2022-23 season

2022-23 season

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Keith Firstenberg Plays Role of a Lifetime as Leading Lady Leo / Maxine

Keith Firstenberg as Leo Clark (right) implores Lance Alan as Jack Gable to embrace the "role of a lifetime."
As the Beatles sang in I Am A Walrus, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”  Keith Firstenberg can certainly relate to this lyric when it comes to playing multiple identities in the Farmington Players’ production of Leading Ladies.  Only in Keith’s case, some of the “He”s are “She”s!  Keith’s primary role is Leo Clark, an amateurish professional Shakespearean actor who just can't seem to catch a break … until he decides to dress as a woman to steal an inheritance!

Keith describes the challenge of playing multiple roles:  “It's hard to keep track of where the actor stops and the character they are playing begins.  At one point in the show I am playing a role (Leo) who is portraying an affect (Maxine) who has taken on a character from Shakespeare (Olivia).  And how good is Leo at playing Maxine?  Can Leo do a good job convincing everyone that he is Maxine, and then show how Maxine would play Olivia, as opposed to how Leo himself would do it?  And then I take a step back and realize that I have to bring all three characters across and show how the first two are struggling with the character they are portraying.  I can't just figure out how I should present Maxine, because I have to play Leo portraying Maxine.  And I have to do all this in only a few words; It gets a bit heady.  But then it's the challenges that we enjoy, isn't it?”

As Leo says, “It’s the role of a lifetime!” and Keith certainly rises to the challenge, constantly switching back and forth between Leo and Maxine, sometimes in the same scene.  Keith was familiar with Leading Ladies and said he wanted to be in the show because “I just like farce; it suits my sense of humor. It's funny. Plain and simple.  Ken Ludwig makes it easy to understand your character's motivations; the fun part is working out the timing.”  Speaking of timing, Keith’s constant costume changes require synchronized movements and the assistance of a personal offstage dresser – in Keith’s case, his lovely wife Jayne.  I asked Keith if he had ever done anything silly to impress his wife, and he answered, “I thought just doing theatre was impressive enough to win me my love; turns out I just had to go dancing.”   As it turns out, Keith is an excellent dancer and he even choreographed the dance sequences between Leo and Meg in our show.

Theatre is Keith’s main hobby and he's been doing it for as long as he can remember.  He grew up just north of New York City and has lived in Minnesota and Traverse City, before moving to the Detroit Metro area in 2012. He currently works for the Federal Mogul division that makes Champion Spark Plugs.

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies has three more performances, December 18 – 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. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

If You Don’t Know Jack, Let Lance Alan Introduce You

Lance Alan as Jack Gable, questioning the far-fetched schemes of Leo Clark (Keith Firstenberg)
Lance Alan is a man of many talents.  While this is his first time on the Barn stage, he has appeared in Metro Detroit theaters for the past 16 years. He is also an accomplished playwright and director.  I first met Lance last year when we performed together in his two-man, one-act play called The Wager.  I was struck by his creative vision, drive and energy, and how he embodied his character (Lucifer) so completely on stage that at times I thought he was possessed.  Much of Lance’s writing is dark and surreal, so I was pleasantly surprised to see him audition for Leading Ladies, a light-hearted farce, where I cast him in the role of Jack Gable. Jack also doubles as Stephanie – and Olivia in the Shakespeare scenes.

As Lance says, “This play and this role, it's a departure from the kind of thing to which I'm usually drawn. I've performed in my fair share of comedies but nothing this farcical. I've never performed as a man pretending to be a woman, so there's an appeal to that, to try something new, to challenge myself as a performer. And it's a lot of fun. And people have been telling me for years that I need to perform at The Barn. It really is a beautiful facility. I'm glad to finally have the opportunity.”

Lance has some great insights into his character Jack, who starts out as Leo’s sidekick but eventually learns to stand on his own two feet – which is harder than it looks in high heels!   Lance describes Jack as “a lost soul. He's a struggling actor, playing roles, second fiddle to Leo, without a real identity of his own. He lacks the talent or the confidence to be a successful actor but he presses on with Leo because he doesn't have any other options. What he really wants is a place to call his own, to be able to look down and see his feet on the ground and know where he's standing -- to know who he is. That's the dream that keeps him going. Stephanie is the most important role he's ever played because, through her, he gains the confidence to be himself, to get what he wants, to get the girl in the end and finally establish his identity.”  

I asked Lance if he had ever done something in the pursuit of love (a common theme in Leading Ladies).  He replied: “I grew up in Bad Axe, smack dab in the thumb of Michigan. It's entirely possible that I would still be there had I not met and fallen for a young lady who was also from the area but was going to college in Detroit. When she went back to school, I did what any rationally smitten young man would do. I chased her down here. Eventually, I lost the girl but, by moving to the Detroit area, I gained so much more. So while that was hardly a situation where I did something silly, it definitely was a life-changing situation motivated by what I perceived as love.”

In addition to performing in and writing plays, Lance has been a musician, worked in radio, acted in commercials, and done voice over work. He recently performed in Collabfeature's Train Station, to be released in 2015. He lives in West Bloomfield where he enjoys running his own dog walking/petsitting business.

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies 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, December 9, 2014

Emilie Tole Dares to Dream as Big as Meg

While Meg (Emilie Tole) may believe that "Maxine" (Keith Firstenberg) is a woman, she's not as gullible as she seems
While Leading Ladies describes two men who pose as women to steal an inheritance, the true leading lady in the play is the character of Meg Snider, portrayed by Emilie Tole in the Farmington Players’ production.  Author Ken Ludwig describes Meg as follows:  “Our play is all about Meg, really….  She knows there’s a big world outside York, PA, but she hasn’t seen much of it yet.  She harbors a world of dreams, and sleeps on them every night.  They keep her alive, but she doesn’t know it.” 

Emilie describes Meg as follows: “I like that she is poised and ladylike, but still so girlish in the way she dreams. I've become so cynical and to play a character who finds so much joy and truly believes the best of people, even against her better judgment, is quite refreshing. I don't think she puts on rose-colored glasses; she's more sincere than that. She sees the beauty in even the strangest of situations, and doesn't give up hope. I'm learning a lot from Meg.”

Of all the characters, Meg grows the most, transforming herself from an obedient girl into a self-assured woman during the course of the show.  As Emilie says, “The parts I love about Meg are the same parts that I have found difficult to portray. I'm not as optimistic as Meg, so it's been a challenge to play her truthfully and not sarcastically. But I also like making her strong. She goes from being a bit insecure to standing up to her fiancé. That challenging character progression has perhaps been the highlight of this experience for me.”  Emilie says that she can relate to Meg because “I know what it's like to have something turn out so differently than you expected. Meg gets her bubble burst a few times in the show. It hurts when someone or some unstoppable force bursts your dream bubble. But like Meg, I have taken those truths and learned from them. You can decide to either let it destroy you, or to let it strengthen you. I like to think that Meg and I both have been resilient.”

A newcomer to the Barn stage, Emilie had just moved to Farmington from near Kalamazoo when she heard about Leading Ladies auditions.  As she says, “I was heavily involved in my hometown theatre and was nervous to not have that connection anymore. I needed to find another theatre and quickly! I read the play and loved it. I've never done a farce before so it's been fun to try something new and stretch myself as an actor a bit.”  Emilie has natural comedic timing and her physical humor and facial expressions (especially when Meg is flustered) may remind Barn patrons of classic comediennes like Carol Burnett or Lucille Ball. 

Emilie studied musical theatre performance at Columbia College Chicago and performed with the Three Rivers Community Players. Some of her theatre credits include The Music Man, Quilters, The Robber Bridegroom, Honk!, Guys and Dolls, and Anne of Green Gables.

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies 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, December 4, 2014

Jim Snideman is Suitably Snide as Doc Myers

Jim Snideman (Doc) shares a laugh with his son (Dan Tarjeft as Butch) at Reverend Wooley's expense
Without a doubt, Jim Snideman is a “character” and he admits that he is “usually drawn to character roles.”  Barn patrons will definitely remember Jim’s portrayal of Trekkie Monster in Avenue Q, and Ickes and Wacky (among other roles) in Annie.   So when he was cast as Doc Myers, the cantankerous country doctor in Leading Ladies, Jim thought it would be a nice change of pace, “since I am playing Doc essentially as myself. I am becoming more of a curmudgeon, as time goes by.”

In this show, Doc wears multiple hats.  He constantly spars with Reverend Duncan Wooley (played by Mike Gingerella) and threatens to strangle his own patient, Florence Snider (Ellen Doman).   He also doubles as the Chief Moose of the Shrewsbury Moose Lodge and plays Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, the play-within-the-play.  Doc freely imparts life wisdom to his son Butch (Dan Tarjeft) and dances the tango with “Stephanie” (Lance Alan).   As Jim says, “While Doc doesn't have the most lines, those he does have, are, well … rollicking!"

Jim wanted to be in Leading Ladies because he was “hooked by the humor in the script.”   Like author Ken Ludwig's other plays (Crazy For You, Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo), Jim thinks that "Leading Ladies is chock full o’ fast paced, wacky moments.  Not to mention, a wacky cast, crew and a downright dandy set.”

One of the themes of Leading Ladies is love at first sight. I asked Jim if he could relate this to his own experience, and he replied, “In fifth grade, I bought a large, stuffed animal and covertly placed it in the front door of a crush.  Alas, no puppy love was requited.” Jim’s philosophy on life is simply this: “Life is short.  Enjoy it, while you can.”  His credo is embodied in his favorite line from the script – said to Reverend Wooley: "It's called living Duncan.  Sex.  Living.  Humor.  Have you heard of these things?"

When not onstage or helping backstage (“I have spent many hours painting, dressing and tweaking the set for Leading Ladies”), Jim has been a lifelong modeler/tinkerer and enjoys collecting and building scale automobiles.  He also admits to watching, reading, and creating sci-fi “to nerd/geek levels” and even speaks Klingon!   He was an extra in a local sci-fi series, "InZer0", in 2006 and later served as the Art Director, Prop Master and Fabricator, and Set Dresser, for the production.

The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies
 opened 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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lovely Sarah Lovy is Adorable as Audrey in Leading Ladies

Sarah Lovy as Audrey is No Dumb Blonde
Ken Ludwig’s play Leading Ladies is set in Pennsylvania Dutch country in 1952.  It was a more innocent time and people were willing to believe the world as presented to them in the movies, theater and TV.  Of all the characters, Audrey, a 20 year-old blonde bombshell, best represents that blend of innocence and naïveté, but she turns out to be much more than the stereotypical “dumb blonde.”   In the Farmington Players production, Sarah Lovy plays Audrey with wit, charm and intelligence, bringing a depth and maturity to her character beyond her years.

Sarah says, “I love playing Audrey! She’s a little like me in the sense that she likes to try out new big words and is always open for learning. What I love about Ken Ludwig characters is that a lot of them don’t fit into a standard character archetype (ex; the brains, the muscle, the beauty).  Sometimes the pretty one is the klutzy one, or the smart one does something outlandishly stupid to achieve something. They’re human, and these silly high stakes are real and important to them.  With Ken Ludwig shows, you’re always in for fun farce!”

Audrey’s character has even been the subject of a master’s thesis!  In Beyond Blonde: Creating a Non-Stereotypical Audrey in Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies (2009), Christine M. Young described Audrey as follows:  “For Audrey in Leading Ladies, understanding the dumb bombshell stereotype allowed for a mix of two stereotypes: the bombshell and the girl-next-door, and the opportunity to develop a nuanced performance. Mixing the two created an interpretation of Audrey that refrained from overt sexuality, allowing Audrey and Jack to fall in love based on story line and personal traits instead of proximity and superficiality.  Her mistakes are made out of innocence instead of unintelligence. This also made her jokes funnier; instead of laughing at a stereotypical dumb blonde, the audience was engaged with an innocent, slightly wacky character who made endearing mistakes.”

In the play, Audrey makes an immediate connection with Jack when she collides with him on rollerskates.  I asked Sarah if she had ever experienced love at first sight like Audrey.  Sarah answered, “Of course I’ve experienced love at first sight, I’m 20!  Every love is a big deal to me right now. I think something foolish I do for love is try to make myself into a totally different person so they will love me back, and I’m slowly learning – very slowly – that me is enough. That’s kinda what I like about my character. Herself is enough.”   Audiences are sure to find Sarah’s adorable portrayal of Audrey to be way more than “enough.” She steals several scenes, including playing Shakespeare with a Marlon Brando accent!

Sarah hails from West Bloomfield, and moved to Berkley last year.  She works for the Murder Mystery Company performing murder mystery dinners.  She’s also a part of the digital series Wicked City Girls.  By day, she works at Panera Bread and “sings Paul Simon SUPER LOUD when I’m in the back.”   Sarah has really enjoyed her first show at the Farmington Players, saying, “This cast and crew and director is so much fun to be around and they could not have been more welcoming! I come for the theater and stay for the people. They are what make the process relaxing and fun!

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. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dan Tarjeft Plays from His Heart as Lovelorn Butch

Dan Tarjeft (right) as "Butch" is yukking it up with his stage dad "Doc" (Jim Snideman)
“Follow your heart.”  In the Farmington Players’ production of Leading Ladies, Maxine gives Meg this advice, assuring her that it is always the best path to happiness.  Dan Tarjeft, who plays our Butch Meyers, connects with this theme in the play, saying, “I can relate to following your heart (wherever that leads), appreciating the arts, and bantering with family.”  In Dan’s case, it is his love of theater that has brought him to the Barn stage for the first time.  Dan is confident that audiences will love this show because “everyone loves to laugh! This particular production of Leading Ladies has many side-busting moments on top of an already hilarious script.”

Dan describes his character Butch as “a bit of a simpleton who tends to take everything a little too extremely. I most enjoy playing with his enthusiasm, and the most challenging part about the role is the dancing. I'm inexperienced as a dancer, and learning to dance well enough to be good at dancing poorly is an interesting challenge.”  Butch’s love interest is Audrey (played by Sarah Lovy), but Butch’s father Doc Meyers (Jim Snideman) encourages him to marry for money, not for love.  Although Dan can commiserate with the lovelorn Butch, he admits, “I've never done much of anything specifically to impress a girl. I'm not very conscious of those sorts of things.”

While Leading Ladies focuses on romantic love, Dan thinks it is also about "the bonds of friendship."  Butch and Doc share some nice father-son moments in this show, and Butch confides to Meg, his best friend, about his feelings for Audrey. Dan himself is good friends with cast member Lance Alan (Jack Gable), and he says he’s had “a lot of fun working on the production; everyone I've worked with is excellent, without exception. Leading Ladies is terrifically cast! I can't help but picture the actors that play the parts when I read the script.”

Dan grew up in Trenton, MI, and is a Computer Science student at Wayne State.  Most of Dan’s recent theater experience is with the Rosedale Community Players, including roles in Picasso, Deathtrap, Superior Donuts, Leaving Iowa and in various one-act plays as part of the RCP One-Act Festival. 

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 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. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sister Act: Tupper and Tweedie are Deadly Duo in Arsenic

Mary Ann Tweedie and Cynthia Tupper are a killer combo as the Brewster sisters.

In the Farmington Players’ production of Arsenic and Old Lace, Cynthia Tupper and Mary Ann Tweedie reunite onstage as the sweet-but-sinister sisters, and this killer combination is critical to the show’s success. Cynthia describes her character Abby Brewster, the older sister and the brains of the operation, as “velvet covered steel. Outwardly sweet, charitable and loveable, but she is not easily intimidated and knows how to get her own way.  She literally will kill you with kindness, while you are sipping her deadly elderberry wine.”  Mary Anne plays her sister Martha Brewster and together they conspire to put lonely old men out of their misery.  

As Cynthia says, “the chemistry between the sisters is crucial.”  Tupper and Tweedie’s 25-year friendship began when they appeared as Florence & Olive in the female Odd Couple.  More recently, they reprised their little old lady pairing as the two grandmas in Over the River.   Cynthia knows that audiences will love Arsenic and Old Lace because it is “purely escapist entertainment” that has “endured due to its excellent comedic writing and revealing that most people are never what they seem on the surface.  The play takes that premise to the extreme with a sweetness and sincerity that is a hallmark of the 1940's screwball comedies.”

Cynthia enjoys working with first-time director Kristi Schwartz, saying, “All of her teaching skills transition perfectly.  Besides being one of the most organized people I know, she has the ability to always stay positive when giving her acting critiques. Before we began rehearsals on stage she gave the cast her overall vision for the show and the characters.”  And even if you’ve seen Arsenic before, “there have been a couple of twists added in the staging and the ending moments of the show that make this production unique.”  

Cynthia calls Farmington Hills home and theater has been her hobby since grade school. As a Barn member for over 30 years, her credits are too numerous to list, but she is most proud of costuming over 60 shows at the Barn: “I love working on period shows from the 30's, 40's and 50's to make sure they are historically accurate.”  She is currently a freelance designer making custom and production samples and patterns.

The Farmington Players' production of Arsenic and Old Lace opens September 26 and 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.