By SUE SUCHYTA
The work of two memorable yet very different women are the focus of two local theaters’ season opening shows, as the Players Guild of Dearborn presents “The Miracle Worker,” the story of Anne Sullivan and her work with Helen Keller, and the Downriver Actors Guild presents “Always Patsy Cline,” the story of the singer whose life was tragically cut short in a 1963 plane crash.
PGD PRESENTS ‘THE MIRACLE WORKER’
William Gibson’s 1960 Tony Award-winner for Best Play, “The Miracle Worker,” opens the Players Guild of Dearborn’s 88th season.
Directed by Kirk Haas of Inkster, the drama tells the story of teacher Anne Sullivan, who rescued blind, deaf and mute Helen Keller from her inner prison.
The show runs 8 p.m. Sept. 18, 19, 25, 26, and Oct. 2 and 3, and 2:30 p.m. Sept. 20, 27, and Oct. 4 at the theater, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.
For tickets and more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.
Haas said the show is a classic piece of American theater.
“It is a story that is well-known, well-written, a story of hope, endurance and perseverance,” Haas said, “and probably one of the most touching and heart-felt stories ever told, and the amazing thing is, it’s true.”
Madeline Baker, 12, of Wyandotte, who plays Helen Keller, said she has had to learn to not react to noises during a scene, and to not stop herself from bumping into objects in her path.
She said she respects Keller’s ability to reach the sighted and hearing world.
“I admire her determination to speak out,” Baker said, “to find a way to communicate with everything else.”
Meg Kisch of Dearborn, who plays Anne Sullivan, said she feels lucky, fortunate and honored to play this role in such an amazing story.
“This family is so determined,” she said. “They see this person that they know is inside. She needs help, and they want to be able to give her the best life possible, and bring her to her full potential.”
Kisch said she and Baker worked with Haas for several weeks, blocking the very physically demanding scenes, before the rest of the cast joined them at rehearsals.
“It’s got a unique challenge where when you are learning it, you are looking at the book to know what’s next,” Kisch said. “But you have to put it down in order to really go full force and do it, so it’s definitely one of the most physical shows I have ever done, but it’s so cool and so different because of that.”
Kristen Campbell of Canton Township, who plays Kate Keller, said they have an amazing cast who have worked very hard.
“The story is beautiful,” Campbell said. “It is an amazing story. It is emotional for people to see, and I think just with what Kirk has done with it and the cast is doing with it, it is just an amazingly done show.”
Others in the cast include Tom Varitek of Dexter as Captain Keller, James Mayne of Farmington Hills as James Keller, and Connie Harrison of Dearborn as Aunt Ev.
Diane Cliff of Dearborn Heights is Viney, with Kate Varitek, 9, of Dexter as Martha, Peter Moore, 14, of Dearborn as Percy, and Tom Sparrow of Allen Park as Anagnos.
Christina Bertucci, 11, and Alia Elhajj of Dearborn, and Jamie Paschke, 11, of Canton Township play blind girls.
Also in the ensemble are Jeff Bartos, Richard Moore, and David Wood of Dearborn; Leah Scarpace of Dearborn Heights; Cole Haas of Inkster, and Tim Carney of Livonia.
DAG PRESENTS ‘ALWAYS PATSY CLINE’
“Always Patsy Cline” opens the Downriver Actors Guild’s second season in the newly renovated Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle in Wyandotte.
The show runs 7:30 p.m. Sept. 11, 12, 18 and 19, and 3 p.m. Sept. 13 and 20, and stars Debbie Aue as Patsy Cline and Michele Devins as Louise Seger.
Tickets are $20, and available by calling 734-407-7020 or at downriveractorsguild.net.
The play is based on the friendship that developed between Houston housewife Louise Seger and Cline, which began in 1961, and lasted until the singer’s untimely death.
The evening Seger hears of Cline’s death, she begins her narrative about their friendship, and Cline moves on and off the stage, singing many of the songs that made her famous, including “Any Time,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “She’s Got You,” “I Fall To Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Crazy.”
DAG publicist Stephanie Primeau said Aue and Devins did the show together in 2008 and 2011, and are thrilled to be performing with each other again.
“They have a wonderful chemistry onstage,” Primeau said, “and appreciate the audience and the way they embrace this heartfelt story.”
Aue said while she doesn’t try to sound like Cline, she studied video clips and recordings, and concentrated on the singer’s mannerisms, body language and phrasing.
“Patsy’s music is classic,” Aue said. “This show is a true tribute to Patsy’s life as well as her music. The story will have (audiences) in tears both from laughter and sadness.”
Devins has the challenge of interacting and connecting directly with the audience through dialogues that tie together the 27 songs Aue performs as Cline.
“I usually tell people that she does all of the singing, and I do all of the talking, with a little singing thrown in,” Devins said.
She said even those not familiar with Cline’s music will enjoy the show.
“I can promise you an evening of laughter, tears, and a down home good time,” Devins said.
DAG ANNOUNCES ‘BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’ CAST
DAG announced the cast of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” last week. The classic story of Belle, and the Beast trapped under a spell, runs 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4, 5, 11, and 12, and 3 p.m. Dec. 6 and 13 at the Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle in Wyandotte.
Tickets are $16 for adults, and $13 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information, call 734-407-7020, or go to downriveractorsguild.net.
Directed by Debbie Aue of Taylor, the show features Novi residents Kyle Harwood as the Beast and Kayla Aue as Belle.
Kenny Konaszewski of Garden City is Gaston, with Michael Suchyta of Dearborn as LeFou and Jeff Powers of New Boston as Maurice.
Brian Welch of Dearborn is Lumiere, with Paul Primeau of Brownstown Township as Cogsworth and Holly Sisung of Newport as Mrs. Potts.
Brianna Bielak of Southgate plays Babette, with Amanda Aue of Taylor and Allen Park residents Kayla Chavez and Emily Braun playing the silly girls.
April Denny of Dearborn Heights plays Madame, with Jay Carter of Taylor as Monsieur D’Argue; Elaina Primeau, 10, of Brownstown Township as Chip; Alan Highe of Westland as the Prince and the narrator; and Samantha Brenner of New Boston as the Enchantress.
The ensemble includes Ashley Blevins and Mitchell Sturm of Allen Park; Jaclyn Duvall of Dearborn; Madison Ganzak, 12, of Dearborn Heights; Melissa Brown Knox, Elaine Lukawski, and Alex Rosen of Lincoln Park; and Isabella Owens, 11, and Erik and Lily Paschke of Riverview.
Also, Raymond Carter, Katie Hutter, David McDonald, and Jessah and Alyson Price of Taylor; Ivy Tarnowski of Trenton; Grace Ray, 14, of Wyandotte; Jamey Pittman of Belleville; Brianne Rainey, and Kerstyn and Alexandria Reeves of Brownstown Township; Rachel Ogger of Livonia; Allyn Granger of Okemos; Ashley Gatesy of Westland; and Charlene Bauer and Melanie Berger of Woodhaven.
OPEN BOOK PRESENTS ‘THE SHADOW BOX’
The Open Book Theatre Company kicks off its second season with Michael Cristofer’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play, “The Shadow Box.”
The show runs 8 p.m. Sept. 18, 19, 25, 26, Oct. 1 and 2, and 2 p.m. Sept. 27 and Oct. 3 at Penelope’s Venue, 12219 Dix Toledo Road in Southgate.
Tickets are $20 for adults, and $15 for students and seniors. To order, call 734-288-7753 or go to theshadowbox.bpt.me. For more information about the theater, go to openbooktheatrecompany.net.
The play follows three terminally ill patients and their families for one day in a hospice facility as they deal with their mortality in both touching and humorous ways.
Directed by Topher Alan Payne of Royal Oak, the cast includes Ethan Kankula of Wyandotte, Wendy Katz Hiller of Ann Arbor, Lisa Melinn of Berkley, Bailey Boudreau of Ferndale, Krista Schaefer Ewbank of Grosse Ile Township, Dennis Kleinsmith of Lathrup Village, Jaclynn Cherry of Madison Heights, Jan Cartwright of Novi, and Sean Paraventi of Redford Township.