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Frannie Shepherd-Bates is co-founder and artistic director of the Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company.

Meet Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company

By Donald V. Calamia

After somewhat of a dry spell, live theater is blossoming all over Midtown and Downtown Detroit. Like many of the new theaters, Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company is using the art form to not only tell timely and important stories, but to educate theatergoers on issues of social justice. Co-founder and artistic director Frannie Shepherd-Bates talked recently with EncoreMichigan.com about her young company and some of its goals for the future.

What is your theater's mission statement?

The Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company acts to eliminate apathy, violence, prejudice and barriers to education through theater productions, projects and programs; and further acts to reestablish and expand Detroit's theater district.

What are your theater's short-term goals and objectives - such as for the current season?

This season, our main goal is to spread the word about who we are and what we do by offering quality productions and programs. We will be running our first series of classes and workshops this winter, and we hope to expand our Staged Reading Festival this spring.

What are your theater's long-term goals and objectives?

Our vision is one of a thriving theatrical district that reaches new audiences to make the community at large one of unity and peace; that fosters empathy and enlightenment; and that provides accessibility to education.

These statements guide the decisions and direction of the company and it is the founders' hope that Magenta Giraffe will evolve into a positive force of change in Detroit and impact lives for many generations to come.

What makes your theater different from any of the others in Michigan? What is it about you that is unique?

We are unique in that our focus is on the impact that art can have on the community, rather than on the art itself.

What is your programming philosophy? What type(s) of shows does your theater produce on its main stage - and why?

All of our play choices are related to our mission statement; from edgy new works to Shakespeare, we want to show that theater does have the capacity to address the issues facing our society. Two examples:

No Exit addressed the issue of apathy so prevalent in Detroiters. We often feel that we are trapped, shackled by history, but that is not the case. We hoped that by staging a play in which three people actually ARE stuck, with no way out of their situation, we could bring to light the "exits" that Detroiters truly have - and we don't mean leaving the city!

Dutchman addressed issues of prejudice and violence in our community by confronting them head-on, bringing them into the spotlight and beginning a discussion that we hope continues and evolves into positive action.

What other types of programming, if any, does your theater offer - such as theater for young audiences, educational outreach, etc.?

We are currently developing educational programming for people of all ages. From audition workshops for professional actors to theater "fantasy camps" for teenagers and children, there's a lot in the works! Anyone who has suggestions for us should contact our educational director, Lisa Melinn.

Does your theater offer any classes or workshops - either to the general public or to industry professionals? If so, what are they?

We plan to offer all of the above very soon! Information will be available as soon as we have everything set.

Is your theater an Equity (union) company?

No, but we occasionally offer Equity contracts.

What is the philosophy you use to cast your shows? From what talent pool(s) do you draw from?

We were part of a Joint General Audition with six other theater companies this season, after which we held a series of separate callbacks for each of our shows. We've called back Equity actors and people still in undergrad, people who never finished school and people with MFAs. If you're passionate about performing, we want to see you audition!

How does an actor go about arranging an audition?

Information on upcoming auditions will always be available through our Facebook fan page and group, as well as on our Web site and through our e-mail list.

Does your theater offer an apprenticeship or internship program? And if so, what is the criteria - and how does someone apply for such a position?

We don't have a set program yet for interns, but we welcome anyone who is interested in learning a new theater skill set to approach us and see what we can work out!

This fall we had a programming intern from Wayne State University, and we hope to continue our relationship with her in the future.

Does your theater accept new play submissions? If so, how does a playwright go about submitting a script for your consideration?

We just LOVE new play submissions, especially from Michigan playwrights!

We will hold a Staged Reading Festival each spring, and the focus of that festival will be local playwrights. Submission information will be available soon through our Facebook group and fan page, and through the e-mail list and Web site.

We are interested in new plays for our mainstage season as well! Plays may be sent to frannie@magentagiraffe.org.

What else should we know about your theater, the current season, etc.?

We welcome anyone and everyone to our productions! And we appreciate the support of the community, especially in these difficult times.

In keeping with that, we've established a "Repeat Offender" policy: Anyone who has bought a ticket to a performance and wants to see it again, may do so free of charge, provided he/she is accompanied by a paying patron. There is no limit to this! We had one repeat offender who saw Dutchman four times!

The rest of the season consists of The Last Five Years (January 1-23) and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (March 5-28).



THEATER ESSENTIALS:

Theater name: Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company

Business address (including zip code): 11540 Ventura Drive, Warren, MI 48093

Performance address (including zip code): The Furniture Factory, 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201

Web address: www.magentagiraffe.org

Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/pages/Magenta-Giraffe-Theatre-Co/153867767766

Twitter name: MagentaGiraffe

Business office and box office phone (including area code): 313-408-7269

Business office and box office hours of operation: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, and one hour prior to any showtime."

In what year was your theater established: 2006.

Company's founders: Kevin Beltz, LoriGoe Nowak, Frannie Shepherd-Bates

Current leaders or management team: Executive director: LoriGoe Nowak; artistic director: Frannie Shepherd-Bates; production director: Kevin Beltz; educational director: Lisa Melinn; managing director: Sandy Rollin.

Is your theater a non-profit, tax-exempt organization? We are in the process of getting there!

Is your theater wheelchair accessible? Yes.

During which months of the year does your season run? September-May.

How many main stage productions do you offer each season? Three.

How many OTHER productions or programs do you offer each season? This is in the process of being determined.

How many seats does your theater have? 80.



TICKET INFORMATION:

What type(s) of seating is offered to your patrons (ex: general admission, reserved, etc)? General Admission.

In general, what is the price range for your non-discounted main stage tickets (exclusive of service charges and other fees)? Each show is priced differently depending on its cost. Tickets range from $12-$25.

Are there service charges or other fees added to the  price of the tickets? And if so, what are those charges and fees? There are no additional fees!

In general, what is the price range for your OTHER programs and services? This is being determined.

Do you offer subscriptions to your main stage season? Absolutely!

Do you offer discounts to senior citizens (and if so, what are the details)? We have not seen many senior citizens at our shows, but we are looking into offering senior discounts in the future.

Do you offer discounts to students (and if so, what are the details)? There is always a student rate. It will usually be three dollars less than the general admission rate.

Do you offer group discounts (and if so, what are the details)? We offer a 20-percent discount to groups of 10 or more.

For ticket purchases, does your theater accept personal checks? Yes.

For ticket purchases, does your theater accept credit or debit cards? We are not yet equipped to do that.

Can tickets to your shows be purchased online - and if so, how? Reservations may be made online, although the purchase will have to be done in person since we only accept checks and cash.



ABOUT FRANNIE SHEPHERD-BATES:

Frannie Shepherd-Bates is the proud artistic director of Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company. She holds a B.F.A. in theater from Wayne State University and has been honored to direct, perform and teach at various theaters and schools in Metro Detroit, including Magenta Giraffe, Planet Ant Theatre, the Abreact, the Roeper School and Michigan Opera Theatre Children's Chorus. Recent directorial ventures include No Exit and The Last Five Years for MGT, Speed Dating! for BoxFest 2009, and The Hebrew Hammer for Planet Ant Theatre. Upcoming productions include Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead for MGT and The Very Last Green Thing for Michigan Opera Theatre Children's Chorus.



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