Sunday, February 27, 2011

SVSU students create a theatrical video

by Janet I. Martineau
For a fun time, check out the link below......Acting for the Camera class at Saginaw Valley State University lip synchs (is that spelled right?) through the theater department offices, halls, rehearsal room, costume shop and black box theater -- using an assortment of wild costumes and props -- to “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
For me, I lost it when the mascot Cardinal cropped up.
Instructor David Rzeszutek says it was created in four class periods. Nice job.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saginaw's Brian d'Arcy James "the voice" in a whiskey commercial

by Janet I. Martineau

Click on this

to hear Saginaw native son Brian D'Acry James' voice in a nifty whiskey commercial......from "Shrek" to fine whiskey......ahhhhhhh.

Poetry contest open to Saginaw County high school students

by Janet I. Martineau
River Junction Poets is seeking entires for its annual high school poetry contest.
Any student enrolled in a Saginaw County high school is eligible, with prizes of $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third place -- along with an invitation to read their winning works during a public performance. 
Honorable mentions of $20 are also possible at the discretion of the judge. 
The poems can be on any subject and in any style, rhymed or unrhymed, and must be within conventional standards of good taste.
Among the rules:
-- All work must be the original work of the submitting poet.
-- Each student may enter only one poem.
-- Each poem must fit, and be submitted on, one side of an 8 1/2 by 11-inch sheet of paper.
-- Poems must be typed or computer-printed in standard-size print.
-- In the upper right corner, type your name, full address, phone number, school and grade, and how you learned about the contest.
All identification will be deleted from the copies sent to the judge. And the criteria for judging includes creativity, originality, quality of ideas and imaginative use of language.
All entries must be postmarked by March 25 and mailed to River Junction Poets High School Contest, P.O. Box 20162, Saginaw, Mi. 48602.
Winners will received notification by mail and are invited to read their poems at the River Junction Poets’ Spring Poetry Performance, which takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson in Saginaw.
For questions, send an e-mail to River Junction Poets also has a Facebook page.

Horizons Town Talk books Hot Lips Houlihan and an FBI profiler

by Janet I. Martineau
Lorretta Swit
Hot Lips Houlihan herself, a female FBI agent who hunted down the Unabomber, and a trainer who turns shelter dogs into Broadway stars are among the 2011-2012 Horizons Town Talk offerings.
Then toss in the memories and music of Frank Sinatra and tips on good gardening designs, and that completes the October through June programs at the Horizons Conference Center, 6200 State St. in Saginaw Township.
Hot Lips is the headliner of the pack -- as in actress Loretta Swit, who played the oversexed but comedic Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in the hit television sitcom  “M*A*S*H.” She stayed with the show for its entire run, 1972 through 1983 on CBS, cast as the head nurse of a Korean War mobile surgical hospital.
Her Town Talk program,  titled “The Story of Hot Lips,” takes place on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and she joins a growing list of former “M*A*S*H” stars who have played Saginaw’s Town Talk and other area events over the years --  among them Alan Alda, Jamie Farr, Mike Farrell and David Ogden Stiers.
Swit owns two Emmys, was the original Christine Cagney  in the pilot for the “Cagney and Lacey” television series, and has appeared in nearly 40  television and theatrical movies. As a stage actress her credits include “Same Time, Next Year,” “Shirley Valentine,” “Mame,” “42nd Street” and “Doubt.”
In private life, Swit is passionate about animals, serving with such organizations as Actors and Others for Animals, the Wildlife Waystation, the Farm Sanctuary and the Humane Society. For five years her series “Those Incredible Animals” aired on the Discovery Channel
Tony DeSare
The rest of the Horizons Town Talk  roster is as follows:

Tuesday, Oct. 4, “The Best Is Yet to Come,” featuring Tom, Santopietro, the author of “Sinatra in Hollywood,” and Tony DeSare singing the  songs of Frank Sinatra.
Santopietro has authored several books on Hollywood legends, including Barbra Streisand and Doris Day -- stemming from his career as first a show business lawyer and later a manager of Broadway shows starring the likes of Glenn Close, Patti LuPone, Valerie Harper and Beatrice Arthur.
DeSare is a singer/pianist with jazz club credits throughout the world as well as for corporate events.

Candice DeLong
*Tuesday, March 6, 2012, “My Life on the Front Lines As a Woman in the FBI,” featuring Candice DeLong.
For 20 years  DeLong trailed terrorists, went undercover as a gangster’s moll, caught a serial killer and was one of three agents who hunted down and captured the Unabomber, in Montana. 

Since retiring in 2000, she has authored a best-selling memoir, provided commentary on crime stories for a variety of television programs, and ranks as an internationally recognized FBI profiler and homicide expert. 
Interesting, given the fact she started her working career as a psychiatric nurse.

Gordon Hayward
*Tuesday, April 3, 2012, “Your House, Your Garden: A Foolproof Approach to Good Garden Design,” featuring Gordon Hayward.
During his 17 years as a school English teacher, on the side Hayward gardened for clients part time. In 1984, he turned to the work of garden design full time and has written nine books and more than 50 articles for Horticulture Magazine and Fine Gardening Magazine on the topic.
He and his wife tend to a nearly two-acre garden at their southern Vermont home.
His lecture in Saginaw will demonstrate how people can use the features of their houses to help them design front, side and back gardens as well as gardens between buildings, in courtyards, around outbuildings or to hide air conditioning units and propane tanks.

Bill Berloni
*Tuesday, June 5, 2012, “Making Stars Out of Strays,” featuring Bill Berloni.
In a live theater production starring one of his canines, Berloni is in the wings 30 feet away helping call the shots and keeping the critter calm. For the past 35 years he has trained everything from bulldogs and chihuahuas, including the famous Sandy in “Annie” and more recently two pooches in “Legally Blonde.”
His credits include dozens of stage shows as well as commercials, movies and television, and  even a horse for “Elmo.” And each and every one of those animals was a rescue. 
His farm in central Connecticut is a cross between a hotel and a retirement home for his theatrical menagerie. For his birthday one year his wife  gave him a gift certificate for two lamas.

All of the programs begin at 11:30 a.m., followed by a luncheon buffet. Season tickets are $125, and on sale currently only to renewing participants. They go on sale to the general public after June 7. Call (989) 799-4122.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Former director of Saginaw Art Museum in "Echo" movie

by Janet I. Martineau
A former Saginaw Art Museum executive director makes her debut this weekend as a lead actress in a movie.
Sheila Redman Hoffman portrays the daughter of a mob boss who is kidnapped on her way home from work in the independent crime/fantasy film “Echo.” Shot primarily in the Corning/Elmira region of New York State, “Echo” debuts Sunday, Feb. 27, at the historic Palace Theater in Corning.
Sheila Redman Hoffman in "Echo"
“Without giving away the plot too much, most of my scenes were filmed with just me and my kidnapper in a creepy basement,” says Hoffman. “So I interacted with the rest of the 25-member cast relatively little, which felt a bit odd when we all came together towards the end of principal photography to play off each other in scenes that would bookend the film.”
As the plot progresses, she says, her character’s boyfriend and her brother recruit a friend to help find her -- a friend who frightens them with his unusual abilities and the fact he keeps seeing a figure in reflective surfaces who is attempting to talk to him. The three men, the kidnapper and Hoffman are the main characters with the most screen time, she says.
Also playing a role the movie is Bryce Hoffman, Sheila’s husband who was a reporter for The Saginaw News.
“He plays a cranky cop, investigator, really…with a really bad mustache,” she says. “We also lent our cars -- a Prius (my character’s car) and a Chrysler 300 (a mobster car) -- to the movie. And the kitchen in our last house (someone gets beheaded there!) appears in the movie too.”
Hoffman was executive director/chief curator at the Saginaw Art Musuem, 1126 N. Michigan, from 2000-2004, overseeing its renovation and the addition of two wings. While in the area she used her ballet training to appear in the Midland Music Society production of “A Chorus Line” and also was in a Pit and Balcony Community Theatre's production of "Bye Bye Birdie,"  so she is no stranger to acting.
After leaving Saginaw, Hoffman became the curator of collections at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art in Corning, a job she left late last year when Bryce was hired as the executive director of communications and marketing for State University of New York/Plattsburgh.  
The couple now lives north of Plattsburgh, near the Canadian border and about 45 minutes south of Montreal. Hoffman says she plans to begin work on a doctorate next fall, in Montreal.
She and Bryce became friends of “Echo” director Todd Douglas Bailey when they were living in Corning and attended a premiere of one of his other films. They were so impressed, she says, that they offered to get involved in his next movie ...”thinking to help produce it in some way. Instead, I was invited to read for one of the parts and  was rather surprisingly cast as the mouthy daughter of the mob boss.”
Says Bailey, “Sheila did an amazing performance. It's very tough to get the emotional side of being kidnapped when it has never happened to you. She had to draw those emotions from somewhere else and she absolutely nailed it. She portrays fear in her eyes like no one I have ever worked with. 
“What lead us to casting her was based on her read during the casting call. We felt like she was the best person to breath life into Katie but have that perfect balance of being in charge and being able to get beat down mentally from her kidnappers.”

Filming on the 93-minute “Echo” began on March 7, 2010, and ended in August with a few pick up scenes added in September. After its debut Sunday in Corning, Bailey will seek to enter “Echo” in as many film festivals as possible in hopes a distributor will option it.
Bailey also is the producer, executive producer, cinematographer, editor and colorist of “Echo” and makes a small cameo appearance as a limo driver. He wrote its screenplay based on a story by Rob Hesch. By day Bailey  works as a creative services/commercials producer at WENY, Channel 36, in Corning.
The cast of “Echo” was paid a small salary, he says, but the crew of four was not unless the film lands a distribution deal.
Bailey’s two other films have won awards at the Pocono Mountains Film Festival -- the documentary “Bigfoot Lives” in 2007 as best documentary and the fictional “Moretti House” in 2008 for best producer. He also received best director nominations for both.
“For ‘Bigfoot” I  was paid to follow Tom Biscardi and his Bigfoot team around the country for three  weeks in the summer of 2006 as they investigated various sightings across the country,” says Bailey, whose filmmaking company is called Tizodd Productions. “I was the director, editor, cinematographer and producer on that film. 
“The ‘Moretti House’ is completely fiction. I wrote it based on an old mansion in Elmira, N.Y. It follows three filmmakers who get trapped inside a haunted house while making a documentary on the history of the mansion.”
Bailey, a native of Philadelphia, started making home movies as a kid and founded Tizodd while still in college. It makes short films and feature-length films and also films weddings, music videos, commercials and documentaries.
To see interviews with Hoffman, Bailey and others in "Echo" log on to

SVSU "Ruthless" has its moments for restless critic

Review by Janet I. Martineau
Amanda Mueller, left, and Danielle Schoeny
Toward the end of the first act of “Ruthless! The Musical,” playing this weekend at Saginaw Valley State University, an actress portraying a theater critic warbles the song “I Hate Musicals.”
So in the interest of fair play, I love musicals.....but have always had problems with campy shows. Hate them is perhaps too strong of a word, but not amused is often the case.
And “Ruthless!” is two-hours of campiness personified aimed at child stars, show business and massive egos. Or as the third grade theater teacher/director character puts it,  “Life is a bitch and it starts in third grade.”
So several hours after attending opening night Thursday, which got a standing ovation, I am still pondering what to write about it except to give fair warning it is campy and if you are not totally into knowing about the backstage backstabbing prevalent in theater and/or theater history, you may not get many of the jokes. What the movie “Black Swan” says about the world of ballet via overstated violence, “Ruthless” says about theater via overstated puns and sight gags. 
Written in 1992 and the winner of a New York Outer Critics Circle Award, SVSU’s production directed by Ric Roberts  teeters sometimes just a tad too broadly into that world of camp. Just a hair less might have served things better, or at least we’d like to see how that might pan out. Also, the dancing on a table sight gag is like overdone, man.
But there are two performances which shine -- Danielle Schoeny as a dim-witted stage mother who, in Act II, finds her own theatrical chops and David Ryan as Sylvia St. Croix, an overly dramatic manager to a child star.
Both play their roles with a sense of restraint that is welcome, even though St. Croix is given to being a drama queen. Less is more here. And both are top-notch singers as well.
Schoeny is delightfully dumb as the apron-clad housewife/mom of the child star. When she mentions she has quit smoking and her guest inquires “cold turkey,” she says “I’ll check” and heads toward the kitchen with just the right touch of innocence required. And presto, in the second act her mom is all sexy and star-powered and sharp. Nice transformation smoothly played. Later in the show she also is both characters at once and we believe it.
And Ryan from his entrance owns St. Croix, and not just because he is a guy playing a gal. His St. Croix is the only performance that is at once both campy and humanly real -- especially in the closing sequence. His is a delivery we will long remember for its nuances amid the madcap.
Bravo also to Caitlyn Walsh as Lita Encore, the theater critic who is not above even trashing the acting debut of her third grader granddaughter (a bad seed kid played by Amanda Mueller). Walsh’s Lita is played with a nice edge.
As for the rest of the cast -- playing a school teacher/play director, personal assistant, classmate and even Mueller, whose career at SVSU has shone -- they were not quite in balance yet. They often seemed unable to project without effort on the vocals, were too broad at the expense of adding a little character to their caricatures, and need a little work on not rushing their lines or moments.
Mueller, we realize, was trying to capture the persona of a third grader who will stop at nothing to get cast as the lead in the school play. And she was childlike. And she showcased some fun and capable dance skills. And her duet with Schoeny on “Parents and Children” showcased the vocal strengths we are more accustomed to hearing from her. But there was just a little something missing overall in her performance.
Like we said, however, opening night got shouts at the end and a standing ovation. The musical numbers are great fun, and most of the puns and sight gags are worth a good knowing giggle. It’s just, that, well, this critic got a little restless in her seat ... until she nearly fell out  it laughing at the to-die-for ending.

Visiting Greeks to get a tour of Saginaw culture

by Janet I. Martineau

SAGINAW -- Five visitors from one of the world’s most ancient civilizations are headed to Michigan for a month-long visit -- starting Tuesday, March 15, with a four day stay in Saginaw.
As part of a Rotary International Group Study Exchange program, the contingent from Greece will attend a Saginaw Spirit hockey game, shop at the Birch Run Outlets mall, breakfast with members of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church and visit  Saginaw Valley State University, Frankenmuth, the Temple Theatre,  St. Mary’s of Michigan, the Saginaw Art Museum, Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum and the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History.
“The object of these annual exchanges is for young professionals, between the ages of 25 and 40, to meet and interact with their professional counterparts and get exposure to the cultural, recreational and governmental worlds of their hosts,” says Evelyn Mudd, president of the Rotary Club of Saginaw, which is co-hosting the visit with the Saginaw Sunrise Rotary Club and the Saginaw Valley Rotary Club.
Among the visiting Greeks are a professional translator interested in the performing arts, a civil engineer, a systems security consultant who contributed to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and a development manager for a social welfare agency.
“One year we hosted a physician who was in training  in neurology and we set her up with Dr. Malcolm Field of the Field Neurosciences Institute, and she even went into surgery with him,” recalls Mudd of the annual exchange program.
Mudd has, in her years as a Rotarian, also worked on exchanges with France, India, Korea, Japan, Denmark, Brazil, Australia, Thailand, Brazil and Portugal. A team from Afghanistan was in the plans for last year, but ran into passport clearance problems.
Members of the three Saginaw Rotary clubs also will host the visitors during a joint luncheon meeting of their clubs, and have secured families for the lodging of the five visitors.
The month-long stay also includes visits to other towns in the Rotary district of which Saginaw is a part. From Saginaw the team will travel to Owosso, Oscoda, Alpena, Cass City, Caro, Mount Pleasant, Midland, Alma, Bay City  and Sebewaing.

"Shooter" to give "stalking" tips at Nurturing Nature program

by Janet I. Martineau

Phil Stephens, a senior naturalist at Midland’s Chippewa Nature Center, has been “shooting” wildlife since around 1970 -- first with a Kodak Instamatic, on a wilderness Canadian canoe trip, and now with a more sophisticated digital SLR.
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, Stephens will present an “Introduction to Nature Photography” program at the Green Point Environmental Learning Center, 3010 Maple in Saginaw. The program is sponsored by the Friends of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, and free to its members. Others pay $2 at the door.
Stephens says the No. 1 tip he offers is “to be out in nature as much as possible, preferably with your camera.”
Among the other pieces of advice he will offer to budding nature photographers seeking to capture flowers, landscapes and wildlife: Exclude everything that detracts from your main subject, which means paying attention to or manipulating the background and foreground and monitoring the sides of the frame.  Understand the idea of 18 percent gray exposure control.  Go where the nature is.
So where has he been in those 40 years since he took up the craft. “I have photographed in Alaskan glaciers, moose on Isle Royale, mountains in Glacier National Park, bison in Yellowstone, wintry rivers at Chippewa Nature Center, alligators in the Everglades, waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula, pronghorn on the prairies, the moon, the Big Sur in California, frigatebirds in Hawaii, orchids and insects from various locals, and icy Hudson Bay.”
People attending March 2 can expect to see many of these images as Stephens winds through his program.
He says all the seasons have their pluses, although he has not shot as much in winter as in the other three seasons. He says he has no favorite subject but does admit that “shooting from a plane has its own challenges.”
Stephens, also the land manager at Chippewa,  has a master of science in biology degree from Michigan Tech University and for five years worked with the Isle Royale Wolf Ecology Project. He was raised in Grand Rapids, and joined the Chippewa staff in 1982.
So of all those images he has taken, what ranks the highest on his scale?
“It all depends on my mood!  One of the more painful, but beautiful, series I shot was of a sunset in Great Sand Dunes National Park, with amazingly ferocious mosquitoes swamping around me.  
“Also, I was able to get within 20 feet of moose at various times and live to tell the tales.”

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cats amaze, and other critters too, in Midland show

Review by Janet I. Martineau
MIDLAND -- Never thought I’d see the day when an ordinary orange “house” cat traversed a downsized set of parallel bars like an Olympic gymnast....let alone witness upwards of 15 domestic felines scamper across the Midland Center for the Arts stage.
But there it was on Friday night -- the sold out appearance of the Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre, which along with the cats also showcased around 10 canines, one green parrot, a couple of geese, three doves and a contingent of white rats which were herded into a toy train.
Oh, and the orange house cat also pushed a baby carriage containing a much larger dog.
For the legions of pet lovers, this is a show not to miss. And you know the old adage of never sharing a stage with an animal or a kid....well, that is the fate of Gregory Popovich and his small team of human circus performers. When they do an all-human circus or comedy routine, we want to scream, “We’re here to see the animals, not you!”
But we are too polite to do that, and somehow Russian-born Popovich knows that because even in the midst of one of the human acts, it is not unusual to see a black cat streak across the stage -- thus bringing bad luck.
The Popovich Comedy Pet Theater is both thrilling and a bit of a disappointment. Granted it is unusual in its animal focus and warms the heart when told the cats and dogs it in were rescued from shelters. But, well, we were hoping for a little more showmanship from the cats, even though we KNOW that is impossible given their royal attitudes.
Yes they scampered on and off the stage with wonderful obedience. And seeing 15 or 16 of them sitting on perches like the lions and tigers do in shows -- AND STAYING THERE  -- is a remarkable achievement on the part of Popovich. They also were athletic in the way they climbed up those perches or light poles, bobbed in and out of an “apartment” on fire, jumped hurdles, and climbed across a bar upside down. But other than that they did little else other than jump through a hoop or two, spar with each other now and then and just look cute.
The dogs, on the other hand, were much more versatile, compliant, costumed even and thus enjoyable. They fought a fire, visited a doctor with a variety of ills,  gave a school teacher behavior problems, played a game of soccer (with balloons) and caught balls while balancing high above Popovich’s head.
As for Popovich, he is a top-notch juggler, clown and balancing artist.
And you know, the more we think about it .... those cats, well actually they did far more than we thought possible. They were darn amazing, in fact. .

Sunday, February 13, 2011

SBSO's "American Valentine" better than a box of chocolates

Review by Janet I. Martineau
What is better, by far, than a box of chocolates for a Valentine’s Day gift?
Saturday night’s “An American Valentine” concert, performed by the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra at the Temple Theatre.
OK, first I need to admit that when this concert was announced,  my heart skipped a beat. Bernstein, Barber, Copland and Dvorak on one very favorite composers all on one bill!?! And then toss in a new work by Saginaw’s own Catherine McMichael, whose growing resume of work never fails to enchant me. 
Add to that pieces....”West Side Story,” “Adagio for Strings,” “Appalachian Spring” with its Shaker “Simple Gifts” hymn, and New World Symphony with its refrains of “Goin’ Home” and an English horn solo to die for. These are my favorite pieces by those  favorite composers ..and McMichael’s  “Symphonic Dreams” beckoned further by its title alone.
All the orchestra and its maestro Brett Mitchell had to do was deliver on the goods....and oh my goodness did they ever deliver on the goods.
Collectively every single section of the orchestra got its moment to shine, but for my money the night belonged to the woodwinds, in particular English horn player Ellen Sudia-Coudron. But wait...those strings just ached and  shimmered in the Barber...the brass was so bold in the Dvorak...the percussionists bombastic in the Bernstein.
And ya gotta love a conductor who follows the full-of-energy, sassy, jazzy, cocky “West Side Story” overture with the quiet and introspective “Adagio for Strings” that just builds builds from the deepest of the strings to a fevered high pitch of angst so intense one fears the violin strings will snap and break.
The title of the program, of course, refers to the fact that of the five composers, four are American. And Dvorak, a Czech, wrote his Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) during a three-year visit to the United States in the late 1800s.
The McMichael piece, commissioned to celebrate the 75th anniversaries of the Midland and Saginaw Bay orchestras, is her tone poem to Midland architect Alden B. Dow and Saginaw’s tall trees of the lumber era and served both themes ever so solidly,
So in one evening the music visited waring gangs in  1950s New York City, a 19th century young couple living on a farm in the Appalachians, the “new world” of Native Americans and Iowa and plantation songs, contemporary Midland and lumber era Saginaw in Michigan,  and, as Mitchell said, wherever each of us wanted to go with the Adagio (for many of us, it continues to evoke memories of the President Kennedy funeral in the 1960s).
What a marvelous journey across the landscape and through the years.
Mitchell also noted that in his career of conducting many premieres of pieces, never had he experienced the pleasure of having the composer involved also helping play it  -- as McMichael did, on the piano, in her “Symphonic Dreams.” Yet another musical chocolate served during the rich evening.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"The Vagina Monologues" leaves 'em laughing

Review by Janet I. Martineau
The expressive Debbie Lake
If ever the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” was more true, it is applying it to the Black Box 180 production of “The Vagina Monologues” this weekend at Midland’s Creative 360.

Fortunately, we took our camera along and got some of those pictures as five of the area’s most talented actresses -- Susie Polito, Carol Rumba, Debbie Lake, Marci Rogers and Denyse Clayton -- presented the Obie-winning show about a private part of the human anatomy.
Eve Ensler’s monologues are rip-smart -- full of pathos and heart-break one minute and a riot of laughs another. Saying those words, taken from real-life stories, with the right emphasis is another part of the pie. 

But having seen the show twice now we are convinced that the body English used completes the serving ... and   perhaps is the most important ingredient of the show.
Gales of laughter swept Creative 360’s Friday night performance accompanied by dead silence and gasps during some of the more poignant moments. 

Clayton’s voice ruled in the sarcastic tones required in relaying indignities at the doctor’s office....Lake’s face was a worldwide map of expressions throughout...Rumba charmed as a naive woman with a mirror...all five were in superb form with the sound effects created during orgasms.
Denyse Clayton at work
Without getting too soap box driven, it is a pity that controversy continues to dog this show and that last year another Midland arts entity refused to promote this show. 

Yes, parts of it are a little rough going....but “Vagina Monologues” also does what all good art should and must do and that is challenge the status quo as well as allow us to view things in a new way.
A word praise also to Black Box 180 member Kristiina Pilnik and her decorating crew who turned Creative 360 into a red-hued Valentine’s Day splendor...and created a chocolate-covered strawberries serving area that was humorously suggestive. 

Each table also included fun quote-wrapped napkins and cutouts of the faces of famous women.
The soups from Cafe American were delicious, especially the tomato bisque. And mini-cupcakes from the Gourmet Cupcake Shoppe carried through on the theme as well.

Marci Rogers

Carol Rumba

Monday, February 7, 2011

Midland's "Urinetown" mops up in state theater competition

by Janet I. Martineau
To say Midland’s Center Stage Theatre company all but flushed its competition down the toilet is an understatement.
Bill Anderson Jr. 
This past weekend’s American Association of Community Theatre/Michigan festival, taking place at the Midland Center for the Arts, resulted in 10 awards for Center Stage’s production of “Urinetown: the Musical” -- as well the production being selected as one of two shows to advance to the regional competition.
The 10 awards were:
-- Outstanding production.
-- Outstanding ensemble production.
-- Outstanding musical direction to Jim Hohmeyer.
-- Outstanding choreography to Kelli Jolly.
-- Outstanding direction and outstanding set design to Bill Anderson Jr.
-- Outstanding costume design to Laurelei Horton.
-- Outstanding lead performance to Erin Southwell as Hope Cladwell.
-- Outstanding character performance to R. Jeanne Gilbert as Josephine Strong and Adam Gardner as Hot Blades Harry.
“We didn’t win all the awards, but we won 10 out of the 17,” says Anderson. “The second place team got only two.”
That would be Old Town Playhouse of Traverse City which competed with “Doubt,” a dramatic good vs. evil story set in the Catholic church. “Doubt” won awards for outstanding staging and outstanding supporting actor and also will compete in the regionals since two shows are advanced from the state competitions.
The regionals are April 29-May 1 in Columbus, Ohio, and feature two teams from each of the state competitions in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin as well of Michigan. Should “Urinetown” win there it would then be the sole show to advance to the June nationals in Rochester, N.Y.  AACT is comprised of 10 regions.
Anderson admits he’s still on cloud nine from the weekend, calling it “surreal” -- a fitting comment given the topic of “Uninetown.” It in people living in a drought-plagued town are assessed a $5.80 governmental fee each time they need to relive themselves. And since they can only do their business in sanctioned public loos, long lines result.  The Tony-winning show also spoofs other musicals, satirizes politics and its filled with outrageous characters.
“I have no formal training as a director,” says Anderson, who does have a list of more than  75 acting and backstage credits in his native Midland . “What this win does is validate my commitment to the craft. And it also shows the importance community theater has.”
Center Stage, a recent joining of what was the Midland Music Society and Midland Theater Guild, competed against The Farmington Players of Farmington Hills. South Haven’s Ichabod’s Little Theater in the Hollow, Players de Noc of Escanaba and the Monroe Community Payers as well as the Traverse City group.
Each team was alloted 10 minutes to set up its set and 10 minutes to tear it down and in between 60 minutes of performance time. Anderson and others had spend months paring down the full-length “Urinetown” for the competition.
Anderson directed the full production of “Urinetown,”  which won critical praise, at the Midland Center for the Arts in  April of 2009.
In the 1980s  a Midland production of “Nunsense” took third place in the national competition. The competitions take place every other year.
Anderson and his team now need to rise $5,000 to help pay the costs of sending “Urinetown’s” 35 actors, musicians and production staff to Ohio.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"The Vagina Monologues" plays Creative 360 dinner theater series

by Janet I. Martineau
Chocolate-covered strawberries to eat, cosmopolitans to drink and overheard candid conversations about a private part converge at Midland’s Creative 360 with a dinner theater presentation of “The Vagina Monologues.”
Presented by Black Box 180, the award-winning show stars Denyse Clayton, Susie Polito, Marci Rogers and Carol Rumba of Midland and Debbie Lake of Saginaw Township -- who collectively portray a six-year-old girl, a septuagenarian New Yorker, a vagina workshop participant, a woman who witnesses the birth of her granddaughter, a Bosnian survivor of rape, and a feminist happy to have found a man who “liked to look at it.” 
“The title alone gets people talking,” says Clayton of the show penned by Eve Ensler. “What it does is show that 'vagina' is not an ugly, shocking word. In fact women of all ages and races can relate to at least one or more of its monologues and can walk away feeling proud to be a woman.”
Clayton consider the show both comedy and drama --  “both heartbreaking and hilariously heartwarming” -- as it deals with sex, relationships and violence against women as well as slang, a visit to the OB/GYN doctor and simple physical aspects of the body area.
But beyond that, she says, “Eve has raised millions of dollars from this show in the hopes of raising awareness and to end violence against women all over the world” when the show is staged as a benefit for local groups, shelters and crisis centers.
Toward that end, a portion of the proceeds from the 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 11-12, shows at Creative 360 will be donated to Shelterhouse, a non-profit serving Midland and Gladwin counties. Shelterhouse provides safety, shelter, advocacy and counseling to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. 

Tickets are $26, which includes soups and salads provided by Cafe American, chocolate covered strawberries and the play. A cash bar will serve beer, wine and the cosmopolitans.
Clayton says Ensler conducted hundreds of interviews in writing the show, which won an Obie in 1996. “Basically the monologues wrote themselves.”
Over the years such stars as Melissa Etheridge and Whoopie Goldberg have been cast members, and it has even been performed in Muslim countries where staging it was risky. And every year Ensler pens a new monologue to highlight a current issue affecting women around the world. 
Clayton and most of the rest of the cast also performed the show last year at the Midland Center for the Arts, and response was so strong they decided to restage it at Creative 360, formerly Creative Spirit Center, 1517 Bayliss.
She and others formed Black Box 180 at Creative 360 “to do something empowering, not just cookie cutter shows.  Communicating the way we know best, through theatre to raise awareness for issues that are all too often overlooked.”
Last year the company debuted with a murder mystery, written by Clayton’s brother and with the audience trying to solve who done it.
For reservations to “The Vagina Monologues,” call  (989) 837-1885, or you purchase tickets online at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Creative 360 to honor Patricia Shaheen as its 2011 "Arts Sweetheart"

by Janet I. Martineau
A Saginaw Township arts patron with an unusual claim to fame is this year’s recipient of Creative 360’s Art Sweetheart Award.
Patricia Shaheen will be honored on Monday, Feb. 14, during a 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. luncheon at Creative 360 (formerly Creative Spirit Center), 1517 Bayliss in Midland.
The award, which was begun in 2003, honors a mid-Michigan resident for his or her exceptional contributions of vision, leadership and commitment to the the arts for at least a decade.
Patricia Shaheen
So what is Shaheen’s unusual claim to fame? The women’s bathroom at the historic Temple Theatre in downtown Saginaw -- among many other things.
The Shaheen family has a long history of purchasing old structures and giving them a new lease on life. The ornate Temple, built in 1927 as a vaudeville house and movie theater, was in decline when it was purchased by the Shaheen family in 2002. The family’s firm spent $7 million dollars in restoring the 1,800-seat structure with adjoining ballrooms and bringing it up to code.
While her husband, Dr. Sam Shaheen, focused on the rest of the building, it is no secret Patty, as she is known, advocated for potty parity and helped design one with an unusual elegance. 
Earlier this year, the women’s bathroom at the Temple was named the best bathroom in the nation in an “Enjoy the Go” competition sponsored by Charmin. No surprise, given its chandeliers and marble tile. In fact, tours of the Temple always include the bathroom.
The Shaheen family recently “donated” the Temple to the newly formed Temple Theatre Foundation. The Temple is home to the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, Saginaw Choral Society, Valley Concert Association and Riverside Saginaw Film Festival as well as other local events and touring shows.
Patricia Shaheen, a native of Springfield, Mass., also is a member of the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra board and from 2004 to 2006 served as its president, a period when it successfully overcame a $280,000 debt.  For the past 10 years she also has chaired the orchestra’s annual Holiday Housewalk fundraiser. 
She is a founding member of the Art in Public Places project, a series of art exhibits and an annual statewide competition hosted at the Saginaw Township Hall. In 2008 she chaired Saginaw’s “A Night With the Hemingways” event as a part of the first Great Book Read sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council and also serves on the humanities council board.
And this year she joined the board of the Michigan Jazz Trail Festival, a Midland-based organization committed to celebrating the rich heritage of Michigan jazz by linking local festivals throughout the state. 
In 2008, Mrs. Shaheen received the Governor's Award for Arts & Culture, Michigan's premiere state-wide celebration of arts, culture and creativity hosted by ArtServe.  In 2004, she and her husband  received the All-Area Arts Award 
given by the Saginaw Arts and Enrichment Commission. 

Shaheen also has served on the Saginaw Art Museum board and chaired its first endowment campaign; has served on the Saginaw Community Foundation Board, and in her early years here helped create a script and served as a puppeteer for a Mr. Yuk touring poison prevention program.
Horizons Conference Center in Saginaw Township is catering the Feb. 14 luncheon. Horizons, a former K-mart, is another Shaheen enterprise. 
Tickets are $45, with reservations due by Thursday, Feb. 9. Call (989) 837-1885 or register online at
Previous Art Sweetheart honorees are Dorothy Yates, Virginia (Ginny) Morrison, Barbara Prince-Sovereen, Sally Moss, Judy Rapanos, Nancy Barker and Ruby Iwamasa, all of Midland, and Janet I. Martineau of Saginaw Township.

Creative 360 is a not-for-profit community arts, humanities and wellness organization.  It  was incorporated in 1994. Its mission is to help people of all ages  experience the creative process through classes, art exhibits, events, concerts, speakers and outreach programs.