2022-23 season

2022-23 season

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Charlie Gass Goes Way Above the Norm in the Vast Difference

Charlie Gass (upper left) is having a blast playing multiple roles in this Jeff Daniels comedy

Charlie Gass is having a blast.  His appointed role in Jeff Daniels’ comedy, The Vast Difference, is the generically titled “Various Male #4.” Yet Charlie imbues every one of his male personas with his own personal touch, “trying to add wrinkles to each character to differentiate them from one another.”   Charlie knows that Farmington Players audiences will enjoy the show as much as he is because, “it breaks most common conventions in theatre. The story has many layers and you really don’t know where it’s going next. In addition to the show being very funny, the convolutions of the show will leave audiences contemplating gender “Norms” (ironically the name of two of my characters).”  Specifically, Charlie’s “Norms” are Norm, a George Costanza-type guy at a men’s support group, and Detroit Tiger legend Norm Cash.  In addition, Charlie plays: Dave, a workout guy at the gym; Douglas, an old-timer in a barbershop; and an unnamed bleacher bum (picture the guy who always tries to start the Wave at the ballpark).

In each of these stereotypical male roles, Charlie interacts with the main character George, who “uses a vasectomy as a metaphor for his insecurity about his manhood. I don’t think this internal struggle has changed much at all in the last 20 years.”  As Charlie observes, “men are constantly heckled with condescending statements like ‘your man card should be revoked’, or ‘man up,’ which implies that certain behaviors or perceived mental and physical strengths should inherently apply to men.”  If so, where do we draw the line?  What makes a man a “real man”?

Charlie jumped at the opportunity to be in a show at the Barn, his third including Annie and The Full Monty, saying, “I’ve stated to the rest of the cast my strong feelings about the organization several times. For this show I have to credit director Dave Reinke for selling the show to all of us during The Full Monty. He sent me the script and I was immediately intrigued by all of the possibilities it presented. I also have to credit my dad, Jerry Gass for encouraging me to come out and audition. I was thrilled when Dave told me I could be in the show.”

Charlie is a Farmington Hills native and attended and played football at Harrison High School. Now 30, when he was 23, he taught English in Korea for a year. He has a Finance degree from Michigan State and now works in Data Analytics at Meridian Health Plan.  Charlie’s interests include playing and follow sports – especially college football, college basketball, and the Tigers.

Charlie had nothing but praise for every one his fellow cast mates,: “Sa’ku Floyd is the nicest person you will ever meet. He’s completely professional and puts tremendous effort into every detail of his characters. … Rob Wise is completely fearless on stage and will inevitably make you laugh. The guy can find humor in anything. … Armand Banooni brings a very special rhythm to the show that’s very hard to put into words. … Kristi Schwartz is seriously the sweetest girl on planet earth. She never shows anyone up, always has the time of day, and has a great sense of humor. … Kandi Krumins is making everybody else look bad by mastering her role in just two short weeks. It was such a boost the day she joined the cast, you could immediately see everybody’s energy level rise. … Gary Weinstein is another guy whose sheer presence raises the quality of a show. He performs at a 10 EVERY rehearsal, inspiring everyone else to do the same. … Kyle Bushre is on stage for 99% of the show. So much of his character is created by him. Every movement, stutter, and voice inflection is carefully crafted. I can’t imagine the character of George Noonan any other way.” 

The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Kristi Schwartz Sparkles as Lovely Rita in The Vast Difference

Kristi Schwartz plays nagging yet supportive wife Rita Noonan.
(Pictured here with fellow 
Torchbearer award winner Barry Cutler.)  
Jeff Daniels’ 1993 comedy, The Vast Difference, is all about relationships:  fathers and sons; husbands and wives; men and women.  While protagonist George Noonan’s primary relationship is with his father Earl, George has a lot of key female figures in his life.  George has five daughters, a female doctor, and most important, a loving – if sometimes nagging – wife, Rita.  Kristi Schwartz plays Rita in the Farmington Players production of Vast, which opens this Friday September 23 at the Barn.

Kristi jokingly describes Rita as the “mother of five girls and one boy (George!).  She is trying to be patient with George during this conflicting time, but she is also sick of being patient herself.  She has been pregnant five times and it is time for him to go through a little pain!”  Rita asks George to undergo a vasectomy, saying, "Honey, all I'm asking you to do is meet me halfway."  Kristi’s biggest challenge in playing Rita is to “make sure that I am not just nagging the whole show.  I want to be able to show her compassion, her laughter, her anger, her craziness, her jealousy, her need for affection, etc.”

Kristi knows audiences will enjoy this show because everyone will be able to relate to someone: “There are many eccentric characters in this play, so everyone will find some connection.  It is also about vulnerabilities, which we all face on a daily basis.”  Kristi uses her own vulnerability by connecting with the show’s theme of loss, saying, “I lost my own father to cancer when he was only 57 back in 2002. This devastating loss leaves an impression on you.  Earl's final speech always strikes a chord in me.  When he talks about how it is harder to picture his face as time goes on and when he says something about forgetting more than you remember, this speaks to me every single time.  I find myself forgetting how my dad's own voice sounds and I feel guilty if I can't recreate an accurate picture in my mind.  This play reminds me to cling on to those good memories because the rest, ‘It ain't all worth rememberin!’” 

Kristi has always been drawn to Jeff Daniels' comedies, having served as co-producer and Wolf Moon Dance in the Barn's Escanaba show in 2007.  While every show is special, Kristi thinks the Vast cast is “amazing ... they make me laugh and I get ‘shushed’ all the time because I can't control myself backstage!  The directors and production team are all so supportive and make the stage a safe place to try new things and come out of our comfort zones.  I appreciate all of their coaching and support!”  Kristi recently received the Barn’s Torchbearer award for her longtime service, and she lists her “loves” as theater, RV-ing with her family, music, dance, and (of course) her husband, Keith, and three children (Colin, Allie, and Drew).

The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kyle Bushre Draws on Own Father-Son Bond to Play George Noonan

"Nervous?  Who me?" Kyle Bushre (left) as George Noonan with Sa'Ku Floyd
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
The Vast Difference opens with protagonist George Noonan strapped to a gurney, about to undergo a vasectomy.  Most of the play’s action takes place in George’s mind while he’s under anesthesia, which explains some of the bizarre imagery and absurd humor in the show.  But ultimately, this quirky comedy by Jeff Daniels is a touching tribute to fathers and sons, and how that bond shapes so many of our life choices.

In the Farmington Players production, Kyle Bushre plays George, who he describes as “a guy struggling to grab hold of the kind of manliness he saw in his father and his father's heroes, Al Kaline and John Wayne. George sees his dad as the epitome of a man's man, and George simply isn't. He's a flight attendant on a regional airline, has a wife who nags him, five daughters who look like him, and the constant unsettling feeling that his father wouldn't be proud of the life he's living. On top of all that, he's contemplating a vasectomy, which he sees as the final assault that will triumphantly destroy the last bit of man left in him.”

Kyle draws on his relationship with his own father when playing opposite Gary Weinstein, who plays George’s father Earl Noonan.  As Kyle says, “There is a genuine love between George and Earl, and playing those heartwarming moments of joy and loss between father and son are the most rewarding for me. I think Gary and I have developed quite a bit of chemistry in playing that relationship. He's an outstanding actor, by the way. His performance alone is worth the price of admission for this show.”  In real life, Kyle’s father had a heart attack earlier this year and flat-lined for 17 minutes before doctors revived him, so “coming that close to losing my dad was one of the reasons I wanted to do this show about a guy and the dad he admires.”

The Vast Difference was first performed in 1993, and Kyle calls author Jeff Daniels a “prophet” for “correctly identified a slide toward gender ambiguity and the downplaying of masculinity that we see today. I think Daniels does a good job nostalgically reflecting on the days when ‘men were men and everybody knew it’ while at the same time suggesting that even in that by-gone era, the men had vulnerabilities that should be considered part of what it means to be a man.”

Despite the show’s more serious themes, Kyle knows that audiences will love this “mad-cap romp with razor-sharp wit that is absolutely absurd.”  Four guys in this show – Sa’Ku Floyd, Charlie Gass, Rob Wise, and Armand Banooni – each play about half a dozen characters, and “these guys are funny.”  A native Michigander, this is Kyle’s first show at the Barn, having moved back last year with his wife after a 13-year absence.  In a stroke of luck (or perhaps fate), he found out about the show by doing a Google search of "community theatre."  Kyle is the pastor of Doxa Church, a new church in Rochester Hills.

The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Rob Wise Is Man of Many Roles, Few Lines, and One Big Kaline

Rob Wise (left) as Al Kaline
with Kyle Bushre (George Noonan) and Gary Weinstein (Earl Noonan)

Rob Wise likes the idea of being in a show that not everyone is going to know.  As he said, “Far more people know Jeff Daniels than they do The Vast Difference.”  While everyone knows Daniels as the Michigan actor, playwright, and founder of the Purple Rose Theater, very few are familiar with his quirky 1993 comedy, which opens at the Farmington Players on September 23.  In a nutshell, The Vast Difference explores sexual stereotypes that examine the difference between men and woman.  It is also a pun on the vas deferens, the part of the male anatomy that gets snipped during a vasectomy.  The main character in our play – George Noonan – needs a vasectomy. As a flight attendant and the father of five girls, George turns a routine visit to his urologist into a psychotherapy session about life, the insignificance of the modern-day man, and the vast difference between stewards and stewardesses.

Rob Wise plays seven (7!!) male characters that embody some of the stereotypical males in George’s world, which he describes as follows: “Lyle (an arrogant airline passenger), Bob (a member of a men’s support group), Jim (a member of George's gym), Bartley (an old timer at the barbershop), the Executioner, a Tigers Bleacher Bum, and Tigers legend Al Kaline.”  While all Michiganders know Al Kaline, all Rob’s other characters are purely fictional, and some don’t even speak at all.  So how does Rob prepare for the challenge imbuing each of these characters with life?  “For me, the preparation has been mostly about determining each of my characters purposes and backgrounds because they all have to be distinguishable from each other. My main focus has been on what sets them apart from the others.  Is it the way the speak?  Is it their mannerisms? Is it an accent?”

Rob thinks audiences will enjoy The Vast Difference because “it challenges them to think beyond what is happening on stage. It has a great balance of humor and emotion that makes the whole experience very human.  As far as gender roles and how they have changed, I believe that we are certainly ahead of where we were when this show was first performed (in 1993). We still have a long way to go and I look forward to a day when the term ‘gender roles’ doesn't mean anything to anyone.”

One of the major themes of this show is the relationship between George and his father, and whether George has lived up to his father’s expectations. As Rob says, “we can all relate to how bad we all felt when we disappointed someone we love and care about. I relate greatly to the relationship between George and his father, and how at the center of it all the love between a parent and their child is completely unwavering.  My experiences with my own disappointments and my own father have helped me to relate more to what's happening around me in this show.”

Rob is 31 and has been in over 30 stage shows in his lifetime, but this is his first at the Barn.  He lives in Warren with his wife, Nickie, and their nearly two-year-old daughter, Delaney.  Rob serves as Vice President of the Ridgedale Players in Troy, but by day works as a trader for a scrap metal recycling company.  

The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.