From providing a creative outlet, changing one’s perspective, and giving one the courage to be true to themselves, participation in theater has changed many lives.
For Players Guild of Dearborn actress Tiffany Mullins of Livonia, who was bitten by the theater bug as a child, theater has provided her with an invaluable outlet.
“It has allowed me to do two of my favorite things: to laugh, and make others laugh,” she said. “When tears are streaming down my cheeks from laughing so hard, I adore that, but even more, I love making others laugh.”
She said that while she has performed in dramatic roles, she prefers comedies.
“There is nothing like hearing the laughter of an audience and knowing that I was able to give them that,” she said.
For local actress and teacher Tayler Jones, theater helps her become more aware of the magic in the world and within herself.
“Theater allows us to question, reflect and experience,” she said.
Jones said that while acting is transformational, she doesn’t lose herself in a role, but rather becomes more aware of herself through the process of developing her character.
“Theater allows me to create and connect, explore stories, share moments, be vulnerable and follow my instincts,” she said. “As a child, I wanted to be everything – a teacher, artist, poet and singer – and through acting, I get to be all of those things and more.”
Jones said that through rehearsing, working with cast members and teaching theater to others, she continues to discover her own essence.
“I love illuminating the imagination of children through dramatic play, and empowering students with the tools necessary to be all that they desire,” she said. “I recently graduated with my MFA (from Eastern Michigan University) in Applied Drama and Theater for the Young, and as much life as I give to theater, there is so much more that I get out of it.”
Sarah Hawkins Rusk, a Wayne State University Hilberry Company graduate, and an actress and director familiar to patrons at Trenton’s Open Book Theatre Company, who has acted her entire life, said directing opened up an entirely new theatrical experience for her.
“Theater has always been a part of my life, but it wasn’t until I was given the opportunity by Boxfest Detroit and the Open Book Theatre to direct on a profession level that I realized I am very passionate about directing,” she said. “Now, I direct on a more regular basis than I act.”
Rusk said she is glad she found this track.
“Women are severely under-represented in the director’s chair, and usually under-represented in the production team, as well,” she said. “So, I am grateful for places like Boxfest Detroit, which give those who identify as female a chance to direct, even if they have never done so before, and Open Book, which strives for inclusivity in all elements of its art, because they took a chance on me, and because of that, I now have a broader skill set and a renewed passion for storytelling.”
Directing her first show at her own company, the now closed Outvisible Theatre Company in Allen Park, was a life-changing opportunity for Adriane Galea, whose inaugural show was Bert Royal’s, “Dog Sees God – Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” an unauthorized parody of the Peanuts characters as troubled teenagers.
“It was like the perfect storm of greatness,” she said. “On an artistic level, we got to tell a powerful story that was, unfortunately, all too relevant.”
Galea said that during their tech Sunday rehearsal, the cast came in talking about a hate-motivated shooting being broadcast on the national news.
“‘Dog Sees God’ involves the bullying of and violence against homosexuality and same-sex relationships, so, instead of rehearsing, we sat in a circle and talked,” she said. “We talked about hopes, dreams, fears, things that infuriated us, and things that we desperately wanted and needed to change in our society. That rehearsal changed all of us, and it definitely changed our show.”
Galea said if she could, she would do the show annually with that cast, hopefully without tragic events influencing the creative outcome.
“It was absolutely a highlight of my life,” she said.
A highlight of director and actor Wendy Katz Hiller’s life, whose work is familiar to audiences at both the Open Book Theatre Company and the JET, was working onstage with her adult daughter.
“Two of my favorite theater experiences were sharing the stage with my daughter, Lydia, in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘The Rival’ with the Michigan Shakespeare Festival,” she said. “Working with my now adult child, as a peer and colleague, and sharing our love of theater, was a special treat.”