As thespians emerge amid a pandemic that threatens to resurge, two local theaters present safer outdoor options, with the Players Guild of Dearborn performing “Godspell” in its parking lot, and Shakespeare Royal Oak presenting “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Starr Jaycee Park.
‘GODSPELL’ OFFERS MOVING MUSICAL UNDER THE STARS
The talented teen Guildlings present the Stephen Schwartz musical, “Godspell” at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 to 15, in the parking lot of the Players Guild of Dearborn, 21730 Madison, Dearborn.
“Godspell,” a music version of the Gospel of St. Matthew, features familiar, much-loved songs, including “Day by Day,” “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “All for the Best,” “All Good Gifts,” “Turn Back, O Man” and “By My Side.”
Directed by Marc Walentowicz, with music direction by Jamee Perryman and choreography by Emma Garber, the cast includes Luke Adamkiewicz as Jesus, Giana Lerini as John the Baptist and Judas, Adriana James as Sonya, Alana Nowlan as Gilmer, Gioia Lerini as Robin, Maeve O’Connell as Herb, Noah Trapp as Lamarr, Brookelyn Hannah as Joanne, Ryan Furchi as Jeffery, and Selah Brace as Peggy.
Walentowicz said it is wonderful to direct the Guildlings, whom he said represent PGD’s future, even as rehearsing outdoors during the wettest summer in recent history has created unique challenges.
“The kids have been fantastic, and have really been rolling with the punches,” Walentowicz said. “As an outdoor show, it is the perfect opportunity to dip your toes back into the theatrical world, safely.”
He said the show isn’t just a teen show, and will please everyone.
“This show is performed by teenagers, but they are very talented, capable young adults,” Walentowicz said. “It appeals to the entire family.”
Gioia Lerini said she hopes audiences will embrace the love and kindness generated by the production, and will feel the sense of community it creates.
“‘Godspell’ is about a community coming together as one, and I think most people have forgotten what it is like to be seated in an audience and seeing actors onstage,” she said. “Returning to live theater is one of the best experiences I have had.”
Her sister, Giana Lerini, agreed that it was exciting to return to live theater.
“I think ‘Godspell’ is a good show to bring audiences back to the Guild, because its message is hopeful,” she said. “It tells the story of a community of very different people coming together, which is essentially what had to happen during the pandemic.”
Hannah said she was also thankful to be able to return to live theater.
“You never miss the stage until it is gone, and I will never take for granted the beauty of a live performance,” she said. “‘Godspell’ shows how different people can come together to enjoy something they are passionate about and have fun.”
Nowlan said being in the production makes her feel a part of something bigger than herself.
“It has been a while since we have seen a show, and ‘Godspell’ is a good show for this because it is entertaining and heartwarming,” she said. “I hope this brings parents to encourage their children to join in future productions at the Guild.”
James, who said she felt lost when not performing, said the show’s high energy will uplift spirits, whereas Brace said the show is “good and different in the best way.”
“It has something for everyone, and is a fun show that can get us back into live theater,” she said.
Adamkiewicz said that returning to live theater after the “global catastrophe of 2020” was memorable.
“It’s clear that this show, through comedy and power, expresses ideas of love, hope and community that we need more of today,” he said. “I hope audiences will leave with a sense of vigor for life, and I hope the humor will spark joy.”
O’Connell said “Godspell” conveys lessons the audience will want to learn.
“I am sure the audience will love our take on Jesus’ teaching and enjoy the production,” she said.
Tickets are $15, and are available onsite prior to each performance. Attendees should bring their own chairs. For more information, click here.
SHAKESPEARE ROYAL OAK BRINGS THE MAGIC OF ‘A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM TO STARR JAYCEE PARK
Whether “The course of true love never did run smooth” or “Lord, what fools these mortals be” are among the Bard’s bouquet of words that draw one hither, this weekend offers a chance to see the beloved Shakespearean comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Directed by Lynch R. Travis, the cast includes Maggie Alger as Hippolyta and Titania; Craig Ester as Theseus and Oberon; Jaclynn Cherry as Hermia and Flute; Antonio Vettraino as Lysander; Justin Montgomery as Demetrius; CJ Williams as Helena and Snug; Keith Kalinowski as Bottom; Linda Rabin Hammell as Puck; Maurizio Rosas Dominguez as Philostrate, Starveling and a fairy; and Dryden Zurawski as Quince, Egeus and a fairy.
Travis said the company has set “Midsummer” during the 1967 “Summer of Love” and the 1969 “Summer of Soul.”
“I came up with this concept because it is a play about exploring love and personal freedom,” he said. “Woodstock and the Harlem Music Festival arose out of the stunning events of 1968 and before, as a way to bring forth hope and community, and it feels like 2021 is at that same place to me.”
Travis said he is looking forward to presenting one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
“Live theater is back from the pandemic-induced hiatus,” he said. “As companies find their way to safely and responsibly reemerge, come support us if you are able.”
Hammell said her character of Puck provides “humor, optimism and innocent mischief.”
“Getting to summon all that and being young in that particular era was especially magical,” she said. “It’s likely that living in that era shaped my real life.”
Hammell said Shakespeare’s written word is “catnip to actors.”
“Beautiful writing, words that sit in your mouth exactly right and give you pleasure to speak feel like a tonic in these times,” she said.
Ester said Shakespeare’s language builds beautiful worlds within which people can connect.
“One of the major moments of progress in our production is the fact that the ensemble is so diverse,” he said. “We get to hear Shakespeare’s language coming out of the mouths of actors of varying backgrounds, which gives the text new life.”
Ester said he hopes audiences leave “laughing, with unbridled joy.”
“This play is so full of life and energy, and after a year and a half of being separated from each other, I hope that the audience savors this moment of fellowship,” he said.
Cherry said that, after a year with the arts on hold, she hopes audiences rediscover and appreciate the joy found from attending a live performance.
“There is nothing quite like watching a show and laughing, crying and dancing to the music with a bunch of strangers,” she said. “Shakespeare’s stories are timeless, and his characters are relatable. Sure, the language has changed over time, and some of the plots are a little absurd, but the emotions and desires of these characters are very real to the human experience.”
“Midsummer” runs 8 p.m. Aug. 5, 6 and 7, 2 p.m. Aug. 7 and 5 p.m. Aug. 8 at Starr Jaycee Park, 1301 W. 13 Mile Rd., Royal Oak. Lawn and bleacher seating is available, with lawn seating requiring patrons to supply their own blanket or chairs.
Tickets are $25 online, with limited $30 tickets available onsite prior to the performance. A special Aug. 6 VIP package, for $100, includes a pre-show reception.
For more information, click here.