2022-23 season

2022-23 season

Monday, June 17, 2019

Existential Comedy is an “Epiphany” at Barn One Act Festival

David Durham and Carol Shirley-Brown reflect on their lives together in Epiphany,
an existential comedy in the Barn One Act Festival.
PHOTO:  Heather Hudson

In the Seinfeld TV series, when Jerry and George pitch their pilot to NBC executives, they describe it as a “show about nothing.”   What Seinfeld meant by “nothing” was that the show focused on the everyday existence of ordinary people.   In fact, the shared experiences of human beings living their daily lives can be fertile ground for comedy.   In the Farmington Players One Act Festival (June 21-23 at the Barn Theater), Epiphany could be considered a play where nothing really happens.  But nothing is as wonderful as discovering a life truth that has been right in front of you the whole time.

In Epiphany, David Durham and Carol Shirley-Brown play a couple that has been together for a very long time.  They sit in their breakfast nook, reading and sipping coffee.  First time director Barbara A. Bruno describes the play as “a beautiful vignette about a man who has a realization about his life and how he comes to terms with it.  What’s challenging is that it does break some of the rules of theater in terms of what you expect to see – for example, the actors never leave their chairs and there’s a great temptation to compensate for that to maintain the audience’s interest.  However, the material is so strong that it really does stand on its own and doesn’t require any theatrical tricks.”

As Barbara says about the couple, “the nest is empty, their work life is done, and they’ve settled into what’s left after all that activity of life dissipates.   David and Carol have a wonderful chemistry with each other and bring a delightful energy to the relationship of their characters and a great sense of timing.  They understand the simplicity of the piece and at the end of the day, this play is about their connection. I think everyone will be able to relate to the relationship between the two characters – there’s a familiarity to their interactions that people will recognize.” 

So what is the great “epiphany” that the man discovers about his life?   Well, you’ll just have to come see the play to learn that.  But, as Barbara says, Epiphany is about “what is important to us, how our priorities shift over time, how we adjust to those, and how we grow, both as individuals and in relation to those around us.  Ultimately, however, it’s a love story.”  And that’s certainly not nothing!

The One Act Festival has 3 scheduled performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater on June 21 (8:00), June 22 (8:00) and June 23 (2:00). Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Time Stands Still in All the Time in the World at Barn One Act Festival

Thomas Adams (Him), Ashley Thomas (Her), and Time feature prominently in
All The Time in the World, directed by Maureen Mansfield
PHOTO:  Adam Barnowski 

All the Time in the World is one of six short plays featured in the Farmington Players One Act Festival (June 21-23 at the Barn Theater).  Maureen Mansfield directs this “lovely story about two lonely people who through a chance meeting manage to bring a bit of comfort and happiness into each other’s lives.”  Two strangers meet in a train station: a salesman (“Him”) played by Thomas Adams, and a bubbly young bride (“Her”) played by Ashley Thomas.  While they wait for their train – and Her’s guy – to arrive, they discuss their hopes and dreams for the future.

Thomas Adams describes Him as “a middle aged salesman who is kind of stuck in his life. A bit of a workaholic.”  Thomas relates to Him because “I certainly have had times in my life when I've wanted to start my life over. The character I play also doesn't seem to have taken any big risks in his life, which has been true in my life as well.”  Ashley Thomas calls Her “a bundle of joy. She is not happy with her life in her town, but she still has dreams and is still happy. That's what I love about Her. She can be a bit rude and sassy, but that's what makes her funny. She also is the type of person to tell a stranger her whole life story, and I find that hilarious.”  And Ashley thinks that she is “just like Her: I have moments of false hope. I am naive about some things, but hopefully not as much as Her.”

Maureen was drawn to the play’s themes of “discontent, settling, hope, love, and friendship.  This show is a lovely heart warming piece that makes you feel good despite its sad undertones.”  Similarly, Thomas says, “I like how Him shows tenderness and sympathy toward Her. The characters are very relatable. They show their vulnerabilities and express sensitive emotions. It is a very touching show.”  Ashley knows that audiences will enjoy All The Time In The World because it “has you on the edge of your seat. You're rooting for Her and her guy, and wishing he shows up. There's also moments of comedy, and sadness, so there's really a bit of everything.”

Maureen is one of several experienced directors that are involved in bringing the first One Act Festival to the Barn.  Maureen is so invested in the festival’s success that she is also acting in Good Morning, Miriam, another one of the plays.   The One Act Festival has 3 scheduled performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater on June 21 (8:00), June 22 (8:00) and June 23 (2:00). Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Last Act Before the Final Curtain

Kandi, Carter and Madison
As actors, we often draw on our own real life experiences to shape our characters.  But there’s one role that none of us can really rehearse or prepare for:  Death.   A dear friend of mine has just passed away, and writing about her final scene is my way of coping with my grief.   Kandi Krumins was just 52 when she died after a two-year battle with colon cancer.   I knew her through the theater, but she was first and foremost a teacher and a mother.

I first met Kandi eight years ago when I was assistant directing To Kill A Mockingbird.  Kandi brought her children Madison and Carter, then 11 and 8, to audition for roles that were a bit too old for them.   While her kids were not cast, Kandi got a role as Miss Stephanie, and when another actress quit, Kandi stepped into the lead role of Jean Louise.  She quickly memorized all the lines and gave a stellar performance.   Again, a few years later, she stepped in to fill a role in The Vast Difference when an actress had to be replaced two weeks before opening night.  Kandi was always up for a challenge, and once she committed to something, she was all in.

When I directed my first play (Leading Ladies), I asked Kandi to choreograph a short dance break.  It was a throwaway scene with no description in the script, but Kandi embraced the task with her usual gusto.  She taught three couples to tango in comedic fashion, and the scene stole the show.  When I directed Monty Python’s Spamalot, Kandi was one of my assistant directors, and she choreographed a crazy French chase scene.  And when a key dancer badly sprained his ankle right before opening, Kandi pressed Carter (then 14) into action and taught him all the dance numbers in just three days.  Always the teacher, Kandi had a real talent for taking complex concepts and breaking them down into bite-size steps that anyone could learn.

Kandi’s biggest theatrical achievement was writing and directing a full-length, family friendly musical, Mid-Winter Break.  It was a coming of age story about middle school students, and while Carter and Madison were both in the cast, they received no special treatment from mom.  The show was well-conceived, not clich├ęd, and very touching.  It was produced in Waterford, Michigan in 2015, and again in 2017 at the Farmington Players Barn, Kandi’s home theater.   At the Barn, Kandi also choreographed Annie, and had stage roles in The Calendar Girls and The Dixie Swim Club, playing Jerry Neal, a lovable pregnant ditzy Southern gal, which was my favorite role of hers.

When Kandi was first diagnosed with colon cancer, she had surgery followed up by chemo.  Once her cancer was in remission, Kandi was back to her usual assertive, productive self.  After leaving her public school job, she home schooled Madison and Carter through middle school.  She stayed busy at the Barn and by promoting Mid-Winter Break.  And when her cancer returned, she kept it a secret for a long time.  Whether she was in denial, or truly believed that she could beat it, Kandi always put up a good front.  She was a good actor, and we all wanted to believe her.  But eventually the cancer took its toll, and only towards the very end, did she agree to receive visitors.

I last saw Kandi three days before she died.  She had been non-verbal all day, but when Madison announced my arrival, she perked up and started speaking.  In our final conversation, I was doing most of the talking, but it was nice to reminisce about all the shows we’d been involved in together.   She drifted in and out of focus, speaking of unfinished, imagined tasks: “The scripts … I have to get the scripts.”    I told her that Spamalot was my favorite shared theater experience with her.   Then we were both silent for a very long time.   I wasn’t sure if she was still awake, but all of a sudden, she said, “Killer Rabbit,” and I laughed.   When it was time to take my leave, I told her I loved her and kissed her forehead.  She took my hand and kissed it.   I was grateful for the chance to say good-bye.   Madison told me later that my conversation with Kandi was the last one she ever had, as she became non-verbal again right after I left.  

In Macbeth, Shakespeare wrote:  “Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.”   I am honored to have witnessed one actor’s final scene, and of Kandi’s life, I can only say, “Well played.”

If you’d like to help Kandi’s children, Madison and Carter, please donate to this Go Fund Me campaign:  https://www.gofundme.com/krumins-family-support