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Gilda's 'LaughFest' readies 2015 festival of laughter

Posted: Oct. 25, 2014 at 9:45 a.m.

GRAND RAPIDS - On Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 a.m., Gilda's "LaughFest," the nation's first-ever community-wide festival of laughter, will announce headlining artists performing at the 2015 10-day festival, which runs March 5 through 15, 2015. The public is invited to attend the announcement, which will take place at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, 101 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids. Admission is free.

"LaughFest" is the nation's only 10-day community-wide festival of laughter and attracted 50,000 attendees from across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom during its fourth annual event. Designed to celebrate laughter for the health of it, "LaughFest" features free and ticketed events including stand-up, improv, film, authors, community showcases and a variety of seriously funny stuff. Past LaughFest headliners include Jay Leno, Lily Tomlin, Chris Tucker, Bill Cosby, Mike Birbiglia, Margaret Cho, Betty White, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Epps, Rodney Carrington, Martin Short, Kevin Nealon, Wayne Brady, Jim Breuer, Joel McHale, Lewis Black, Brian Regan and Anjelah Johnson.

During "LaughFest 2015," officials expect to host more than 100 Community Showcases and other free events at various locations in downtown Grand Rapids, Lowell and Holland. The categories include stand-up comedy, music, short-film, sketch/improv, dance and kids' jokes. These non-ticked events will be free of charge and will be held at various times throughout the event.

"These Community Showcases have quickly become one of the most exciting parts of the Festival," said Joanne Roehm, festival director for "LaughFest." "Each year we get new and diverse talent from across the country that provides a unique experience for 'LaughFest' attendees."

Friends and fans of "LaughFest" can stay connected with the Festival year round by becoming a LaughFest Friends member. Memberships are available for purchase at, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids (1806 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504) and will be available at LaughFest Central (GRAM, 101 Monroe Center NW) when it opens mid-February. Attendees at the Nov. 11 launch event will also be able to purchase a LaughFest Friends membership.

LaughFest Friends has been expanded to include two new levels of membership and benefits. There are three levels of memberships available, starting at $25. Level one includes an exclusive tee shirt designed by The Mitten State, High Five button and donation, exclusive content and experiences, and early access to Fast Passes for free events. Fast Passes guarantee holders a seat for free showings as long as they are seated 15 minutes prior to the event start time.

The second level costs $50 and includes everything in the $25 level, plus a Smile Pass Book with special offers and discounts from partners in February 2015 (valued at more than $100), a Mitten State Smile Decal, a 10-percent discount for merchandise at LaughFest Central and online, and entry into a raffle for free tickets to a LaughFest 2015 Starring Artist show.

The third membership level is $100 and includes all the items at the $25 and $50 levels, plus pre-sale opportunities to purchase ticket packages on Nov. 13, and individual tickets on Jan. 8, 2015 before the general public, and entry into a raffle for LaughFest 2015 Starring and Featured Artist tickets.

As an additional benefit for early birds, a $5 coupon for merchandise at LaughFest Central is added to any membership purchase that is registered or renewed by Nov. 4.

On March 8, individuals can participate in the second annual 5K FUNderwear Run. The race will begin at 10 a.m. on the Grand Rapids Community College campus. Individuals can register at The cost is $25 prior to Feb. 19 and $30 after that date. Day of registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Participants will receive an official race t-shirt, and are encouraged to wear their finest (and funniest) underwear over running clothes.

"LaughFest" is recruiting individuals of all ages, and groups of all size, to showcase their talents in "LaughFest"'s free Community Showcases. Applications are free and are being accepted online through December 8 at under the About section or via phone 616-735 HAHA (4242). Applicants will be notified in early February about their assigned position at one of "LaughFest"'s events.


'Dinosaurus!' combines real and virtual worlds in new ways

By Bridgette M. Redman

Posted: Oct. 23, 2014 at 7:09 p.m.; updated Oct. 24, 2014 at 8:34 a.m.

"Dinosaurus!" is a show designed to be unlike anything you've seen before.

It takes virtual reality and adds in live actors to create virtual theatricality.

It takes three dimension and adds in additional sensual experiences to make it 4D.

The story itself takes you below the surface of the earth to where two humans stumble upon a lost colony of dinosaurs while looking for oil.

"This is not a movie or a cartoon, it is Virtual Theatricality," said director George Popovich of the show that opens Nov. 1. "You have live actors interacting with 3D animations: The synergy created is amazing. It is a physical and emotional experience."

It is a children's show designed for grades one through five, and Popovich said the emphasis on beauty and young audiences is a direct reaction to the most recent Virtual Theatricality show that they did at Henry Ford College.

"It is my apology play for 'The Skriker.' That was the ultimate horror story – the destruction of the world. The world does get destroyed at the end. It's a crazy show that is dark and horrific," Popovich said. "I felt kind of bad after I did that show. I wanted to do something fun after that – more cartoons, Saturday morning. Forgive me, save me, help me. I'm sorry."

The work that Henry Ford College has done with Virtual Theatricality has won national honors. "The Tempest," done in 2003, was selected as a regional winner in the Kennedy Center's American College Theater Festival.

Popovich and his team began working on "Dinosaurus!" five years ago. They first experimented with doing motion capture for the dinosaurs, but the physics just wouldn't work right.

"It doesn't work when you're a biped like us and you're trying to transfer into four legged things. The arm extensions didn't work," Popovich said. "We tested everything, and we scrapped it and said, let's go back to animation, to the traditional Disney, to the roots. We'll have the actors perform these dinosaurs, and then we'll give the videos to the animators for them to base their animations on, back like ‘Snow White' in 1939."

Once the animations were done, voice actors came in and voiced the dinosaurs while watching the animations. The result is that you sometimes have actors who are on the stage in three different ways at the same time – as a live actor, as the inspiration for the animation and as the voice of the dinosaur. They even interact with themselves a few times.

Popovich says what transforms the performance from mere technology to art is the way the actors connect with each other and with the animated figures on stage. They rehearse so that there is a spontaneity in their reactions to each event, so that they are in the moment and not simply following a script. It is in those moments where the actors connect with the images in a kinetic way that things change, Popovich said. "That's where the magic is here. That's the art. Otherwise you're just playing background videos, and it's silly.

"We're not doing that. The art form of this is to synergistically connect with the images, and when that happens, there is a new image. In a simplistic way, if a dinosaur is moving in a counterclockwise direction and the actor is countering and they're looking at the eyes of the dinosaur, that creates that moment. You give yourself the screen image and you imbue it."

You don't hire actors with these skills, Popovich said, because what they are doing is so new. "We teach them and we learn together. We say we want to do virtual reality with dinosaurs, and no one knows what that means until you start to explore it. We create the aesthetics of the acting style, and it has taken us a long time to do it."

Each show is limited to 80 people because of how the space works for the projections. The audience is seated on stage and is surrounded by the physical set that matches the virtual set. Audience members wear 3D glasses, and there is a 20'x36' 3D projection screen. The dinosaurs will appear to be 20 feet tall and 6 feet from the closest spectator.

As for the 4D effects? Audience members are warned that when the T-Rex sneezes, they should duck. "We'll spray water on them," Popovich said. "And I'm not going to tell you what happens when the raptors come out."

There are two separate sets of performances: One is open to the public, and the other are performances for public schools. Popovich said they're trying to educate their students at the college, but they also want to introduce kids to visual effects and live theater at the same time.

"A lot of time they go to these movies and they don't know how they're doing this stuff. They've got some basic ideas of special effects. Then the live theater itself is where a lot of them might not see it. Some of the places (we reach out to) are underserved areas. Forty-eight different counties are underserved as far as the arts go. We try to hit some of these school districts. We're trying to do something there."

While the run is only for the first three weeks of November, it will be the culmination of five years of experimenting and effort, all to create something different from what anyone else is doing – and using new technology to tell stories in new ways.

Educators interested in bringing their students to "Dinosaurus!" should CLICK HERE!

SHOW DETAILS: 'Dinosaurus!
Henry Ford College's Virtual Theatricality Lab
Adray Auditorium
5101 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn
2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, 8, 15, 22
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, 8, 15, 22
2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2, 9, 16, 23
7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, 14, 21
Recommended for grades one through five
$8 adult, $5 children under 12
Seating is limited to 80 persons per show

THERE'S MORE: CLICK HERE for a preview video of "Dinosaurus"!



Theatre de la Ville presents Luigi Pirandello's '6 Characters in Search of an Author,' courtesy of UMS – The Ann Arbor News (Oct. 23, 2014)

On stage, humans scarier than witches – Battle Creek Enquirer (Oct. 22, 2014)

8 small groups making big impact on Detroit – Crain's Detroit Business (Oct. 19, 2014)

Executive Director Maud Lyon to Lead Philadelphia Cultural Alliance – CultureSource (Oct. 22, 2014)

Motown family gathers for musical's Detroit opening – Detroit Free Press (Oct. 23, 2014)

‘Enter Laughing’ delivers wholesome, inspiring comedy – The Detroit News (Oct. 21, 2014)

Hundreds hope to hit it big at Motown musical auditions – The Detroit News (Oct. 22, 2014)

Motown: Gathering of the clan re-energizes the brand – The Detroit News (Oct. 22, 2014)

Love is here at Motown musical's grand opening night – Digital First Media (Oct. 23, 2014)

Motown alumni celebrate musical opening at Roostertail party – Digital First Media (Oct. 22, 2014)

Flint Farmers' Market is the venue for new production exploring the history, culture and community of the market – Flint Journal (Oct. 20, 2014)

LaughFest 2015: What you need to know before headliners are announced in November – The Grand Rapids Press (Oct. 23, 2014)

'A rock star for 5-year-olds,' Pinkalicious coming to WMU's Miller Auditorium – Kalamazoo Gazette (Oct. 21, 2014)

A tour of Detroit's enormous Masonic Temple – Metro Times (Oct. 22, 2014)

City Theater of Paris to perform groundbreaking Italian play – The Michigan Daily (Oct. 21, 2014)

The timelessness of theater – The Michigan Daily (Oct. 20, 2014)

Film-theater hybrid 'Aelita' is out of this world – The Herald-Palladium (Oct. 23, 2014)


'Miss Daisy' cruises to a stop at City Theatre

Driving Miss Daisy
City Theatre
Oct. 31 - Nov. 2, 2014

Posted: Oct. 23, 2014 at 8:20 a.m.

DETROIT - "Driving Miss Daisy" is set to warm audience hearts for five performances at the City Theatre on Friday, Oct. 31 through Sunday, Nov. 2 as part of the Fifth Third Bank Fox Theatre Series. Direct from a successful run at Performance Network Theatre in Ann Arbor, this engagement reunites the award-winning team of director John Manfredi and actor James Bowen in the classic tale of an unlikely friendship that blossoms into one of respect.

"Driving Miss Daisy" is the story of Daisy Werthan, a 72-year-old Jewish woman living in the South who is too stubborn to admit she needs assistance. Hoke, an illiterate black man, is hired to be her chauffeur, and a strong but reluctant bond grows between them. The play takes place from 1948-1973 as the civil-rights movement brings changes to the Old South.

The successful play written by Alfred Uhry in 1987 and produced across the country was later turned into an Oscar-nominated film starring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. In 2005, Manfredi's critically acclaimed theatrical version of "Driving Miss Daisy" garnered Wilde Awards for Best Play, Best Director (John Manfredi) and Best Actor (James Bowen) from Pride Source Media Group. The play was also named one of the season's Ten Best by the Detroit Free Press and received a 4-Star review.

Performances of "Driving Miss Daisy," appearing Oct. 31 - Nov. 2 at the City Theatre, are as follows:

Tickets ($30) are on sale now and can be purchased at, the Fox Theatre and Joe Louis Arena box offices, Hockeytown Authentics in Troy (without service charge) at all Ticketmaster locations and To charge tickets by phone, call 800-745-3000. Groups of 10 or more and Super Groups receive a discount by calling 313-471-3099.

For additional information, call 313-471-6611.

The City Theatre is located inside the Hockeytown Cafe at 2301 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201.


Creative Many Michigan awarded $100,000 grant for statewide research and analysis

Posted: Oct. 22, 2014 at 7:50 a.m.

WIXOM – Creative Many Michigan (formerly ArtServe Michigan), the statewide economic development organization for the arts, culture and creative and design industries, announced that the U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded the organization a $100,000 grant to continue its research and data analysis of Michigan's creative industries.

The funds will expand upon Creative Many's comprehensive research and analysis of its Creative State Michigan data on the extent, composition and contributions of Michigan's creative and design industries – statewide and in key regions including Detroit, Ann Arbor, Flint and Grand Rapids.

Research findings will serve as a foundation for setting economic development priorities, strategies and investments that will cultivate growth opportunities for creative jobs and businesses in Michigan.

"Support from the EDA expands our ability to define and measure the influence of the creative industries on Michigan's economy and demonstrates that the creative sector is poised for growth and positioned to equip Michigan with critical competitive advantage," said Jennifer Goulet, president and CEO of Creative Many Michigan. "However we must also move beyond simply identifying the economic contributions of the creative sector to smartly developing the strategies, policies, tools and investments that will cultivate accelerated growth in Michigan's creative economy."

The EDA grant will provide Creative Many with the resources necessary to update existing research and to benchmark Michigan's creative industries against other state and regional competitors across the United States. The project will also document best practices nationally and internationally, and identify opportunities to strengthen resources needed to cultivate the creative and design industries as a growth sector in Michigan.

Interdisciplinary workshops with state and regional creative industry leaders will be convened to evaluate research results and identify model entrepreneurs, businesses and/or projects to serve as case studies for regional and statewide program recommendations. Further, case studies will illustrate growth opportunities and needed supports for the creative and design sectors of the automotive, technology, industrial and manufacturing industries. All of the data collected will be published in a comprehensive report available through traditional and online communications tools.

"Michigan's history of innovation and design continues to be felt around the world," said Doug Smith, senior vice president of strategic partnerships and government affairs for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. "To remain competitive in a global economy, it is imperative our state evaluates all of its opportunities for economic prosperity, and we are eager, through this partnership with Creative Many Michigan, to capitalize on the best practices identified during this important research and analysis."

In its first phase, the Creative State Michigan 2014: Creative Industries Report revealed that the creative industries paid nearly $3.6 billion in wages to 74,000 employees in more than 9,700 businesses in Michigan in Fiscal Year 2011. These figures accounted for nearly 3 percent of Michigan's total employment, more than 3 percent of total wages and 4.6 percent of total state businesses.

Partners in this comprehensive research and analysis of Michigan's creative and design industries are the MEDC, Masco Corporation Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Detroit Creative Corridor and Prima Civitas Foundation. Creative Many Michigan will also engage federal, state and regional partners to support this important work.

Contact Creative Many Michigan at 248-912-0760 or visit

THERE'S MORE: CLICK HERE to read the Creative State Michigan 2014: Creative Industries Report!


Beloved children's tale added to Farmers Alley schedule

The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Farmers Alley Theatre
Nov. 1-9, 2014

Posted: Oct. 22, 2014 at 7:31 a.m.

Kalamazoo - Farmers Alley Theatre's Children's Series is proud to announce a special event recently added to its 2014 schedule: "The Tiger Who Came to Tea." Based on the beloved picture book of the same name by Judith Kerr, "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" will run Nov. 1-9 at Farmers Alley Theatre.

It's just another typical day for Sophie and her Mummy. After Daddy leaves for work, they decided to have a spot of tea. Suddenly the doorbell rings. Who could it possibly be? They certainly didn't expect it to be a big, striped tiger who is ready to turn their ordinary day upside-down!

Filled with magic, mayhem and joyful interactive songs, "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" will be a delight for children of all ages.

"The Tiger Who Came to Tea" stars Tara Sytsma and Bannon Backhus of the comedic improv group “Crawlspace Eviction.” The show also stars talented youngster Bailey Ford. Direction is by Ken Holda, with musical direction by Brent Decker.

The show will last approximately 60-70 minutes; it is best suited for children ages 4 and up. At the conclusion of each show, children will be able to talk to and take their picture with members of the cast.

Performances of "The Tiger Who Came to Tea," appearing Nov. 1-9 at Farmers Alley Theatre, are as follows:

Tickets are $15. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Farmers Alley Theatre Box Office at 269-343-2727 or by visiting

Farmers Alley Theatre is located at 221 Farmers Alley, Kalamazoo.


Annual Black Tie Gala Nov. 15 at the Rep

Wallace F. Smith

Posted: Oct. 20, 2014 at 5:58 p.m.

DETROIT - Michigan's longest running, non-profit, professional theater, the Detroit Repertory Theatre, will hold its Annual Black Tie Awards Night and Homecoming Celebration and Performance on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. The Black Tie is the annual major fundraiser for the theater. Funds raised at the benefit go to the Rep's Working Capitol Fund. The Fund is used to help the theater meet its financial obligations in a timely and efficient manner and help set the table for the generations ahead.

The Detroit Repertory Theatre's artistic commitment and accomplishments help keep Detroit's rebirth active and alive. The Annual Black Tie Homecoming unites past Detroit Repertory Theatre artists and actors, loyal patrons of the theater and civic minded citizens who value the Detroit Rep's contributions to the cultural life of Metropolitan Detroit in an effort to bring hope to the community, vitality to the city and a promise of a future for the City of Detroit and the Detroit Repertory Theatre.

Sponsors of the Black Tie event are Quicken Loans, MGM Grand Detroit, UAW Region 1A, St. John Providence Health System, Health Alliance Plan of Michigan, Domino's Pizza, Greektown Casino and FirstMerit Bank.

Tickets include a champagne and hors d'hoeuvres reception, followed by a ceremony hosted by mistress of ceremonies Amyre Makupson, noted TV host and author.

Noted humanitarian and theater entrepreneur Wallace F. Smith will give a keynote speech about the importance of the arts and legacy of the Detroit Repertory Theatre, followed by the annual presentation of awards given to the best artists of the 2013-14 season as voted by the theater's subscribers.

The evening will feature a presentation of the first play of the Rep's 58th Season, the world premiere comedy "Buzz" by Richard Strand. The night winds down with a champagne and dessert afterglow in the Lobby Gallery with the Detroit Rep's artists of the past, present and future.

Black tie is optional.

Tickets for the special evening are $75 and may be purchased by calling the Box Office at 313-868-1347 with a Visa or MasterCard, with no surcharge.

The Detroit Repertory Theatre is located in the geographical heart of Detroit at 13103 Woodrow Wilson, Detroit MI 48238. Parking is attended, adjacent, fenced-in and free.

More information may be found at

About the Keynote Speaker
For many years, Wallace F. Smith was active in the professional theater and film world as an actor, director and producer and was a member of the Actor's Equity Association, Screen Actor's Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. He has appeared in scores of film and theater productions.

He was a Hilberry Fellow in the Hilberry Theatre's inaugural season at Wayne State University, where he completed his Master of Arts degree.

In addition, he wrote, produced, directed and performed in a chamber theater production that toured the world. It was simply known as Wallace Smith Productions. It was an entertaining production for all ages and demographics, and included in its subtext aspects of conflict resolution, problem solving and positive value building. Truly a "Peace - Love" project. The estimated performances with this company numbered somewhere between 2 and 3 thousand.

The seed for this extensive project was gratefully discovered at the Detroit Repertory Theatre.

Now in semi-retirement, Wallace is a distinguished professor emeritus of communication, He taught interpersonal communication, public speaking, film, video and theater at Oakland Community College in Auburn Hills. In 1983, the theater at the Orchard Ridge Campus of Oakland Community College was dedicated in his honor. It is now known as the Wallace F. Smith Performing Arts Theatre.

For many years, Wallace has been facilitating workshops internationally (recently in France, Poland, Scotland, Hawaii, Crete, England and the U.S.A.) in interpersonal communication, conflict management, beginning and advanced seminars in a bioenergetic healing modality, as well as a series entitled, "A Celebration of Healing.....Awaken the Flow," and his stellar and life changing seminar on listening.

He is an ordained minister with the World Congregational Fellowship Church, and is a certified instructor with the International Network for Esoteric Healing, the Institute for Bioenergy Studies and the National Association for Esoteric Healing.


Absurdist classic comes to Power Center

Six Characters in Search of an Author
University Musical Society
Oct. 24-25, 2014

Posted: Oct. 19, 2014 at 2:49 p.m.

ANN ARBOR - Luigi Pirandello won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1934 for his "bold and brilliant renovation of drama and the stage." His "Six Characters in Search of an Author," which dates from 1921, is an absurdist meta-theatrical play about the relationship between authors and their characters. The University Musical Society will present Theatre de la Ville's "Six Characters in Search of an Author" at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25 at Power Center.

A dysfunctional family of six bursts into a rehearsal of another Pirandello play with a curious claim: They are characters who have been abandoned by their author and are seeking someone to complete their story. The theater manager is intrigued and agrees to help, but becomes vexed by the interplay of the real actors with the unrealized characters, whose literary limbo causes fiction and reality to overlap.

The production is directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota and performed by Theatre de la Ville, which gave an outstanding performance of Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" two seasons ago.

Tickets start at $26. For tickets or more information, call 734-764-2538 or log on to

Power Center is located at 121 Fletcher Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.



Emotions, pressure for 'Motown' as musical comes home – Detroit Free Press (Oct. 19, 2014)

Family fare: New Yo Gabba Gabba! show puts the music first – Digital First Media (Oct. 17, 2014)

Jennifer Garner streaked, cleaned bathrooms well at The Barn Theatre, actress tells Conan – Kalamazoo Gazette (Oct. 15, 2014)


Century Bank and Trust donates Branch County flight for three to Tibbits auction

Sarah Zimmer, special events development director at Tibbits Opera House, accepts a gift certificate for a flight for three around Branch County and a $100 Century Bank and Trust Visa Gift Card from Donna Hobday, vice president at Century Bank and Trust.

Posted: Oct. 19, 2014 at 9:49 a.m.; updated Oct. 19, 2014 at 10:57 a.m.

COLDWATER – A scenic flight for three around Branch County and a $100 Century Bank &Trust Visa gift card, which may be used for a post-flight dinner of your choosing, will be auctioned off at Tibbits 35th Annual Auction on Saturday, Nov. 1. You will have your chance to bid on this adventure – courtesy of Century Bank and Trust.

"Grab that boarding pass and get ready for first class treatment as we bring back the romance of flying at this year's annual auction, Tibbits Takes Flight," Sarah Zimmer, special events development director at Tibbits Opera House, said. "I love when donations reflect the theme and Century Bank and Trust hit the nail on the head. It's always fun to see what people in the community come up with."

Doors open at 6 p.m. The silent auction begins at 6:15 p.m., and the live auction, where you will see Century's donation and many other items, dinners, trips and parties begins promptly at 8 p.m.

Century Bank and Trust, founded in 1890 as an independent community bank, donates annually to the Tibbits auction and other fundraisers hosted by Tibbits. Century Bank and Trust provides a comprehensive range of corporate, trust and retail products and services through Branch, St. Joseph and Hillsdale counties. To learn more about Century Bank and Trust visit to learn more about how Century supports the community.

Save the date and show your support at Tibbits largest fundraising event of the year!

Tibbits Opera House located at 14 S. Hanchett St in Coldwater.

For more information on the auction, to purchasing raffle tickets, or ways you can donate, please call Tibbits at 517-278-6029 or go to

THERE'S MORE: CLICK HERE for complete information about this year's auction!


Penny Seats announces more 'Tomfoolery'

Matt Cameron and Roy Sexton

Posted: Oct. 18, 2014 at 10:25 a.m.

ANN ARBOR – Through the month of October, The Penny Seats enjoyed a sold-out run of the musical revue "Tomfoolery," celebrating the words and music of satirist, mathematician and cult favorite, Tom Lehrer, at Ann Arbor's Conor O'Neill's Irish Pub and Restaurant. The two companies have partnered to offer this cabaret-style show, with dinner seatings available starting around 6 p.m., and performances at 8 p.m. Due to high demand, a performance on Nov. 9 has been added to the schedule.

Featured performers are Matt Cameron, Laura Sagolla and R. Brent Stansfield, and Roy Sexton. Lauren London directs the show, with musical direction and accompaniment by Rebecca Biber. Victoria Gilbert oversees choreography, and Stephen Hankes designed the set and will stage manage the show.

With the announcement of the additional performance, music director Rebecca Biber notes, "I am excited for this encore show, as I never grow tired of the material. Lehrer is a master satirist, not only of cultural tropes and historical moments, but of music itself. He will pair a romantic parlor waltz with ghoulish lyrics, or use a peppy march to skewer jingoism and lockstep thinking. He always picks his musical forms for maximum humor and maximum discomfiture, and that funny/squirmy quality keeps us performers as engaged as our audience."

Cast member Brent Stansfield, a faculty member at the University of Michigan, echoes this sentiment. "The show combines all my favorite things in life: satire, science, jest, education, politics, math, irony and, of course, music," he said. "Better yet, it does it in a smart, sassy, gleeful and naughty way. The Penny Seats cast and crew is also smart, sassy, gleeful and naughty, and they bring an ocean of joy and verve to these songs. Best of all, 'Tomfoolery' is tailor-made for an Ann Arbor audience who, as I have now learned, can be relied upon to bring their own smarts, sass, glee and naughtiness! Each show has been raucous, and I have had so much fun performing in it."

Director Lauren London, who was recently interviewed about the production alongside Conor O'Neill's Caroline Kaganov for "The Lucy Ann Lance Show," adds, "This show has been a pure delight, from the first rehearsal through every single performance. It plays to our strengths as a company and fits perfectly with the jovial tone at Conor O'Neill's. It's a comfortable, fabulously funny night, and we're ecstatic that so many people want to experience it. This is one of those lightening-in-a-bottle moments for us. We couldn't be happier with Conor's as a partner, and I hope we have the chance to do this again, soon!"

Tickets for the dinner-and-show package are just $20, or $10 for the show only. Advance tickets (which are encouraged) are available online at or by phone at 734-926-5346.


Tickets' to 'Phantom' at Wharton Center on sale now

The Phantom of the Opera
Wharton Center
April 1-12, 2015

Posted: Oct. 18, 2014 at 9:31 a.m.

EAST LANSING - Tickets to Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group's spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" will go on sale Monday, Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. for the premiere East Lansing engagement at Wharton Center's Cobb Great Hall April 1-12, 2015. With newly reinvented staging and stunning scenic design, this new version of "Phantom," one of the most successful musicals of all-time, will be performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest productions on tour in North America.

Based on the classic novel "Le Fantome de L'Opera" by Gaston Leroux, "The Phantom of the Opera" tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said, "It's wonderful to have a new production of 'Phantom' touring America now that the show has celebrated over 26 years on Broadway. Director Laurence Connor has done an amazing job and this production has received huge critical acclaim in the UK."

This new production of "The Phantom of the Opera" is directed by Laurence Connor (the 25th Anniversary production of "Les Miserables" now on Broadway) with choreography by Scott Ambler, set design by Paul Brown, Tony Award-winning original costume design by Maria Bjornson, lighting design by Tony Award-winner Paule Constable, sound design by Mick Potter and musical supervision by John Rigby. The production is overseen by Matthew Bourne and Cameron Mackintosh. "The Phantom of the Opera" has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe) and the book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Cameron Mackintosh said, "After a glorious celebration of 26 phenomenal years on Broadway with no end in sight, I'm delighted that this dazzling new production of 'Phantom' has been phenomenally well-received by both audiences and critics alike in the U.K. and now the U.S. With an exciting new design and staging, retaining Maria Bjornson's amazing costumes, I am confident North American audiences will fall in love with the 'Phantom' in his new guise - for the first time or all over again."

There are currently eight productions of "The Phantom of the Opera" around the world: the flagship London production (approaching 28 years and counting), New York (26½ years and counting), Sapporo (Japan, 25 years and counting, in repertory), Budapest (Hungary), Hamburg (Germany), the Asian Pacific Tour (now in Taipei, Taiwan), Moscow (Russia, which had its official opening on Oct. 4) and Cameron Mackintosh's spectacular new production now on North American tour. Following Moscow, the next international openings will be in Hong Kong in December 2014 and Istanbul (Turkey) in April 2015.

"The Phantom of the Opera" became the first stage production to reach worldwide grosses of $6 billion, which it did this summer. Revenues far surpass the world's highest-grossing film Avatar (at $2.8 billion), as well as such other blockbusters as "Titanic," "The Lord of the Rings," "Jurassic Park" and "Star Wars."

Worldwide, "The Phantom of the Opera" has played over 65,000 performances that have been seen by 130 million people in 30 countries and 151 cities in 14 languages. The show has won more than 70 major theater awards.

There have been three previous U.S. National Tours of "The Phantom of the Opera" that grossed over $1.5 billion in combined box office sales and played 216 engagements in 77 cities for an unprecedented total of 36 years and over 14,500 performances to 31 million people.

Performances of "The Phantom of the Opera," appearing April 1-12, 2015 at Wharton Center's Cobb Great Hall, are as follows:

To purchase tickets, visit, call 800-WHARTON or visit the Auto-Owners Ticket Office at Wharton Center. Ticket prices start at $35.


MOT appoints senior nonprofit leader Alan H. Harrison as chief patron officer

Alan H. Harrison. Photo courtesy of MOT

Posted: Oct. 16, 2014 at 7:09 p.m.

DETROIT - Michigan Opera Theatre President and CEO Wayne S. Brown has announced the appointment of Alan H. Harrison to the newly-created position of chief patron officer. Effective Oct. 16, Harrison is responsible for building a patron-centered strategy to develop broad and diverse audiences, raise donor awareness and contributions, and focus on the image of Michigan Opera Theatre, long known for its uncompromisingly superb productions of opera and presentations of dance. The new Patron Services Department integrates both earned and contributed revenue streams, and Harrison will have executive oversight of sales, messaging and fundraising. Harrison has relocated to Detroit from Seattle, Washington.

In this key leadership role, Harrison will have strategic oversight of all external campaigns, as well as direct patron relationships, engaging with MOT donors, patrons, prospects and supporters to help secure a vibrant and sustainable artistic future for MOT.

"I am delighted that Alan has agreed to join our leadership team at this pivotal time in the history of MOT," said Brown. "He brings a breadth of experience and a keen understanding of the patron-centric arts model that will allow MOT to better serve as a major cultural resource to the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan."

Brown added, "We are extremely excited to have someone with Mr. Harrison's strong leadership background and passion for the performing arts join our team. His enthusiasm, wealth of knowledge, development experience and powerful marketing background is exactly what MOT needs to take our community engagement efforts to the next level."

The newly created position reflects the organization's renewed commitment to engaging and developing audiences, donors, supporters and lovers of opera and dance throughout the region. The company returns to a five-opera season in 2014-15 and plans to expand the reach of its main stage with a production of "Frida," an opera based on the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, which will be performed at three arts organizations in the metro Detroit community: The Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, Detroit Institute of Arts' Detroit Film Theatre, and the Berman Center for the Performing Arts.

MOT continues to offer a world-class dance series, including a full-length production of "Giselle" from the Houston Ballet and the return of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

"I am thrilled to represent Michigan Opera Theatre," said Harrison. "We have the capacity and the duty to make Detroit an even better place to live and work. That is our number one goal as an organization. I have the pleasure of leading a gifted and motivated team of people to make sure that happens. In addition, joining a leadership group that includes Wayne Brown and David DiChiera, founder and artistic director, is truly an honor."

About Alan H. Harrison
With more than 20 years' experience in nonprofit arts leadership, Alan H. Harrison has helped produce more than 300 plays at theaters across America, including Seattle Repertory Theatre; Lincoln Center Theater; The Pasadena Playhouse; Pittsburgh Public Theater, and dozens of plays on and off-Broadway. He was the executive director for ArtsWest (Seattle), named 2011's Theatre of the Year in the region, and the managing director for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. In addition, he served as the chair of the University of Alabama M.F.A. program in Theatre Management and Arts Administration. Harrison invented and led the first company to implement the enormously successful "Under 25? Only $10!" program (a program that has now been adopted by theaters all over the world), a venture that continues to add tens of thousands of young people to the audiences of arts organizations every year. For the last several years, he has been a leader in the field of nonprofit arts management consulting through his company, Voice of Reason Enterprises.

About Michigan Opera Theatre
Michigan Opera Theatre (Wayne S. Brown, president and CEO; Dr. David DiChiera, artistic director), one of the nation's most vibrant nonprofit arts organizations, is committed to presenting opera and dance of the highest artistic caliber. Founded in 1971 by Dr. David DiChiera, the company's mission is to serve as a major cultural resource to the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit. Visit the MOT website at


UMS announces five new Artists in 'Residence' for 2014-15 season

Artist in 'Residence' Emilio Rodriguez. Photo: Courtesy of UMS

Posted: Oct. 16, 2014 at 6:48 p.m.

ANN ARBOR - The University Musical Society is proud to announce the 2014-15 UMS Artists in "Residence."

The UMS Artists in "Residence" program is a public engagement project whereby applications were solicited from regional artists wanting to take "residence" at UMS performances. Out of a pool of over 50 applicants, five artists were selected to use UMS experiences as a resource to support the creation of new work or to fuel an artistic journey.

Residents will receive complimentary tickets to select UMS performances; a $250 stipend; gatherings with fellow residents; and behind-the-scenes access to UMS staff and artists, when available.

In return, the 2014-15 residents will share their artistic journeys via residency entrance and exit interviews; participate in select UMS Education & Community Engagement events; and have the chance to share artistic work generated during the residency at the UMS 2015-16 Season Announcement Party in late April 2015. Rights to all artistic work produced as a result of the residency will remain entirely with the artists.

The 2014-15 UMS Artists in "Residence" are:

"While UMS brings incredible performing artists from around the globe to Ann Arbor, we're also deeply committed to the creative community right here in Michigan," said Ken Fischer, UMS president. "UMS Artists in 'Residence' ensures that artists creating work right here in our own backyard have access to everything they need to inspire, fuel, and inform their projects. Artists play a vital role in our communities — they inspire us, they challenge us, they provide alternate perspectives. We're just doing our part to ensure that Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan continues to be a place where artists are supported and can happily call home."

The University Musical Society is an independent non-profit affiliated with the University of Michigan, presenting over 70 music, theater and dance performances by professional touring artists each season. One of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country, UMS is committed to connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. With a program steeped in music, dance and theater, UMS contributes to a vibrant cultural community by presenting approximately 60-75 performances and over 100 free educational activities each season. UMS also commissions new work, sponsors artist residencies, and organizes collaborative projects with local, national, and international partners.

For more information, please visit or

About the 2014-15 UMS Artists in 'Residence'

Carolyn Reed Barritt – Visual Art
Carolyn Reed Barritt exhibits her work in group shows throughout the nation, including the recent Works on Paper exhibition at the Jeffery Leder Gallery in New York. She also gives private drawing lessons and is an art mentor. She lives and works in Ann Arbor. Learn more at

Nicholas Gable – Performing Arts
Nicholas Gable was born and raised in Ann Arbor. In 2011, he graduated from the University of Michigan Honors Program with a degree in Ancient History. He received a full-ride scholarship to the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, from which he graduated this year after having spent a semester of his final year as an exchange student at the Universite Pantheon-Assas in Paris. Aside from his interest in music and the piano, Gable has continued to pursue his interest in ancient languages, especially Greek and Latin, and he enjoys participating in amateur boxing. Gable has been studying the piano with Waleed Howrani for six years and will be playing Sergei Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto with the Grosse Pointe Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 26. Learn more at

Leslie Rogers – Performing Arts
Leslie Rogers is an interdisciplinary artist working in sculpture, performance and video beginning a three year appointment as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows. She holds an M.F.A. in Sculpture & Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a B.F.A. in Fine Art from the Maryland institute College of Art. Over four years in Philadelphia, she organized and curated gallery shows and touring performances as a member of Little Berlin Art Gallery and Puppet Uprising, and founded PuppeTyranny, a touring DIY theater troupe. She has exhibited at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, Vox Populi, Extra Extra, Bodega, International House, and Little Berlin. In New York, she has been exhibited at Monkeytown, Secret Project Robot, and St. Anne's Warehouse as part of Great Small Works' bi-annual Temporary Toy Theater Museum, in Baltimore at Current Gallery and the Trans Modern performance art festival, and at Black Iris in Richmond, VA. Learn more at

Emilio Rodriquez – Performing Arts/Literature
Emilio Rodriguez is a playwright, actor, director and teaching artist living in Detroit. His plays "Awake!" and "Fairy Tale Family Vacation" have been fully produced in Southeast Michigan, and he has also had several readings of his other plays. He seeks to create roles for actors of color to showcase their underrepresented voices in a non-stereotypical manner with the goal of ultimately bridging the gap between what is defined as "Urban Theater" and what is defined as simply "Good Theater." Learn more at

Robert James Russel – Literature
Robert James Russell is a Pushcart Prize-nominated author and founding editor of the literary journals Midwestern Gothic and CHEAP POP. He is the author of "Don't Ask Me to Spell It Out" (A Fifth of WhiskeyPaper Press, 2015) and "Sea of Trees" (Winter Goose Publishing, 2012). His work has appeared in a range of journals, both print and online. Learn more at



Fundraiser for Michigan Actors Studio Complex – Fox 2 Detroit (Oct. 16, 2014)

'Once' bitten: Academy Award-winning film get the musical treatment at Wharton – City Pulse (Oct. 13, 2014)

Detroit coup: Christine Goerke stars in MOT's 'Elektra' – Detroit Free Press (Oct. 15, 2014)

5 questions with burlesque performer Roxi D'Lite – Detroit Free Press (Oct. 15, 2014)

'Motown: The Musical' returns to its roots – The Detroit News (Oct. 15, 2014)

Flint author encores 'My Husband's Mistress Is Me!' play with 'Love and Hip Hop New York' star – Flint Journal (Oct. 14, 2014)

Tony Award-winning 'Once' brings a more 'romantic' side of Broadway to the Wharton Center – Lansing Entertainment News (Oct. 15, 2014)

Performance Network's 'Driving Miss Daisy' and Michigan theater's big race problem – Metro Times (Oct. 15, 2014)

Producer of 'Menopause the Musical' on Muskegon show: 'It's the Rocky Horror Picture Show for women' – Muskegon Chronicle (Oct. 15, 2014)

MSU professor hones acting skills on stage, on the small screen – The State News (Oct. 13, 2014)

Sneak Peek: Bloody 'Elektra' Kicks Off MOT's Opera Season in Detroit – Ixiti (Oct. 15, 2014)


Matrix premieres 'Do You See It Coming?' at Bioneers Conference

Posted: Oct. 16, 2014 at 9 a.m.

DETROIT - Matrix Theatre Company's original play "Do You See It Coming?" will be featured at the 10th Annual Great Lakes Bioneers Conference on Saturday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.

Written collaboratively by the Matrix Theatre Company's Writers Circle, "Do You See It Coming?" highlights issues faced by individuals living in the city, such as quality of education, access to transportation, clean water and challenges related to housing. The play challenges members of the audience to not only observe the performance, but to participate in a thought-provoking discussion on where the community is headed and where it should be headed.

Before the performance, patrons have the option to eat dinner at Marygrove before the show. Dinner is provided by Edibles Rex and diners will eat in Alumni Hall.

"Do You See It Coming?" was born out of a collaboration with SEMCOG to help local leaders and their constituents understand and discuss quality of life issues and discover ways to improve our communities. Over the past two years, it has been performed for the public as well as at conferences and organizational meetings. Excerpts of the play were performed this past summer in New York City as a part of the Detroit, NY play-writing festival.

Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit promotes collaboration and networking among Southeast Michigan individuals and organizations working on sustainability and eco-justice issues. GLBD is a regional chapter of the national organization Bioneers. Founded in 1990, Bioneers seeks to highlight innovative approaches to environmental and social challenges. The organization believes that building connections between people who share a commitment to solving these issues can transform communities. For more information on GLBD and to register for the conference, go to

"Do You See It Coming?" will be performed at the Liberal Arts Theatre on the campus of Marygrove College, 8425 McNichols Detroit, MI 48221.

Ticket prices are $12 for general admission, or $20 with dinner and show. Call the Matrix box office at 313-967-0599 or go to to purchase tickets. Dinner and show reservations must be received by Wednesday, Oct. 22. All tickets must be ordered in advance and will not be sold at the door.


The Berman announces 2014-15 season

Posted: Oct. 15, 2014 at 9:02 a.m.

WEST BLOOMFIELD - More than 100,000 guests have attended events at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts since it opened its doors in 2011. Inspired by an extraordinary gift from Madeleine and Mandell Berman, this beautiful, world-class, 600-seat theater has since welcomed performances by the late Marvin Hamlish, David Broza, Patti LuPone, Noa, Mandy Patinkin, Bebe Neuwirth, Molly Ringwald, Patrick O'Connor Cronin, Midori and Barbara Cook.

And now, The Berman announces its upcoming 2014-15 season, a schedule that offers a diverse collection of classical music, drama and comedy, outstanding children's programming, events on film and Broadway. Each and every month The Berman will offer the audience the sounds of the most extraordinary music, theater and programs for every taste. Additional performances will be added in 2015.

Tickets range in price and are available online at, by calling the box office at 248-661-1900 or in person at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 6600 West Maple Road in West Bloomfield.

2014-15 Live Events at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts:

Chita Rivera featuring Seth Rudetsky
Produced by Mark Cortale
Sunday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.
What becomes a legend? Broadway's Chita Rivera deservedly earned her status with a limitless talent, an incredible endurance and longevity, long and gorgeous gams, lots of pizzazz, and that certain something that has made her a crowd favorite for five decades. Rivera has earned nine Tony Award nominations (with two wins), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009), and she is also the first Latina American to receive a Kenny Center Honors award (2002). The event is hosted by pianist Seth Rudetsky of Sirius XM Radio fame!

Pinkalicious, The Musical!
Performed by Vital Theatre Company
Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 1 p.m. & 3 p.m.
Pinkalicious will extol the virtues of the color pink. She even goes so far as to add extra pink to her mother's cupcakes, a move she regrets when, after eating too many cupcakes, she wakes up to find herself pink from head to toe. Vital Theatre Company is dedicated to producing entertaining and educational theater for young audiences.

The Michigan Five
Saturday, March 14 at 8 p.m.
For the fourth consecutive year, The Michigan Five brings together Michigan's premier dancers from five universities and colleges choreographed by the industry's top choreographer, and organized by Oakland University's Greg Patterson.

Frida, The Opera
Michigan Opera Theatre
Saturday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 22 at 2:30 p.m.
Robert Xavier Rodriguez's "Frida" is a musical portrait of Frida Kahlo. At age 18, Kahlo was badly injured in a traffic accident, which necessitated many medical procedures. Her recovery in isolation, as well as a lifetime in physical pain, profoundly influenced her paintings - some of the most compelling of the 20th century. Kahlo's two marriages to famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (creator of "Detroit Industry" for the Detroit Institute of Arts) was another source of inspiration and heartache. The opera celebrates Kahlo's vivacious spirit, talent, sexuality and fragility, with splashes of music as colorful as her artwork. Sung in English and Spanish with English translation projections.

THERE'S MORE: CLICK HERE for the complete season schedule, which includes dance and children's classics all on film!


Anna Deavere Smith comes to Wharton Center

Posted: Oct. 14, 2014 at 12:20 p.m.

EAST LANSING - American actress, playwright and professor Anna Deavere Smith is coming to Wharton Center's Cobb Great Hall on Monday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the World View Lecture Series, in partnership with Michigan State University's College of Arts & Letters Leading Voices Series.

Smith has created a new theater form through her interview-based solo shows. "Fires in the Mirror" earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and her piece on "Let Me Down Easy" was broadcast on "Great Performances" after a national tour. She has appeared in "West Wing," "Nurse Jackie" and other TV shows.

Smith is the 2012 National Humanities Medal winner and founding director of Anna Deavere Smith Works. Her presentation coincides with MSU's 60/50 Project, a community conversation on civil and human rights. Smith has received plenty of awards for her social and political efforts, including the Fletcher Foundation Fellowship for her contribution to civil rights issues. She also received the prestigious National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2012.

Smith's unique artistic perspective can be summed up in one sentence: "Do you want to be an artist so the whole world would look at you, or do you want to be an artist because you want to use your ability to attract attention, to have the world see itself through you differently?" Her lecture is sure to be a thought-provoking evening to remember.

Tickets to see Anna Deavere Smith are $20 (plus applicable fees) and are available online at, at the Auto-Owners Insurance Ticket Office at Wharton Center, or by calling 800-WHARTON.

Wharton Center is located on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing.



On playing Winston Smith in "1984" – Battle Creek Enquirer (Oct. 8, 2014)

A Conversation with Marc Evan Jackson on the Detroit Creativity Project – The Beat (Oct. 13, 2014)

Nominations Open for the 2014 Detroit Awards – Broadway World Detroit (Oct. 13, 2014)

Motown museum gears up for busy 'musical' week – The Detroit News (Oct. 11, 2014)

Award-winning 'Once' opens at Wharton – Lansing State Journal (Oct. 13, 2014)

Ex-BoarsHead actress on stage in Ann Arbor – Lansing State Journal (Oct. 13, 2014)

What David DiChiera Wants – Classical Singer (October 2014)


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