Encore Michigan

Open Book Theatre’s sixth season a mix of new and established works

Season Announcement August 24, 2019

TRENTON, Mich–Local audiences are looking forward to another season of thought-provoking, professional theatre at Open Book Theatre Company (OBTC) in Trenton as they gear up for their sixth season. Open Book theatre was named Trenton Business of the Year for 2019, has won several Michigan theatre awards, and is quickly becoming a key player in the cultural scene Downriver.

The theatre hires professional actors, directors, and designers from the Metro Detroit area. With so many wonderful, local eateries nearby many patrons go out for dinner or drinks before or after the show, making it a full night out with friends or a wonderful date.

Open Book’s audience has grown over 500% from their first season, demonstrating the excitement from the community for theatre that not only entertains, but uses theatrical storytelling to inspire growth and connection with others.

“My first test for any play is Do I love it?” said Founding Artistic Director Krista Schafer Ewbank. “I need to love it to spend this much time and energy on it, and fortunately I love a wide variety of plays. I also think about whether it touches on something we’re having conversations about now. If the play gets me thinking, gets me talking to other people about the topics it explores, then I trust it will do that for others.

This season is set to start conversations about technology and human connection and fate and love… and so much more! I also look for plays that will not only work in our intimate space, but benefit from it.” The intimate 80 seat black box theatre is perfect for connection. The audience is never more than four rows from the action. Being so close allows the audience to experience the story in a much different way than in a larger space. “It also forces us to be creative. How can we create a world, or several worlds, in this one room? How can we invite the audience into that world, instead of having them feel outside of it?”

Open Book will open their season with the time-jumping story of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, running September 13 – Oct 12. The play by Madeleine George examines how we use technology to connect – and sometimes disconnect – from each other, weaving together 4 Watsons: Dr. Watson, trusty sidekick to Sherlock Holmes; Thomas A. Watson, loyal engineer who built Bell’s first telephone; Watson, the unstoppable super-computer that became reigning Jeopardy! champ; and Josh Watson, an amiable techno-dweeb just looking for love.

Schafer Ewbank is directing. “Even though the story spans over a century, we see the same needs in the people: the need to connect and be vulnerable. Each advance of technology has the opportunity to bring us together or push us apart. Just as today we use our cell phones to keep in touch, sometimes they keep us from truly seeing the people closest to us. The struggle isn’t new. The story is a wonderful and hopeful examination of our need for each other, and what true connection can bring us.”

Of special note is Open Book’s first holiday play, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley(Nov 15- Dec 14, 2019). “The play draws upon the familiar characters of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, visiting them two years after the book ends as the family gathers for the holidays at Pemberley. It follows middle sister Mary Bennet as she meets and falls in love with bumbling Arthur de Bourgh. But, like any good romantic comedy, there are delightful obstacles to overcome before the pair can admit their affections,” explains director Sarah Hawkins. “I think audiences will find familiarity and joy in Austen’s characters as they search for love, experience the blessings and frustrations of family, and celebrate the holiday spirit over the course of this show. The show is family friendly and a perfect holiday treat for anyone looking to share in laughter and love.” Open Book audiences will recognize the smart, witty dialogue of playwright Lauren Gunderson (Ada and the Engine, Emilie, and Bauer), who teamed up with Margot Melcon for this play.

Warm up this winter with Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Jan 24- Feb 22, 2020). “The play is deceptively simple,” explains director Wendy Katz Hiller, “two middle-aged ‘losers’ have what could be a one-night-stand or, possibly, the start of a relationship. The tension between our wants and our fears, masks and vulnerabilities, alienation and connection are explored throughout one important night. But the playwright, Terrance McNally, doesn’t let this fall into melodrama or pontification. The play is filled with funny, biting, ironic moments, as well as the sweet hope of the possibility of love.” Audiences may be familiar with the movie adaptation starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino, or the recent Broadway production with Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon. “Although we won’t be showing the nudity that was in the recent Broadway production, Frankie and Johnny is definitely aimed at mature audiences, with its adult themes and language. The intimate space of the Open Book stage is perfect for this jewel of a show. I look forward to Open Book patrons being both challenged and touched by this play that audiences around the country have loved for thirty years.”

This Random World: The Myth of Serendipity (April 17- May 16, 2020) mines the comedy of missed connections, asking the serious question of how often we travel parallel paths through the world without noticing. The play will be directed by Krista Schafer Ewbank “This show is filled with delightful scenes chock full of humor and heartbreak, because the audience knows so much more than the characters do at many points. How might things be different if we actually talked – and listened – to each other?” From an ailing woman who plans one final trip, to her daughter planning one great escape and her son falling prey to a prank gone wrong, Steven Dietz’s funny and intimate play explores the lives that may be happening just out of reach.

For the first time in their Trenton home, OBTC will have a show in the summer months (June 26 – July 25, 2020). Director Wendy Katz Hiller says, “After I read Marjorie Prime by Jordan Harrison, I immediately sent it to Krista to see if she’d consider it for Open Book’s next season. A nominee for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, this was a play like nothing I’d read before. It focuses on a family dealing with the changes in their aging matriarch, Marjorie. Their relationships are tested as they face Marjorie’s failing memory and tenuous grasp on reality. The play, however, is set in the near future, and so there is a slight science fiction aspect to it. We see how technology might help us cope with our own mortality. Because our production of Marjorie Prime will be its first performance in southern Michigan, I can promise Open Book audiences that they’ve never seen anything like it! I believe this is a play folks will be talking about long after they’ve left the theatre.”

Individual tickets are only $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors, and $15 for students, with all tickets for each opening night gala at $30 each. Season tickets for all 5 shows offer up to a 25% discount: $100 for general admission, $80 for seniors, $65 for students, and $125 for opening nights. Tickets can be purchased online at openbooktc.com or through the box office. More information can be found online or by calling 734 288-7753. Many of the shows feature adult themes and language, contact the theatre for more information.

Week of 9/16/2019

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