton is the master of ceremonies of the radio show.  He is a bundle of nervous energy before the show, but a polished performer once on the air.

As Jim describes his character, “Clifton is an old hand in show business and the driving force behind the weekly radio variety hour. He's a bit of a nudge -- gets pretty worked up before going on the air, but all things seem to settle in once the on the air lights flash. He's at home behind a microphone and, despite his overly theatric nerves, the cast does like and respect him. He cares about the performers and about the ‘boys over there.’” 

By “boys,” Jim refers to the American soldiers fighting in World War II, which is a central theme of the play.  The action takes place in New York City on December 21, 1942, and the play is reminiscent of an actual radio variety show, with songs and commercials from the World War II era, including 40’s favorites such as “Strike Up the Band” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”   The 1940s music really resonates with Jim: “I'm easily the oldest member of the cast - my dad and the rest of his family all fought in WWII.  Forties music was common in my home when I was small, and many of the folks in my generation saw this time as the last time that the country was involved in a war effort that was worth fighting.  The show is a real joy to be a part of -- the music's great, the dialog clever and funny, and my character is a wonderful guy.  I love his hammy-ness when on air and his fluidity while on microphone.  He's a good guy, basically, and he is pretty genuine.” 

While Jim seems very natural on stage as Clifton, he admits that “finding the balance between the before-air and on-air Clifton is a challenge.  He's just so nervous and reactive before he gets in front of the studio audience -- and his mania can't take over for the audience.”   Jim is certainly not shy in front of audiences, having participated for years in Farmington School community musicals.  His Farmington Players’ credits include: You Can’t Take It With You (Paul Sycamore); Leaving Iowa (Dad); The Producers  (Roger DeBris); and To Kill a Mockingbird (Walter Cunningham)
The 1940s Radio Hour opens November 30th and runs through December 22nd.  Reserved seats for this musical comedy sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dixie Actors Form Ties That Bind

Dixie Swim Club (L to R): Anne Craft is team captain “Sheree;” Erin Osgood is self-absorbed “Lexie;” Debra Rockey is the hard-luck “Vernadette;” Kandi Krumins is naïve ex-nun “Jeri Neal; and Julie Yolles is hard-boiled attorney “Dinah.”

If you are lucky, you have made some friends in this life that you know will always be there for you.  Perhaps you met in school, and maybe you don’t even see each other that often, but whenever you do you pick up right where you left off without missing a beat.  These “best friends forever” friendships are what make life precious.  You can tell your BFFs the truth, even when it hurts, and you can share in each other’s triumphs and tribulations.

The five women in the Dixie Swim Club portray characters that share such friendships.  In fact, the actors have bonded so closely that their mutual admiration makes for a richer experience onstage.  
Two actors were kind enough to share some self-realizations and also some personal reflections about their fellow cast mates.  Anne Craft said, “If you know anything about me, you know I am Sheree.  She says the same things I say so I didn't have any trouble getting the tone or emphasis of her words.  I have been accused of organizing the lives of other people.  I have been guilty of making decisions for other people and deciding what was best without consulting them.  I run a tight ship in the make-up room and have firm rules about the costumes.  I have been labeled as ‘particular’ which I think is a nice way to say I'm bossy and a little mean.  Some people are scared of me.  I wish Sheree could be more sexy, or enjoy alcohol more, be a funnier character or perhaps be more naive.  But she is pretty straight and plain.  I see myself as having that same demeanor. I think Sheree is a likeable character and once you get to know her you see how genuine she is.  The same could be said for me.  It isn't necessarily easy playing a character so similar to yourself.”
Of her fellow actors, Anne observed that “Erin's character (Lexie) is very over the top at times, and she takes the spotlight whenever she can.  Kandi's 77-year-old Jeri Neal is fabulous.  She has the stiffness and shakiness of an elderly person.  Debra is a true storyteller.  Her tales of woe are meaningful and you can see that her character is sad about her life, but won't let that get her down.  Julie found a routine and her professionalism shines through.  She plays Dinah perfectly.  I think as a whole, I have learned that each woman is truly dedicated to the craft and to this show.  In Dixie I have learned that while my character is the least glamorous, I am a necessary character and need to be the straight gal in order for the other four to shine.”

Debra (a/k/a “Rockey”) notes that “each actor is cast perfectly to her persona.  Erin is Sexy Lexie.  Anne is extremely organized.  Julie was born with an ego and to be a diva.  Kandi is as authentic and whole as they come.  I always see the comedic side of life.”

While Rockey has befriended the entire cast, she feels that her character Vernadette connects the best “with Lexie, because I am the anti-Lexie – the total opposite of all she is and stands for. I also connect with Jeri Neal, because of her vulnerability and honesty. Combine these characters behaviors and you have Vernie - she is as comfortable in her skin as Lexie is in hers.  And Vern just tells it as it is – ‘what you see is what you get.’” Rockey is quick to note that “I also love Dinah and Sheree - as the team and the experience would not be the same without them.”

How does the real life Rockey relate to her character Vernadette?  Rockey said, “I was never the cute girl, or the popular girl, or the rich girl growing up.  I relied on my wit and boldness to get me through situations. No matter what is thrown in my path, I charge ahead.  So ... my pre-30 days were all Vernadette-building.  After 30, I figured out that this personality worked very well in the business world, so I let 'er rip!”

The Dixie Swim Club concludes October 25th – 27th.  Reserved seats for this comedy sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kandi Brings Out Sweetness in her Dixie Alter Ego

Kandi Krumins is all sweetness and light
 as the fun former nun, Jeri Neal McFeeley

Kandi Krumins’ character in the Dixie Swim Club is Jeri Neal McFeeley, a former nun who has been called a “ditzy ray of sunshine.”  Kandi admits that she “struggled, at first, to find Jeri Neal.  In real life, ditzy women rather annoy me, and sometimes Jeri Neal says some things that sound ditzy. However, she's just naive.  I had to learn to give her a break, love her for who and what she is, and watch her grow into herself.”  

Kandi brings creativity and imagination to her portrayal of Jeri Neal, whose character really matures (literally and emotionally) during the course of the play.  Jeri Neal goes from pregnant nun, to unwed mother, to the bride of a younger man during the course of the play.  And with each scene, Jeri Neal grows up a little more.  As Kandi says, “Jeri Neal is the positive thinker in the group that's full of sunshiny love.  She's also the late bloomer in the group, off to a later start than her friends, but continually makes choices throughout the show that surprise them.  What I enjoy most about Jeri Neal is her ‘cup is half full’ way of looking at life.  No matter what happens, she ends up being positive; the one who reminds everyone about the good in life.”

Kandi’s own positive outlook is a great fit for Jeri Neal, and sometimes it’s hard to know who is rubbing off on whom.  Kandi “believes that if you truly ‘get into’ a character, you have the ability to take some part of that character with you and incorporate it, if you choose, into your own personality.  That said, the more I play Jeri Neal, the more I'm thrilled to have gotten her role!  I think that most of us could use a little more Jeri Neal in our lives.  I hope to keep as much of her alive as possible when the show's over.”

Kandi “wanted to be in the Dixie Swim Club because they are a diverse group that loves each other despite their differences.”  She finds it “humorous that the cast seems to be as diverse in real life as we are on stage, but that we still have a great bond.  In many ways it feels like we HAVE known each other our whole lives.  As we have spent increasingly more time together, the show has come more and more to life. Playing off my fellow cast members' emotions has become a rush.  I also find it humorous how Tim and Rick, being fine actors themselves, have become more of our ‘coach’ and ‘assistant coach’ than director and assistant director. After voluntarily directing a cast consisting of five diverse, headstrong women (and we are), they both deserve medals of their own.

Kandi last graced the Barn stage a year ago as the adult Jean Louise Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

The Dixie Swim Club runs through October 27th.  Reserved seats for this comedy sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955. Find us on Facebook under “Farmington Players.”  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This Rockey’s a True Fighter

Debra Rockey (right) plays Vernadette,
who bonds with her swim club "sisters"
including Erin Osgood (left) as Lexie
That Debra Rockey goes by her last name might not surprise you. “Rockey” suits her personality and physical presence to a tee.  But what’s even cooler is how well her name fits her character in the Dixie Swim Club.  Rockey plays Vernadette Simms, a true fighter and survivor if ever there was one.  In Dixie, five college swim teammates reunite at an Outer Banks beach house for a girls-only weekend every August that is always full of fun, fights, and twists of fate.  

Rockey offers comic relief as Vernadette, a hard luck case who has a deadbeat husband, a felonious son, and a daughter who bounces between cults.  Rockey describes Vernadette as “a solid woman - physically and mentally.  I think Vern knows that the way you make God laugh is by telling him your plans.  She just keeps on going through everything that is sent her way.  Nothing will get Vern down and what keeps her going are her swim club, her biscuits, and her memories.”

Despite her bad luck, as Rockey says, “Vernadette is a survivor. She may not be the cutest character or the best dressed or have any waist (she hasn't seen hers in years) but she is as solid as a rock. And, she lives for August in the Outer Banks with her four fabulous friends.  It is the one thing that she can count on - the team that always wins, in and out of the water.”  Similarly, of her fellow actors, Rockey says, “I love my ‘swim team’.  We have been working together for several months now - filming the videos, eating, rehearsing, eating - and it feels like we have known each other for twenty years. Each of us are magically a living version of our Dixie Swim Club self.   Typically I perform musical theater, so it has been a bit strange to be on stage and not singing my heart out.  But know that on the inside, I am singing - 'cause I'm just thrilled to be a member of this great cast and to share this story with our audience.”  

While this is her Barn debut, Rockey has performed throughout Michigan – in Grand Rapids' Civic, Circle, and Actors Theaters, and Novi and Ann Arbor Civic Theaters.  She has also appeared on Detroit's Boxfest and Second City stages.  Favorite productions include Annie, Sweeney Todd, The Producers, Anne of Green Gables, Baby, and Divine Stella Divine.  Her favorite roles so far are "Stella" in Follies, and rich "Lady Cucuface" in Madeline.  

The Dixie Swim Club runs October 5th – 27th.  Reserved seats for this comedy sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Julie Yolles Finds Southern Comfort in Dixie

Julie Yolles as Dinah Grayson, Esquire

Julie Yolles may be from Birmingham, Michigan, but she’s been in so many “Southern” plays that you might think she’s from Birmingham, Alabama instead.  As she says, “I guess I’m becoming a ‘Southern’ veteran, having been in Miracle Worker, Steel Magnolias, Last Night of Ballyhoo and now the Dixie Swim Club.” In Dixie, five women -- teammates on their college swim team -- reunite every August at a North Carolina beach house for a girls-only weekend that is always full of fun, fights, and twists of fate.

In her first role with the Farmington Players, Julie plays Dinah Grayson, a fast-talking, wise-cracking, hard-boiled attorney who is never far from her martini glass. Julie contrasts her character with herself: “As Dinah, I am supposed to be a very ‘seasoned’ drinker, shall we say.  In ‘real life,’ I’m a cheap date. I don’t drink at all, except regular Coke, which I’m trying to give up daily.  So, now, I need to find myself a handsome professional bartender to show me how to mix the ultimate martini and screwdriver onstage, while staying in character, with a Southern accent and timing my lines correctly.”

Despite their differences, Julie does have one thing in common with Dinah: “I do have my varsity letter in synchronized swimming from Southfield-Lathrup High School.” Some of her talent must have been passed on to her daughter, Madison, who is a state champion on her synchronized swim team, the Troy Synchro Sharkettes.

Julie says she “hit the jackpot” with the Farmington Players.  “I couldn’t have asked for a nicer, more talented, friendly and welcoming cast and crew.  It’s a pleasure and honor, as our director Tim Timmer and A.D. Rick Mickley always say, to share the stage and backstage with them.” Julie says that Dixie’s all-male directing team makes it “intriguing and fun to get that male perspective on the female psyche.”

One challenge facing all the characters is to age 33 years on stage, but Julie is even incorporating that into her role: “I’m having many a ‘senior moment,’ which could be a good thing for my character as there are so many lines to learn and it doesn’t come as easily as it did in the old—or should I say younger—days.”

Julie’s favorite roles include Sylvie in the Female Odd Couple, Aunt Gert in Lost in Yonkers, Chris in Rumors, Columbia in The Rocky Horror Show, Rita in The Vast Difference, Annelle in Steel Magnolias, Pfeni in Sisters Rosensweig, Electra in Gypsy, Lala in Last Night of Ballyhoo, Minnie Faye in Hello Dolly and Virginia in Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up.  By day, Julie is the Social Scene Columnist for the Observer & Eccentric newspapers, a Features Writer for Styleline magazine and a freelancer.

The Dixie Swim Club runs October 5th – 27th.  Reserved seats for this comedy sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C. are available now at farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Anne Craft is a Natural as a Dixie Chick

Debra Rockey (Vernadette), Anne Craft (Sheree), Julie Yolles (Dinah), Erin Osgood (Lexie), Kandi Krumins (Jeri Neal) are the members of the Dixie Swim Club 

“I'm every woman/It's all in me/Anything you want done baby/I do it naturally”

Like Whitney Houston’s “Every Woman,” Anne Craft sees part of herself in each of the five female characters that make up the Dixie Swim Club:  “Each of the five women is different, and has strengths and weaknesses that I possess.  I could have been any one of these women at one time during her life.  It is rare that a script has so many characters available to five female actors.  We are an ensemble.”  The Dixie Swim Club tells the story of five friends who meet on the college swim team. They reunite one weekend each year at a North Carolina beach house to laugh, love and enjoy life, free from men, children and work.

Anne describes her character Sheree as “a busy body always poking her nose in other's lives.  She feels she can reorganize everyone else to live the perfect life like she has.   Her heart is in the right place but her constant ‘I'm in charge’ attitude can be wearing on her friends.”  Anne can definitely relate to Sheree’s nutritional and organizational skills, saying: “I like that my character is ‘all about good nutrition.’  I pride myself on eating healthfully and it makes me proud that Sheree feels the same way.  She talks about being an athlete and continues with exercise throughout her life.  Sheree is also very organized.  If you saw my house you would see that I am a very organized person.  I have been known to label drawers and cabinet doors so that anyone who uses my kitchen would know where things are and where they are to be returned.”

Like all the characters, Sheree must age on stage from 44 to 77 during the course of the play.  Anne explains how the actors tackle this challenge: “Aging my character ‘down’ to look younger than I am in the first scene is one challenge.  The five characters will not only be wearing period costumes but also costumes that help determine their age.  The other challenge is making the actor's bodies age.  You can add make-up to the face, but everyone loses muscle tone and gravity pulls at everything we women pride ourselves on; top and bottom, front and back.”

Anne has added her own personal touch to the show by being the costumer: “As the costumer for the show, I had the great privilege of working with the Thurston high school girls and watching the process of the passage of time.”

Anne’s numerous Barn stage credits include curious characters such as the soft and chewy dancing pretzel in The Producers, the nameless mute in Gypsy, and the transgender mail carrier in Miracle on 34th Street.  Anne has been with the Farmington Players for four years and serves on the Board as Director of Membership.

The Dixie Swim Club runs October 5th – 27th.  Reserved seats for this comedy sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, P.C. are available now at farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.  Find us on Facebook under “Farmington Players.”