Pandemic precautions take center stage
The Open Book Theatre Company launches its new season this weekend with “This Random World: The Myth of Serendipity,” the first of five contemporary plays which Artistic Director Krista Schafer Ewbank hopes will resonate with audiences.
“I tend to be drawn to plays about what makes us human,” she said. “Our need for personal connection has never felt more pressing than after our collective trauma of this past year.”
“This Random World,” by Steven Dietz, which opened Sept. 10 and runs through Oct. 10, was shelved in 2020 after only two rehearsals when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The play, which mines the comedy of missed connections, questions how often people travel parallel paths without noticing one another.
“It’s even more poignant after a year of truly missing out on connecting with other people in person,” Ewbank said.
Proof of a COVID-19 vaccination and photo identification are required for entry, and face masks must be worn.
Tickets for “This Random World” are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and $15 for students. For more information, call 734-288-7753 or go to openbooktc.com.
The second show in OBTC’s season, “The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley,” runs Nov. 19 to Dec. 19, ushering in the holiday season.
Jane Austen fans will enjoy the show, but knowledge of her characters is not a prerequisite to pleasure.
Director Sarah Hawkins Rusk said the show takes a peek at life in the Regency England manor house, which includes a new maid and the unexpected arrival of the disgraced George Wickham, which make the holidays even more chaotic for the household staff.
“The household staff of Pemberley watch and react to the upstairs nobles, while navigating their own lives and feelings, while celebrating the holiday season,” she said. “This family-friendly show is the perfect experience to share with your loved ones.”
Rusk said it has been a long year without live theater.
“I am so excited to be back at Open Book with this show, which explore generosity, family and our obligations to each other,” she said. “I’m so happy to be back with my eighth show with this amazing company.”
Following the holidays, OBTC ushers in the new year, Jan. 21 to Feb. 20, with “Marjorie Prime.”
An artificial intelligence companion, designed to help 85-year-old Marjorie, looks like her late husband in his “prime,” and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her, raising the question: What would we remember, and what would we forget, given the chance?
Director Wendy Katz Hiller said the show, which follows a family dealing with love and loss, rings even truer given our experiences during the pandemic.
“‘Marjorie Prime’ tells the story of aging Marjorie as she both connects with and struggles against her family as they try to help her navigate the end of life,” she said. “How will we use technology in the future to give us the companionship we might be missing? After a year of Zoom meetings, this seems very relevant.”
Hiller said she fell in love with the play as soon as she read it, and she is thrilled to be able to finally share it with audiences.
“Having worked on it for almost a year before COVID caused it to be postponed, I’m excited to get started,” she said. “After two years of gestation, I’m ready for this baby!”
March comes in like a lion with the third show of the season, “The Lifespan of a Fact,” which runs March 18 to April 16, under the direction of Kez Settle.
A young Ivy League fact-checker working for a struggling magazine goes head-to-head with a writer whose story about a teen suicide could revive the magazine’s circulation. However, the two struggle over the truth, and how much in a story may be altered in the name of art.
“What I like about this play is it takes a real set of circumstances and tells the story with humor, and makes it relatable,” Settle said. “Can we bend the truth to serve art? When is it not OK?”
She said the play raises the question as to where one draws the line.
“When does this compromise your integrity, or the integrity of the story, and who is hurt by it?” she asks. “Do we tell a story to give a sense of something, or to convey what really happened? When is it OK to embellish a story? Who does it hurt? Who does it help?”
Settle said she is excited to dig into the questions the play raises.
“The play is hard-hitting and thought-provoking, the characters are well-drawn, and it has a humor to it that is humane and compelling,” she said. “These people are relatable, and will engage the audience and make them think.”
Settle said the play straddles a gray area and pushes boundaries.
“Someone can say it was a sunny day, and someone else can say it was cloudy,” she said. “There was sun and there were clouds. Who is right, and when is it OK to stretch the truth for your purposes?”
Having acted at Open Book several times, Settle said she is excited to approach a production from the other side of the table.
“Open Book is great at giving artists a chance to grow and cut their teeth in new and exciting ways,” she said. “I am excited to be able to have this opportunity.”
The fifth and final show of the season, “Too Heavy for Your Pocket,” which runs May 13 to June 12, is directed by Lynch Travis.
The show, set in the Civil Rights-era South, looks at the balance between security and risk, at the bonds of friendship and love, and explores the personal cost of progress in society.
“This play is about the struggle to take a stand for what is right, knowing that it may impact you adversely, and your loved ones as well,” Travis said. “It’s important now because we have an opportunity to delve into social issues, and learn about subcultures and how they intersect and diverge.”
He said the show is about friendships, and couples in love, and is set against the turbulent backdrop of the Civil Rights movement.
“I am excited to help bring different voices to the theater, and tell a story we may not know much about,” Travis said.
Season tickets run $125 for opening night, $100 for general admission, $80 for seniors and $65 for students. For more information, call the box office, at 734-288-7753, or go to openbooktc.com. COVID-19 precautions and audience requirements are listed on its website.
P.S. CENTER STAGE PLAYERS AUDITION FOR CHRISTMAS MUSICAL
Auditions for children ages 5 and older, and adults, for the Christmas musical “The Littlest Angel” will be held 12:30 to 3:00 p.m. Sept. 19 at First United Methodist Church, 72 Oak St., Wyandotte.
The show will run Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10 at Jo Brighton Auditorium, 4460 18th St., Wyandotte.
For more information, contact director Penny Lynn Siler at [email protected] or go to the group’s Facebook page, PS Center Stage Players Community Theater Downriver, or go to pscenterstageplayers.com.