My Between the Lines preview for Matrix Theatre’s ‘Well-Intentioned White People’


Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 5.10.07 PM.pngRegulars at the Matrix Theatre might not be surprised to learn that Rachel Lynett’s darkly comic play, “Well-Intentioned White People,” initially caught the attention of Matrix Theatre’s artistic director, Megan Buckley-Ball, by way of its in-your-face title.
“We found it on the New Play Exchange,” said Buckley-Ball, referring to an online service provided by the National New Play Network.

“Since Matrix has a specific mission to foster social justice, the Exchange has been a fantastic resource for us to find work by playwrights who are responding to what’s happening right now within their communities. … (Lynett’s play’s) title was incredibly intriguing to me, and the people who are calling for tickets seem to agree.”

“Well-Intentioned White People” focuses on a black lesbian professor, Cass, who one day finds the N-word keyed onto her car. Cass simply wants to get her car fixed and put the ugly incident behind her, but several white, well-intentioned allies – her roommate/ex-girlfriend; a dean; a student activist; and a transgender colleague – push her to talk about it publicly, and instead use the incident as a political rallying cry.

“Rachel Lynett obviously does not shy away from being blunt and keeping it real,” said Buckley-Ball. “There is a true victim in this show, and we get to see how people of color, and members of LGBTQ-plus communities, have to normalize the attacks they go through every single day just to get through each day. As far as this show is concerned, there’s no room for tiptoeing. These are real things that are happening. … The characters’ emotions are raw and real, and they speak their truth.” READ THE REST HERE

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My WEMU-FM 89.1 Art & Soul segment for November, with Lisa Barry and Theatre Nova’s Diane Hill

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Ethan Kankula as Peter Chandler and Dennis Kleinsmith as Simon Grindberg in “The Stone Witch” by Shem Bitterman at Theatre NOVA. Photography by Golden Record Media Company.

This month, we talk to one of Theatre Nova’s artistic directors, Diane Hill, about the Ann Arbor company’s newest offering, “The Stone Witch.”

Plus, Lisa and I highlight upcoming performing arts events, like Audra MacDonald’s upcoming show in Ann Arbor, “Modern Family” star Adam Devine’s stand up show at the Michigan Theater, and more! Listen to the eight minute segment here.

My Pulp preview of A2CT’s ‘Arsenic & Old Lace’

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 12.09.35 PM.pngArsenic and Old Lace, Joseph Kesselring’s classic dark comedy now being staged by Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, provided director Alexandra Duncan with her first-ever stage role in high school — though it wasn’t a particularly lively or demanding part.

“I was Adam Hoskins, the dead man in the window seat,” Duncan said.

Sound bizarre?

Welcome to the Brewster family home in Brooklyn, where writer Mortimer Brewster wants to marry the girl next door. Problem is, he’s just learned that his sweet old spinster aunts have been murdering lonely old men with poison-laced elderberry wine; plus, his delusional uncle, who believes he’s Theodore Roosevelt, has been providing graves by digging locks for the Panama Canal in the house’s cellar. READ THE REST HERE

REVIEW (EncoreMichigan.com): Detroit Public Theatre’s ‘Pipeline’

Screen Shot 2018-10-25 at 12.34.07 PM.pngHere’s a trade secret: most writers hate coming up with titles for their work.

In some cases, however, the act of naming allows the author to posit an idea that might not otherwise be mentioned within the piece itself, thus pointing the audience in a thematic direction before the lights even go down.

Such is the case with Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline, now being staged by Detroit Public Theatre. Though outwardly about a black student (Omari, played by Yakeem Tatum) at a mostly white private school who’s filmed pushing a teacher against a whiteboard – and the ensuing fallout conversations that occur between his public school teacher mother Nya (Lisa Strum) and his estranged, emotionally distant attorney father Xavier (Brian Marable) – the title clues us in to a bigger picture; one that looks beyond the scope of Morisseau’s narrative and hints at how a young man’s entire future could be shaped by his actions on a few of the hardest days of his adolescence. READ THE REST HERE

My Concentrate story about five more hidden gem restaurants in Washtenaw County

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 4.11.02 PM.pngAbout a year ago, I set out to find and highlight five “hidden gem” restaurants in Washtenaw County (you can read part one here). Places that were beloved by locals, and that served deliciously satisfying food in a low-key, un-fussy way, but were often overlooked by media lists and food and travel websites.

Not that you could blame those food bloggers too much: given the lack-of-visibility of their respective locations (the back of a shopping center, strip malls, a commercial no man’s land off Lohr Circle), all five of these new hidden gems might as well be in the witness protection program. These are all places you have to know about or actively seek out to find; you’d never just stumble upon any of them.

But their passionate loyal fan bases are a testament to the notion that sometimes it’s not all about “location, location, location.”

Sometimes, it’s about “the food, the food, the food.” READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp recap of Pasek and Paul’s (and Darren Criss’) appearance at U-M to promote novelization of ‘Dear Evan Hansen’

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 4.05.49 PM.pngAt one point during Thursday night’s sold out, joyous on-stage conversation with Grammy, Tony, and Oscar award-winning songwriting team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul — who met and started writing songs together when they were U-M musical theater students (’06) — surprise guest moderator Darren Criss (Glee) stated what many of us were thinking: “Collectively, we’re a Michigan EGOT.”

Yes, Criss (’09) arrived in Ann Arbor fresh off his Emmy win for The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, while Pasek and Paul came to promote a newly released novelization of their hit Broadway show, Dear Evan Hansen.

But the nearly two-hour event, presented by Literati Bookstore at U-M’s Rackham Auditorium, mostly felt like a chance to crash a reunion of really talented, witty friends who’d also, along the way, perform a few songs and a short reading.

There were occasional wireless microphone problems, thanks to the presence of ESPN’s College GameDay on campus, but even this just provided more opportunity for the three artists to play off each other. For instance, after struggling repeatedly with his mic, Paul accepted a second and talked into both, and Pasek quipped, “This is our relationship in a nutshell.”

Pasek also seemed genuinely awestruck by Criss’ charisma, saying, “You’re so charming in front of people!” READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp preview of U-M’s production of Charles Mee’s myth-inspired ‘Night & Day’

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 10.18.38 PM.pngThough the title Night and Day initially calls to mind a famous Cole Porter tune, U-M’s new production of the same name — consisting of a pair of playwright Charles Mee’s myth-inspired “dance/theatre works” — bears absolutely no relation to the song.

Well, unless director Malcolm Tulip and his artistic collaborators decide it does, that is.

How could a theatrical presentation be so malleable? That’s both the allure and challenge of Mee’s work. Dubbed the “public domain playwright,” Mee draws on old stories, re-tells them with new text, and offers them up freely online by way of his (re)making project. Built on the idea that “there is no such thing as an original play,” (re)making invites artists to use Mee’s plays as the creative starting point more than a blueprint.

“It’s this incredible mixture of working with text, but then devising a whole new piece, too, because of the liberty he gives you to alter it and to remake his work,” said Tulip. “For me, the approach was discovering what all the parts meant, and what the skeleton of what he amassed looks like. Because even he’s bringing together elements from other sources, making a kind of collage. So you end up talking about and determining what you keep, what the thrust of each section is, and how you remake or rewrite them.” READ THE REST HERE

My latest WEMU-FM 89.1 Art & Soul segment w/ Lisa Barry, and special guest Lynn Lammers from Kickshaw Theatre

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 10.14.17 PM.pngThis week, Art and Soul is about the performing arts, and 89.1 WEMU’s Lisa Barry is joined by Jenn McKee and the artistic director of Kickshaw Theatre in Ann Arbor, Lynn Lammers, talking about their current show, “Milvotchkee, Visconsin.”

Lynn Lammers describes experiences at the Kickshaw Theatre in one word: “curiosity.”  In other words, they search for production that would take the audience out of their comfort zones.  “Milvotchkee, Wisconsin” certainly fits this description, as the story explores the impacts of dementia.  The play is told entirely from the dementia patient’s perspective. LISTEN TO THE 8 MINUTE SEGMENT HERE

My Destination Ann Arbor post on Chelsea’s Smoke & Ale Fall Festival

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 10.08.03 PM.pngIf there was an award for best-smelling local event, the prize would likely go to Chelsea’s annual Smoke & Ale Fall Festival, happening October 12-13.

For not only will more than 40 serious barbecuers from different parts of the region gather to compete in SAFF’s Professional Masters Series (now sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society); there will also, for the first time in the fest’s five year history, be a Cornbread Cookoff and a Backyard Barbecue Competition (for less serious hobbyists) – alongside loads of locally crafted beer, wine, cider, and food vendors.

“(Smoke & Ale) mainly started because fall’s a quiet time here in Chelsea, and we all love food, and we all love music and beer,” said Monica Monsma, executive director of Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce. READ THE REST HERE

My Detroit Free Press story about Alec Baldwin’s UMS residency

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Baldwin performing in a concert reading of “Death of a Salesman” with U-M students. (Photo by Nick Beardslee)

Though Alec Baldwin came to Ann Arbor on Saturday to play theater’s quintessential miserable, unraveling father, Willy Loman, in a staged reading of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” the TV and film star was the picture of unabashed paternal joy the next day.

After giving a talk to about a hundred University of Michigan theater students on Sunday morning, Baldwin stole a moment to wave and beam at his young brood (four children under the age of 6, by wife, Hilaria) on his phone.

Not only did students get the chance to ask Baldwin about his long, varied career and his approach to the craft, but U-M theater professor Daniel Cantor — who directed Saturday night’s one-time performance presented by University Musical Society — conducted an on-stage interview with Baldwin at, appropriately enough, the Arthur Miller Theatre. READ THE REST HERE