Wild Swan closes curtain
ANN ARBOR, MI–Wild Swan Theatre here, the oldest continuously operating youth theatre in the state, has announced that it is ending its run.
The company, founded by Hilary Cohen and Sandy Ryder in 1980, has been a fixture on the theatre scene and has won numerous Wilde Awards overt the years from EncoreMichigan. In addition to having school groups visit Wild Swan’s performance spaces here, the company also visited schools, museums, etc. around Michigan.
Cohen and Ryder said that the pause in operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the reason for closing the company, but that they had been thinking about an exit strategy for some time. When we began, people asked how long we would do this for,” said the two artistic directors in a statement. “We replied, we can’t do this forever. We will stop when the time is right. Well, we both feel the time is right now.”
Wild Swan’s strength has been adapting works and stories in the public domain, commissioning new works and bringing global and multi-cultural works to young audiences. It also was an early supporter of making stories accessible for audience members with disabilities. It’s use of American Sign Language interpreters in performances has been the best in the state.
“Wild Swan has been a state-wide treasure,” said EncoreMichigan publisher David Kiley. “I have been in their audiences many times, so pleased at how their stories and actors captivated grade-school age children. The close of the company is a real loss for Michigan.”
Productions have included “Charlotte’s Web,” “Little Women” and “The Wizard of Oz” “A Chistmas Carol,” as well as original pieces about the Underground Railroad, the Great Lakes and the role of women in space exploration, and Willow Run.
One of the company’s big moments came a few years ago when The Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, founded by actor/writer Jeff Daniels, worked with Wild Swan and playwright Jeff Duncan to adapt its “Rose The Riveter” original play to “Willow Run,” which had a run at the Rose. It was The Purple Rose’s first musical play.
Cohen and Ryder say that they will manage the archive of the company’s resources, including the original works in its catalog for other companies to perform.