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 fiancĂ©. 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.