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Famed tenor to lead MOT's New Studio Program for Young Artists

Article:10039; Posted: July 29, 2015 at 12:00 p.m.

Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT) President and CEO Wayne S. Brown announced today the company has appointed Richard Leech to the newly- created position, director of Resident Artist Programs. Effective immediately, Leech will head Michigan Opera Theatre Studio, a new program, launching with the 2015-16 season, which offers full-time engagement to artists in the early stages of a professional career in opera. Leech has relocated to Detroit from Binghamton, New York.

In this key role, Leech will provide leadership for MOT's newest initiative of offering advanced training and professional performance opportunities to a select group of highly talented young artists. From September to June each season, Studio Artists will gain valuable experience through myriad performance opportunities in main stage and community productions, and hone their skills through master classes and individual training with an array of professionals, guest artists, and coaches. Studio Artists will also fill leading and featured roles in an annual production mounted specifically for the Studio program and presented on multiple stages throughout metro Detroit. MOT's 2016 production of Aaron Copland's The Tender Land will feature the first class of MOT Studio Artists.

"Following a nationwide search, we are delighted to welcome internationally renowned singer and coach, Richard Leech, to MOT," said Brown. "He will lead this new initiative to complement main stage, and other community and educational programs. Through this latest program, young artists will enable MOT to provide a year-round presence in our community in a variety of settings - concurrent with the ability to work with leading guest artists and coaches in the industry."

"Richard Leech has enjoyed an accomplished career as an internationally celebrated tenor in the world's leading opera houses," said Dr. David DiChiera, founder and artistic director of MOT. "I cannot think of anyone more qualified to mentor these young artists as they prepare for significant careers. It will be a pleasure to work with him."

"I am truly excited to join the remarkable team at Michigan Opera Theatre, and honored to be given the opportunity to work closely with David DiChiera, one of the true heroes of opera in America," said Leech. "In a career that has given me so much already, I couldn't hope for a more rewarding "next step" than being involved in the creation of this program, and helping train the next generation of talented artists as they work to make their own dreams a reality."

About Richard Leech American Tenor Richard Leech is one of the most celebrated lyric tenors of his generation. For more than 30 years he has interpreted many of the most demanding and well-known roles of the Italian, French, and German repertoire both on disc and on the stages of the world's leading opera houses and symphonies. From 1989-2014 he sang nearly 200 performances of more than a dozen leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera, most recently adding beloved Czech and Russian works to his broad repertoire. In 2012 Mr. Leech joined the voice faculty of Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts, and Rutgers Opera Institute where he will remain an adjunct professor. He has presented master classes and served as guest master teacher for many organizations including The Martina Arroyo Foundation's Prelude To Performance, The Castleton Festival's Artist Training Seminar, and the NY Singing Teachers Association's Professional Development Program. He attended Eastman School of Music and Binghamton University and credits his success to the training he received under the long-term mentorship of Peyton Hibbitt and the late Carmen Savoca at Tri-Cities Opera in Binghamton, NY.


My "Urinetown" summer In Ann Arbor

by David Kiley

Article:10037; Posted: July 29, 2015 at 12:00 p.m.

When I was cast as Caldwell Cladwell in Urinetown last Spring, I was thrilled. I am still thrilled as I get ready for opening night in West Park, Ann Arbor July 30 with the Penny Seats Theatre Company.

As we have moved from rehearsal space to the park for the next three weekends, I have had two thoughts swimming through my head: outdoor theatre is a serious challenge with allowances needing to be made by both player and audience, and it is amazing how certain shows hold up over time and seem so incredibly relevant.

First, on doing outdoor theater. This is my first time doing it. Frankly, I’m not used to having mud on my shoes for a show. But as I stride through the cattails of West Park to make one of several entrances as Cladwell, I feel some kinship to actors of centuries past before indoor lighting was a thing. I confess that I secretly went to the park during the day and added a few pavers leftover from my patio construction to try and cut down on mud splashing up on my suit pants. The glamour of it all!

Towels are key part of my show-bag. The costume is a three-piece suit. It’s July going into August. You can do the math. There is no such thing as too much water right now. When my Broadway hero, John Cullum, played Cladwell in the late 1990s, I don’t think he had these problems. And every time I think about complaining, I remind myself that he was 71 when he did it.

I’m plotzing over being seen by audience members sitting in certain places before my entrances, but I’m learning to let it go.

I am betting most of you have seen the show at least once. If not, it is an almost comic-book like musical of a society in which everyone has to pay to pee. Cladwell is owner of Urine Good Company, or “UGC as it’s known for short.” The music is wonderful. And as much as the Act One finale is a pain the butt to get right, it is worth the hard work when performed.

The relevancy? This is the summer of “The Donald,” as in Trump. And I find as I look for some inspiration about how to play Cladwell—mannerisms, attitude, etc., could I have asked for a better model to steal from? Trump has even been decrying the rise in public urination in New York City. You can’t make it up. There have been three front-page headlines in the The New York Post this month about public urination.

“Urinetown,” it seems, is literally ripped from the headlines despite being more than 15 years old.

Urinetown is very much about the 99% vs. the 1%. And it was written that way long before I could write those terms without explaining them. Economic statistics show us that the spread between wealthy and super-wealthy and the middle and lower class is getting wider all the time. Student loans, rising real estate and rent prices, and healthcare costs are all playing havoc with the finances of people I know working in theater and the arts.

We can pee where we want without paying…for now anyway. But I did think it amazingly ironic that when I went to West Park today in the morning to see if something I left in front of the band-shell was still there, the stage was occupied by a homeless couple. Life imitating art imitating life.


5th annual Detroit Improv Festival Aug. 5-9

Article:10038; Posted: July 28, 2015 at 9:00 p.m.

For the fifth year in a row, Metro Detroit will welcome the nation's biggest names in comedy as the Detroit Improv Festival hits the Motor City August 5-9 at several area venues.

Headliners of this year's Festival include Saturday Night Live alumni Horatio Sanz and Tim Meadows. Meadows grew up in Highland Park and is best known for his 10 seasons on Saturday Night Live (1991-2000). Sanz was also a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1998-2006 and will tape a recording of his popular podcast, The Hooray Show during the Festival. Other returning headliners this include members of The 313 (former Detroiters now living in Los Angeles), Kevin Dorff, Susan Messing, Tara DeFrancisco, Nick Armstrong and the cast of Bearded Men.

"We are excited to bring Tim Meadows home to Michigan as part of this year's festival," says Jaclynn Cherry, Detroit Improv Collective board member. "There's always such a great turnout for homegrown improvisers working in the industry."

Festival performances will take place at Detroit area venues from Downtown

Detroit's Campus Martius Park to several Ferndale theatres and restaurants.

Tickets for Detroit Improv Festival performances range from FREE to $25 and are on sale now online at Festival Passes and Group Discounts are also available.

In addition to its full schedule of live shows, the Detroit Improv Festival will feature workshops for anyone interested in learning the art of improvisation and seasoned improvisers looking to hone their skills. Workshops ($40) will cover a variety of topics and be taught by the very best in the industry. A special 1-hour workshop for youth is also available for $15 on Saturday, August 8.

Last year's festival drew more than 200 improvisers to the Detroit area from across the country, attending more than 20 shows and participating in more than 20 workshops.

The Detroit Improv Festival is produced by the Detroit Improv Collective, a 501(c) (3) dedicated to promoting the benefits of improvisational comedy through team building, goal setting and self-esteem. Proceeds from annual festival go to Gilda's Club of Metro Detroit and The Detroit Creativity Project.

For a complete festival schedule, check


PN Summer Star Camp performance--new take on children's classic

Article:10036; Posted: July 28, 2015 at 1:00 p.m.

A new take on the children’s classic, "Untangled: The True Story of Rapunzel" will be performed in conclusion to Performance Network’s Summer Star Camp August 1­2, 2015. Written by James Bowen and John Manfredi, and directed by Manfredi, "Untangled" is an all-new adaptation of the classic fairy tale of love and deception starring the children from Camp alongside professional actors. Based on the original Brothers Grimm story, "Untangled" is a magical journey of love and forgiveness that the entire family will enjoy.

Tickets for "Untangled" are $15. Performances are Saturday, August 1 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, August 2 at 2:00 p.m. For more information on the productions and events at the Network or to donate, go to or call the box office at 734­663­0681.

"Untangled: The True Story of Rapunzel" is the story of a young man in search of food for his struggling family who chances upon a magical garden and thinks his problems are over, but all is not as it appears. Follow Rapunzel, a charming Prince, his sidekick Dwight and all their friends in one hilarious, hair­raising experience after another.

“These kids are just great,” said Sara Dean, company manager. “They are ages 7­11 and it’s incredible how fast they catch on to things, not to mention being well­behaved and able to take direction. They seem to be having a lot of fun learning their roles, and when I stop and watch them in class or rehearsing I know I’m seeing the future of theatre. It’s pretty cool.”

Summer Star Camp is a two­week theatrical training intensive culminating in a weekend of performances alongside professional actors. The students take classes in core theatre arts curriculum such as acting, voice and movement as well as master classes in fight choreography, improvisation, design elements and acting for the camera.

Performance Network Theatre is located at 120 E. Huron St, Ann Arbor, MI, 48104


Berman Center announces 2015/2016 season

Article:10034; Posted: July 27, 2015 at 9:00 p.m.

Building on its reputation for delivering excellent and diverse entertainment, The Berman Center for The Performing Arts has announced its 2015-16 season. The line up includes exhilarating live performances, lectures, classes, family programming and intriguing and entertaining events on films.

This season features a live performance from Tony Award Winner Ben Vereen with his one-man show "Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen;" a striking performance of "The Children of Willesden Lane" performed by Mona Golabek; the stunningly unique visual dance performance, ENRA; Israel’s top blues rock guitarist Lazer Lloyd; the interactive and extraordinary SHUFFLE Concert; and, the return of The Berman Foundation’s Signature Series beginning with the Sphinx Virtuosi.

“One of the wonderful features of The Berman is its commitment to sharing diverse experiences for people of all ages,” said Elaine (Hendriks) Smith, director of The Berman Center for the Performing Arts. “This season certainly promises to delight, entertain and excite all audiences.”

For a full description of each performance and to purchase tickets, please visit Tickets also can be purchased by calling 248.661.1900.

About The Berman:
Inspired by an extraordinary gift from Mandell and Madeleine Berman, The Berman Center for the Performing Arts is a beautiful, world-class theatre. The Berman showcases the Jewish Community Center’s exceptional events and offers opportunities for exciting new programs for all audiences of Metropolitan Detroit. Since its first public performance in the Spring of 2011, The Berman has been the host more than 198,000 people for such performers as Barbara Cook, Marvin Hamlish, Patti LuPone, Bebe Neuwirth, Mandy Patinkin, Chita Rivera, Seth Rudetsky and J.B. Smoove & Lily Tomlin. Through live performances, film, master classes, festivals and streaming events, The Berman delivers the bests in cultural arts programming to audiences in southeast Michigan.


Ixion announces 2015-2016 season

Article:10023; Posted: July 26, 2015 at 9:00 p.m.

Coming off of its critically-acclaimed first season, Ixion Ensemble announces its 2015-2016 slate of shows. All performances will be Ixion's new home The Robin Theatre, 1105 S. Washington Ave. in Lansing's REO Town district.

"We're excited to dive into our second season," observes jeff croff, Ixion Artistic Director. "We continue to focus on the wide range of diversity available in theatre. From a Pulitzer Prize winning classic to start the season to a new work developed with authors from across the country, we are bringing the vibrant and varied voices of American theatre to the stage."

"Glengarry Glen Ross" by David Mamet
Performances September 19, 20, 26 &27
Directed by jeff croff
The story of real estate salesmen struggling to get by and "get on the board" as a sales contest winds down. Filled with scalding dialogue and desperate people, this dark comedy is a modern American classic.

"The View from Here" by Margaret Dulaney
Performances November 7, 8, 14 & 15
Directed by SaDonna CroffAn agoraphobe hasn't left her house in years after an incident at the Piggly Wiggly. Since then she engages the world through her screen door. She runs a daycare drop-off and is dealing with her nearly catatonic sister, who is coping with a break-up. This comedy offers a world of laughs from a single room.

"She Kills Monsters" by Qui Nguyen
Peformances March 20, 21, 27 & 28
Directed by jeff croff
Agnes tries to connect with her sister who died in a car accident by taking part in a dungeons and dragons game her sister wrote. This poignant comedy takes Agnes on an emotional odyssey as she learns both about her sister and herself. Populated with slacker demons, evil cheerleader succubi and a really bad school counselor, this is a quest for laughs and adventure.

"Secrets" by TBD
Performances May 14, 15, 21 & 22
Directed by Paige Dunckel
Continuing Ixion's efforts to encourage and support new writers, this production will feature one act plays developed throughout the season in collaboration with the writers. Submissions for Secrets are due by September 30. Pieces selected for the workshop process will be announced in December. Staged readings will be performed during the first quarter of 2016 and the final configuration of plays will be announced for auditions in March or early April.

Tickets for performances are $15 or discounted if purchased online in advance. For more information call 517.775.4246 or email



Improv troupes go head to head at Colony Fest (The Detroit News: July 23, 2015)

Michigan Shakespeare Festival heads to Canton ( July 22, 2015)

Michigan Shakespeare Festival expands to Canton (Detroit Free Press: July 22, 2015)


National tour of "Bridges" will make a stop at The Wharton Center

Article:10020; Posted: July 25, 2015 at 9:00 p.m.

The producers of the upcoming national tour of "The Bridges of Madison County" have announced that Elizabeth Stanley, currently starring in the role of Claire De Loone on Broadway in the revival of "On the Town," and Andrew Samonsky, last seen in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" at the Paper Mill Playhouse, will star as Francesca Johnson and Robert Kincaid. Featuring music by three-time Tony Award-winner Jason Robert Brown that draws upon the rich textures of Americana and folk and the sweeping balladry of classic Broadway, Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News calls it, “one of Broadway’s best scores in the last decade.” Tom Geier of Entertainment Weekly exclaims that Brown “has written a lush and deeply romantic score, filled with rich and melodic duets.” The production will begin performances on November 28 at the Des Moines Civic Center in Des Moines and will continue to over 15 additional major markets across North America in its first season. "The Bridges of Madison County" comes to Wharton Center May 19-22, 2016. Tickets are on sale to subscribers now. The public on-sale is scheduled for February 2016.

Elizabeth Stanley is currently starring as the man-crazed anthropologist Claire De Loone in the Broadway revival of "On the Town" (Drama Desk Nomination). Other roles originated on Broadway: Dyanne in "Million Dollar Quartet;" Allison in "Cry- Baby," and April in the Tony Award-winning revival of "Company."

Andrew Samonsky recently played Captain Phoebus in the American premiere of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" at the Paper Mill and La Jolla Playhouse. His Broadway credits include "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (Neville), "Scandalous" (Kenneth Ormisten, original cast recording), and "South Pacific" (Lt. Cable, including the Live From Lincoln Center PBS broadcast).

Based on the best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, "The Bridges of Madison County" tells the story of Iowa housewife Francesca Johnson and her life-changing, four-day whirlwind romance with traveling photographer Robert Kincaid.

For more information about the upcoming tour, please visit


Encore LIVE! - Shakespeare busts out all over

Posted: July 14, 2014 at 8:45 p.m.

Shakespeare is busting out all over Michigan this summer, as theaters from Downtown Detroit to the Upper Peninsula and from Royal Oak to Frankfort bring to life many of the Bard's most famous works in stagings both indoors and out. Even the Official Shakespeare Festival of the State of Michigan - better known as the popular Michigan Shakespeare Festival - is expanding its reach by picking up and moving its shows from its longtime home in Jackson to completing their runs at The Village Theatre at Cherry Hill in Canton.

So why is Shakespeare so popular this summer, you might be wondering? So, too, are co-hosts Barton Bund and Donald V. Calamia, who discuss this intriguing phenomenon, after which they focus on two young companies that are putting their own unique stamps on these classic tales: Slipstream Theatre Initiative and the Upper Peninsula Shakespeare Festival.

Encore LIVE! - it's like radio, but over the internet! A production of Produced for by Barton Bund and Donald V. Calamia. Theme music by the World Famous Love Machine.

CLICK HERE for other listening and downloading options.


A season of excellence and change: The 2015 Wilde Awards

by Staff

Article:9865; Posted: June 19, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.

Theater professionals from across Michigan will gather together Aug. 31 when The 2015 Wilde Awards are presented at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts in the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield. Presented by, the most comprehensive resource for news and information about the state's professional theater industry, The Wilde Awards were established in 2002 to honor the excellent work produced by Michigan's professional theaters.

“Although I say something similar pretty much every year, this past season was certainly a memorable one – both onstage and behind the scenes,” said Donald V. Calamia, co-founder and editor-at-large of “New theaters popped up, a few established ones kept a very low profile, and quality work was seen on stages all across the state and in theaters large and small. Plus, we got a new owner not long before the end was imminent. So all in all, I’d call this one heck of a successful season!”

Even another extraordinarily cold winter couldn’t squash the enthusiasm and hard work found in our theaters, Calamia noted. “Despite the frigid temperatures and what seemed to be a never-ending tepid economy, patrons still showed up at the box office and our theater artists continued to turn out work of the highest caliber. And that made our jobs quite difficult, as how do you sift through 150-plus performances from across the state – and the work of hundreds of theater artists – to determine which were the best or most memorable of the 2014-15 season? But we did it – and that’s what we’ll be honoring when the community comes together this coming August!”

Now in its 14th year, The Wilde Awards – named in honor of 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde – honors the best productions, performances and technical work produced or presented by professional theaters across the state. Nominations are based on reviews written by's team of professional critics. Only shows produced or presented by Michigan’s professional theaters and opera companies – both union and non-union – and reviewed by’s theater critics during the 2014-15 season were eligible for a 2015 Wilde Awards nomination.

This year’s team of critics included Carolyn Hayes Harmer, (owner and editor-in-chief) David Kiley, Martin F. Kohn, Jenn McKee, Sue Merrell, Amy J. Parrent, Frank Anthony Polito, John Quinn, Bridgette M. Redman, Judith Cookis Rubens and guest critic Jennifer Knightstep."And for only the second time since the inception of The Wilde Awards, I had no horse in the race,” Calamia said. “I reviewed a grand total of one play this past season, and that’s it. But I certainly had a lot of input based on the overall number of shows I saw throughout the season.”

An abbreviated year

This year, the 14th annual Wilde Awards returns to its pre-Labor Day roots after last year’s move to September. The change, Calamia said, is the direct result of feedback received from throughout the community. “Last year, we moved the show to September and changed the review season to August through July, which made sense when we had different owners and a different financial model. What we didn’t fully consider was the timing of the ceremony and how a mid or late September date would be in conflict with so many shows scheduled to open pretty much at the same time. So attendance last year was down considerably. And since our goal is to bring the community together that night and not find ways to prevent them from attending, we listened to the feedback and decided to return the ceremony to its traditional slot.”

What’s also changed – again – is the review season. “For the first 12 years of The Wilde Awards, we based our nominations and awards on shows our critics reviewed from mid-May to mid-May,” Calamia said. “For last year’s awards, when we decided to move the date of the ceremony to September, we also changed the season from August to July, which is pretty close to a traditional theater season. But that caused an interesting dilemma: Because the prior season ended in mid-May and the new season began in August, that meant we had to extend the nominations to include 14 months of shows rather than 12 to make sure we included those produced in the otherwise-orphaned June and July of 2013. And the result was that the summer theaters competed against themselves across two different seasons.”

This year, however, the problem is just the opposite. “For this year’s awards and from this point forward, our review season is June through May,” Calamia said. “But since June and July of 2014 were included with last year’s awards, nominations this year will include the months of August 2014 through May 2015 only – which means the summer theaters that had all of their shows reviewed last year in June or July won’t have any shows considered for an award this year.”

It’s confusing, and not a perfect solution, Calamia, noted. “But it allows us to make a one-time re-adjustment to get us back on track for the future. And what that means is that next year, for the first time in a couple of years, the season will run a full 12 months – and I’m sure it will remain that way for years to come.”

The 2014-15 season

In total,’s team of critics reviewed 168 productions produced or presented by 49 professional theater companies located in 25 communities across the state during the abbreviated 2014-15 season. Shows had to be performed for four consecutive days or more or over two weekends or more to be eligible for a review. And only shows reviewed by could be nominated for a Wilde Award.

Awards this year will be given out in 25 categories, Calamia explained. “And this, too, is a change from past years. One of my personal delights in previous seasons was the sheer scope of creativity that exploded from the improv community and other small or independent producers that resulted in a large slate of very funny original one-act comedies and one-person shows. For a number of reasons, we reviewed far fewer of these shows this past season, and because the field was so uncharacteristically narrow, instead we folded them in for consideration with the standard ‘comedy’ categories. Every year sees some refinement in the categories to adequately reflect the recent season. Our hopes are high that these categories will be reinstated with a full slate of well-deserved accolades in future years.”

A handful of special awards will be presented, as well.

In total, 33 companies statewide received at least one nomination. Leading the pack with 13 is Michigan Opera Theatre (Detroit), followed by The Encore Musical Theatre Company (Dexter) with 10, while Farmers Alley Theatre (Kalamazoo) and Tipping Point Theatre (Northville) each earned nine. “Most of the nominated theaters received multiple accolades,” Calamia said. “Only seven of the total received a single nomination. More impressive, however, is that a handful of nominated theaters were new to the scene, which proves longevity is not necessarily a good indicator of quality.”

Of the 72 nominated shows, no single production leaped to the forefront. The Encore Musical Theatre Company’s “Spamalot” earned the top spot with 6, while “Annapurna” at The Purple Rose Theatre (Chelsea) and “Sugarhill” at The Jewish Ensemble Theatre (West Bloomfield) both received five. And “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” at Tipping Point Theatre and “The Secret Garden” at Farmers Alley Theatre each received four nominations. “Only 35 of the 72 productions received two or more nominations, so this year’s slate reflects a very broad spectrum of shows, and it proves there’s something of note to highlight in pretty much every production we see,” Calamia said.

A similar indicator is the number of artists – actors, directors, designers and playwrights – whose work is honored this year. “Of the 128 individuals we’ve nominated, only 12 have two or more nominations,” Calamia said. “I think this helps prove Michigan is blessed with an abundance of highly skilled and talented individuals who live and work here, and we’re thrilled to acknowledge them and their excellent work during the 2014-15 season.”

The 2015 Wilde Awards

The 2015 Wilde Awards, sponsored by Pride Source Media Group, will be held Monday, Aug. 31 at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts in West Bloomfield. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with an hors d'oeuvre and cocktail reception. The awards show, produced and co-hosted by Calamia with special guest participants, will begin promptly at 8 p.m.; a dessert afterglow will follow. Naz Edwards returns to coordinate the entertainment.

The evening will not only honor the best performances and productions of the 2014-15 professional theater season, it will also serve to formally introduce the community to new owner and editor-in-chief David Kiley, as well as tease attendees with news regarding future plans for the media company. “The raw materials have been here since day one, but has never had the marketing and financial muscle to develop into the dynamic company it was designed to be,” said Kiley. “We have many exciting plans for the near future – including a totally redesigned website we’ll be launching this fall – and we’ll chat about some of them on the night of the awards.”

Admission is $22 per person; VIP admission is $47 per person, which includes unlimited bar service. Drink tickets for all others will be available for purchase on the day of the event.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, June 19 at The Berman's box office, by phone at 248-661-1900, or online at

The Berman Center for the Performing Arts is located at 6600 W. Maple Road, on the campus of the Jewish Community Center at the northwest corner of Maple and Drake Roads in West Bloomfield. Parking is free.

"Our 14th annual celebration of professional theater in Michigan will be a great way to salute the previous season and kick off the next," said Calamia. "And as always, it will truly be 'one Wilde night' to remember!"

THERE'S MORE: CLICK HERE to read the complete list of nominations!


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