So, long Tom … it’s a wrap for Tom Lehrer’s Tomfoolery in Ann Arbor

Brent, Lauren, Susie, and Roy

Brent, Lauren, Susie, and Roy

Great closing night of Tomfoolery! What a show! Thanks, JP Hitesman, Mary Lynn Stevens, Michelle Clark, Julie Krohta, Susie Sexton, Don Sexton for being there!

My cast-mate Brent Stansfield wrote, “We finished our run of Tomfoolery tonight. It has been a real treat working with Roy Sexton, Laura Sagolla, Matt Cameron, and Rebecca Biber and to be directed by Lauren M. London. I didn’t think I’d enjoy doing theater again but these guys make all the work so much fun. Thanks guys!” Couldn’t agree more!

The authors

The authors

Roy, Laura, and Brent

Roy, Laura, and Brent

We had sold out shows, amazing audiences, and we sold lots of books! My mom and I donated sales of our books on-site during the run to The Penny Seats – thanks to all who supported!

And our esteemed director Lauren added, “It was a joy, made of willing, enthusiastic, creative participants, all of whom were out to have fun, work hard, and be funny.  It brought happiness and riotous laughter everywhere it went, and I’m very sorry to see it go. … Davi Napoleon was right when she said it could run for months at the pub.  It could.  We had willing, eager audiences clamoring to see it and a very pleasant partner in Conor O’Neill’s.”

Enjoy these video snippets from the show – courtesy of wonderful super-fan Rebecca Winder – click here to view in sequence or view separately below. (Photos taken by my parents last night are sprinkled throughout this blog entry, but you can also view them here.)

My proud pa

My proud pa

My proud ma

My proud ma

What a team!

What a team!

Breakfast of champions ... the party's over

Breakfast of champions … the party’s over

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

You’re never too old to learn – Seth Rudetsky’s master class at Farmington Players, November 2

Seth RudetskyYou’re never too old to learn, I suppose. At least that was the lesson I gained today during Seth Rudetsky‘s wonderful master class taught at Farmington Players in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Thanks to the group and specifically to Amy Lauter for organizing the event, which saw local performers go through the exercise of auditioning before Mr. Rudetsky as well as an appreciative audience of approximately 130 people.

Sitting there, starting at noon, all of us guinea pigs lined up in the front row, nervously awaiting Seth’s appearance, not sure what to expect. Would he be more Simon Cowell, all glistening fangs and catty remarks, or Mr. Rogers, full of affirmation and delightful support?

Blessedly, he was more the latter, but not without insightful critique which inspired immediate improvement from all of us performers.

Seth opened the session with a brief overview, along the lines of this YouTube video – practical (and funny!) advice about how to prepare music, how to get ready for an audition, and how to put yourself in the proper head-space to succeed …

Following that intro, Seth began drawing our names from a hat … well, a decorative bowl … and one by one, we marched up on the stage, allowing Seth to a rifle through our prized binders of sheet music and to select a cut or two for us to perform. The age of the performers ranged from 11 to “we’d-rather-not-say,” with an array of songs from Broadway canon, pop, and beyond – Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein,  and … er … General Hospital. You had to be there.

(I sat there nervously for hours wondering if my name was even in the bowl at all, but, finally, next to last, my name was called. I futilely tried to step directly on the stage from the front row – who needs stairs? At which time, I did this awkward army crawl/roll center stage. Yup, I know how to make an entrance. Sigh.)

Seth took his time with all of us, stopping at key points in our songs and offering us direction on how to improve our delivery: “be in the moment,” “what are you thinking about there,” “why hold that note and what are you conveying emotionally if you do so,” “plant yourself,” “take a position of strength,” “there are no songs that shouldn’t be used in auditions, but you have to find the song that features you and your talent best.” Pretty great life advice, let alone fabulous guidance for an exceptional audition.

I sang Pajama Game‘s “Hey There,” after fumbling disastrously with my own notebook, like a nervous junior high school kid. I blushed when Seth said he really likes my old-school songs (all raided from my mom’s exceptional sheet music collection). And I was a dutiful student, taking his advice on a song that I had sung so often it had become akin to “Jingle Bells” or “Happy Birthday” in my head … musical wallpaper.  I was struck by how different the final performance was that resulted – thanks, Seth!!

Thanks to “Legally Blonde the Musical” pal Amy Poirier for grabbing that quick clip from this afternoon, and enjoy the following video, taken by my cousin Alexandra Poor, of my performance of the song in Spotlight Players’ 2009 production of “The Pajama Game” …

Seth said I may be a little too old to sing “Real Live Girl” or “Corner of the Sky” any more … phooey, and I would have been very curious for his reaction to my take on Tom Lehrer’s “Masochism Tango” from Tomfoolery. Maybe next time!

Thank you, Seth! I may never make it to Broadway, but I feel like Rudetsky brought a little bit of Broadway to the future of my local performing.

But me being weird ol’ me, the highlight of the afternoon for me was this … Seth encouraged all of us to sing as if we were serenading a beloved rescue pet – sing every song thinking of an animal we love, bringing out all the authentic, vibrant colors of that pure emotion. He also let us know that Roberta Flack dedicated “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to her cat!  I like that song so much better now! Seth is an active Facebooker and sprinkles his promotional efforts with many, many posts to help our animal friends. Be sure to check out and follow his Facebook page, and if he comes to a town near you, go to his live show, sign up for his class, and thank him for all his generous and gracious work.

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Tomfoolery Sells Out Every Show. Encore Date Added!

Roy Sexton (Reel Roy Reviews):

Another great night of Tomfoolery – sold out – and hardly any tix left for November 9! Thanks to Diane Hill, Naz Edwards, Rich Geary, Kelly Little, Jim Lynch, Melynee Weber, Nina and Bob Schwartz, Jason Ringholz for coming this week and to anyone I missed! I’m spent! Read more below…

Originally posted on The Penny Seats:

Guys. Can you believe it?  Our little show, Tomfoolery, sold out Every Single Performance at Conor O’Neill’s this month. Every single one!  How thrilling!  We filled the restaurant.  We sang our hearts out.  We even got to talk about it on the radio.  The phone rang off the hook all month, and we’ve been overwhelmed with support and warm fuzzy goodness.

Which brings us to this:  Due to high demand, we added one additional performance: Sunday, November 9th. Same time, same place, same everything.  Just on a Sunday.  Audience members can purchase tickets for the dinner-and-show package for just $20, or for the show only, for $10. Click here to buy tickets, or just call us at (734) 926-5346.

Brent, Roy, and Matt sing a Southern Song.

Brent, Roy, and Matt sing a little Southern Song.

We were thrilled at the reception this got, from patrons and critics alike. See this awesome review for Encore…

View original 182 more words

“In fact, they should ‘be prepared’ to spend every week at Conor O’Nell’s. I’m expecting a long, long run …” Additional performance date added for Penny Seats’ Tomfoolery (Sunday, November 9)

Irish Ballad (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Irish Ballad (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Through the month of October, The Penny Seats enjoyed a sold-out run of the musical revue Tomfoolery, celebrating the words and music of satirist, mathematician, and cult favorite, Tom Lehrer, at Ann Arbor’s Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, 318 South Main Street, Ann Arbor. The two companies have partnered to offer this cabaret-style show, with dinner seatings available starting around 6:00 pm, and performances at 8:00pm. Due to high demand, an additional performance date has been added: November 9. Audience members can purchase tickets for the dinner-and-show package for just $20, or for the show only, for $10. Advance tickets (which are encouraged) are available online at www.pennyseats.org or by phone at (734) 926-5346.

Silent E  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Silent E (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Featured performers are Ann Arborites Matt Cameron, Laura Sagolla and R. Brent Stansfield, and Roy Sexton of Saline. Lauren London (of Ann Arbor) directs the show, with musical direction and accompaniment by Rebecca Biber (also of Ann Arbor). Victoria Gilbert (of Ypsilanti) oversees choreography, and Stephen Hankes (of Ann Arbor) designed the set and will stage manage the show.

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

In his review for Encore Michigan, Martin F. Kohn writes, “A spirited four-person cast and piano accompanist have a ball with such Lehrer favorites as ‘Be Prepared’ (‘Don’t solicit for your sister, that’s not nice/ Unless you get a good percentage of the price’), ‘The Masochism Tango’ (‘You can raise welts/ Like nobody else’), ‘The Vatican Rag’ (‘Ave Maria/ Gee it’s good to see ya’) and ‘The Irish Ballad’ (‘She weighted her brother down with stones/ Rickety-tickety-tin…/And sent him off to Davy Jones’). … Matt Cameron, Laura Sagolla, Roy Sexton and Brent Stansfield are lusty singers whose appreciation for the material is fully evident. … Director Lauren London has added inspired props and bits of business to many of the numbers.”

Masochism Tango  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Masochism Tango (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Fellow critic Davi Napoleon observes, “I suppose it’s kind of mean to tell you how much fun Tomfoolery is – they keep adding chairs to accommodate the crowds, but I doubt the room at Connor O’Neill’s will even have SRO for the next show. But really, it’s that much fun. … Maybe The Penny Seats can be talked into extending the run. … In fact, they should ‘be prepared’ to spend every week at Conor O’Nell’s. I’m expecting a long, long run …”

I Hold Your Hand in Mine  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

I Hold Your Hand in Mine (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

With the announcement of the additional performance, music director Rebecca Biber notes, “I am excited for this encore show, as I never grow tired of the material. Lehrer is a master satirist, not only of cultural tropes and historical moments, but of music itself.   He will pair a romantic parlor waltz with ghoulish lyrics, or use a peppy march to skewer jingoism and lockstep thinking. He always picks his musical forms for maximum humor and maximum discomfiture, and that funny/squirmy quality keeps us performers as engaged as our audience.”

She's My Girl  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

She’s My Girl (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Cast member Brent Stansfield, a faculty member at the University of Michigan, echoes this sentiment, “The show combines all my favorite things in life: satire, science, jest, education, politics, math, irony, and of course music. Better yet, it does it in a smart, sassy, gleeful, and naughty way. The Penny Seats cast and crew is also smart, sassy, gleeful, and naughty and they bring an ocean of joy and verve to these songs. Best of all, ‘Tomfoolery’ is tailor-made for an Ann Arbor audience who, as I have now learned, can be relied upon to bring their own smarts, sass, glee, and naughtiness! Each show has been raucous and I have had so much fun performing in it.”

Folk Song Army  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Folk Song Army (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Gonna Go Back to Dixie  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Gonna Go Back to Dixie (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Director Lauren London, who was recently interviewed about the production alongside Conor O’Neill’s Caroline Kaganov for The Lucy Ann Lance Show, adds, “This show has been a pure delight, from the first rehearsal through every single performance. It plays to our strengths as a company and fits perfectly with the jovial tone at Conor O’Neill’s. It’s a comfortable, fabulously funny night, and we’re ecstatic that so many people want to experience it. This is one of those lightning-in-a-bottle moments for us. We couldn’t be happier with Conor’s as a partner, and I hope we have the chance to do this again, soon!”

We Will All Go Together  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

We Will All Go Together (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Stansfield concludes, “Tom Lehrer’s work is beloved for good reason. He’s a sharp intellectual with a gallows humor (much like some of my other heroes: Edward Gorey, Ambrose Bierce, George Romero, et alia) and his songs are at once titillatingly dark and eerily catchy. His wit is incisive but never derisive. It’s so easy to fall in love with these songs that performing them for people who have never heard them before is an honor as much as it is a pleasure. I’ve been so excited to work with The Penny Seats again. Every rehearsal has been full of playfulness and silliness, and our director, Lauren London, has managed to funnel all of that love and sweat directly into the show. It’s 90 minutes of frenetic romp, but after each performance I’ve felt like doing the whole thing again. Well, maybe after a cold pint of beer. We are performing it in one of Ann Arbor’s best pubs, after all.”

For more information, visit the group’s website, www.pennyseats.org, or call 734-926-5346.

Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

WAHOO! We’ve added an encore date of Tomfoolery! November 9

Matt Cameron and Yours Truly

Matt “Smut” Cameron and Roy “Prurient” Sexton (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Wow – this Tomfoolery is such a fun show to do! We’ve added an encore date to our sold-out run of Tom Lehrer’s Tomfoolery: November 9, dinner around 6 pm, show 8 pm – get your tickets pronto here.

Thanks to Mark Lezotte, Patti Little, John DeMerell, Rebecca Hardin and family, Rebecca Dale Winder, Nan Reed Twiss, Ian Reed Twiss, Jim and Linda O’Hara Cameron, Ed and Anne Young, Esther Dale, Leslie Pardo, Steve Pardo, and, heaven knows, anyone I missed who came to see the show last night! Such an appreciative and delightful audience, and we (Laura Sagolla, Lauren M. London, Matt Cameron, Brent Stansfield, Rebecca Biber, Skippy Hankes) seem to be hitting our stride. This show is just unadulterated yet saucy fun! TWO more shows now – 10/23 is sold out, but tickets are still available for 11/9. Don’t miss it!

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Brent "Shredder" Stansfield (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Brent “Shredder” Stansfield (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Through the month of October, The Penny Seats have enjoyed a sold-out run of the musical revue Tomfoolery, celebrating the words and music of satirist, mathematician, and cult favorite, Tom Lehrer, at Ann Arbor’s Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, 318 South Main Street, Ann Arbor. The two companies have partnered to offer this cabaret-style show, with dinner seatings available starting around 6:00 pm, and performances at 8:00pm. Due to high demand, an additional performance date has been added: November 9. Audience members can purchase tickets for the dinner-and-show package for just $20, or for the show only, for $10. Advance tickets (which are encouraged) are available online at www.pennyseats.org or by phone at (734) 926-5346.

Featured performers are Ann Arborites Matt Cameron, Laura Sagolla and R. Brent Stansfield, and Roy Sexton of Saline. Lauren London (of Ann Arbor) directs the show, with musical direction and accompaniment by Rebecca Biber (also of Ann Arbor). Victoria Gilbert (of Ypsilanti) oversees choreography, and Stephen Hankes (of Ann Arbor) designed the set and will stage manage the show.

Laura Sagolla and Lauren London (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Laura “Tectonic Plates” Sagolla and Lauren “Plate Tectonics” London (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

In his review for Encore Michigan, Martin F. Kohn writes, “A spirited four-person cast and piano accompanist have a ball with such Lehrer favorites as ‘Be Prepared’ (‘Don’t solicit for your sister, that’s not nice/ Unless you get a good percentage of the price’), ‘The Masochism Tango’ (‘You can raise welts/ Like nobody else’), ‘The Vatican Rag’ (‘Ave Maria/ Gee it’s good to see ya’) and ‘The Irish Ballad’ (‘She weighted her brother down with stones/ Rickety-tickety-tin…/And sent him off to Davy Jones’). … Matt Cameron, Laura Sagolla, Roy Sexton and Brent Stansfield are lusty singers whose appreciation for the material is fully evident. … Director Lauren London has added inspired props and bits of business to many of the numbers.”

Fellow critic Davi Napoleon observes, “I suppose it’s kind of mean to tell you how much fun Tomfoolery is – they keep adding chairs to accommodate the crowds, but I doubt the room at Connor O’Neill’s will even have SRO for the next show. But really, it’s that much fun. … Maybe The Penny Seats can be talked into extending the run. … In fact, they should ‘be prepared’ to spend every week at Conor O’Nell’s. I’m expecting a long, long run …”

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common

Watch me get kicked out of Seth Rudetsky’s master class Nov. 2 (Plus, Tomfoolery update!)

Tomfoolery Cast (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Tomfoolery Cast (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Second performance of Tomfoolery was a hit! What a fun night – with a record attendance for us li’l Penny Seats!

Thanks to everyone who attended (and anyone I missed):

Roxane Raffin Chan and Kevin Chan, Magda Gulvezan and Dan Johnson, Sam Gordon, Linda Hemphill, Angie Choe and Sean, Jeff Weisserman, Barbie Amann Weisserman,  Bob Hotchkiss, Beth Kennedy, Nick Oliverio, Meredith Brandt, Alex and Cristina Rogers, Davi Napoleon, Jason Gilbert, Trista Selene Kreutzer-Whalen, Roxanne Kring and Joe Diederich, Kyle Lawson, Sean Murphy, Rachel Green Murphy, the Biber family, and Ryan Lawson.

Get your tickets, kids, for 10/16 or 10/23 – they are almost all gone … and that’s no “tomfoolery” –  http://pennyseats.org/box-office/

Seth RudetskyAND, thanks to the Farmington Players and Amy Becker Lauter for including me among Seth Rudetsky’s “students” for their upcoming master class with him on November 2 from noon to 3 pm.

Should be fun! I’m honored to be a part of this. He might kick me out of class – you don’t want to miss that!!  Here’s the event description (tickets available here) …

The Farmington Players Barn (Photo by Don Sexton)

The Farmington Players Barn (Photo by Don Sexton)

You may know Seth Rudetsky from his Sirius/XM Satellite Radio show “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” or his viral “deconstruction” videos on YouTube where he breaks down the elements of classic musical theater songs and singers. Now our local performers and patrons have the opportunity to participate in a Master Class Workshop.

A varied and talented group of local performers have been selected to Sing for Seth – and for you! They will each get personal attention and will receive advice on how to improve their audition and overall performance skills.

Registration is still open to be an audience member for only $25! You will learn from the advice Seth provides to the singers – and get to experience some of the area’s finest performers.

  • Taylor Alfano
  • Tony Battle
  • Rachel Biber
  • Gary Castaneda
  • Joshua Coates
  • Katie Dodd
  • Elizabeth Heffron
  • Joel Hunter
  • Grace Knoche
  • Maryanna Lauter
  • Amy Malaney
  • Marc Meyers
  • Roy Sexton (ME!)
  • Nina White
  • Jason Wilhoite

The event begins with an informative lecture from Seth, continues with each of the Master Class Students’ performances and ends with a Q&A – so come prepared with a question.

This is a once in a life time opportunity so register today!

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Get those Tomfoolery tickets … regardless your state of origin or spelling ability

Thanks to The Columbia City, Indiana Rotary for the Tomfoolery shout out (lower right corner below). Er … translation of what you will discover therein: “Carmen O’Neill’s” in “An Arbor” would be “Conor O’Neill’s” in “ANN Arbor.” :)

(Possible song inspiration for Lehrer … or London?)

Get your tickets, regardless your state of origin or your spelling ability, at http://pennyseats.org/box-office/

#readingisfundamental, #spellcheck, #gottalovehometowns, #cute, #pennyseats, #annarbor, #conoroneills, #michigan, #tomlehrer, #tomfoolery, #rotary

Rotary!

Rotary!

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

“More to do with the delicatessen than the synagogue.” Jewish News covers The Penny Seats production of Tom Lehrer’s Tomfoolery

Wonderful coverage from The Washtenaw Jewish News - read the scan below. And more Tomfoolery news: Conor O’Neill’s has graciously opened up a few more seats for us this week. If you’d hoped to see the show this Thursday, October 9 and were bummed that you missed out on tickets, here’s your chance!

Also, we’re keeping a wait list for the sold-out show on the 16th and hope to open up more seats for that day soon! Plus, our final show October 23 still has availability. Visit www.pennyseats.org/box-office or call (734) 926-5346.

 

Jewish News coverage of Tomfoolery

Jewish News coverage of Tomfoolery

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Great energy, wonderful audience, and many laughs (some intentional, some accidental). Tomfoolery’s sold out opening night!

Silent E

Silent E

Enjoy these photos of Tomfoolery‘s opening night at Conor O’Neill’s in Ann Arbor – taken by my parents Don and Susie Sexton!

And check out this marvelous review at Encore Michigan by Martin F. Kohn! WOW!

[Click here for more photos.]

What an incredible opening (sold out!) night – great energy, wonderful audience, and many laughs (some intentional, some accidental).

Thanks to these sweet folks who made the night extra special by their presence: John Mola, Susie and Don Sexton, Shelley Forsythe and Rob, Nan Bauer and Henry, Kelly Cameron, Roberta London, Marla Rondo, Ashley Plotzke, Jason Ringholz and family, Doreen Hoffman, JP Hitesman, Bridget Bly, and anyone I missed. Such a pleasure sharing the stage with Laura Sagolla, Brent Stansfield, Matt Cameron, and Rebecca Biber, and what a wonderful creative team from director Lauren M. London to composer Zach London to choreographer Victoria Gilbert to tech chief Skippy Hankes.

Conor O'Neill's

Conor O’Neill’s

We’ve got three more shows, and the tickets are going fast. Come see us Penny Seats at Conor O’Neills Ann Arbor the next three Thursdays (October 9, 16, and 23).

Get your tickets at http://pennyseats.org/box-office/ before they’re all gone!

 

 

Wanna Go Back to Dixie

Wanna Go Back to Dixie

In Old Mexico

In Old Mexico

What fun!

What fun!

Celebration!

Celebration!

Wiener Schnitzel Waltz

Wiener Schnitzel Waltz

Volcanoes

Volcanoes

Urine ... vited?

Urine … vited?

The Irish Ballad

The Irish Ballad

The Hunting Song

The Hunting Song

The Elements

The Elements

Old Dope Peddler

Old Dope Peddler

Old and Gray

Old and Gray

Lobachevsky

Lobachevsky

In Old Mexico

In Old Mexico

I Hold Your Hand In Mine

I Hold Your Hand In Mine

Folk Song Army

Folk Song Army

Folk Song Army

Folk Song Army

Fight Fiercely Harvard

Fight Fiercely Harvard

Dinner friends

Dinner friends

Conor O'Neill's loo

Conor O’Neill’s loo

Conor O'Neill's bar

Conor O’Neill’s bar

We did it!

We did it!

Snacks with Lucy

Snacks with Lucy

Home again, home again

Home again, home again

Zzzz ... post-show collapse

Zzzz … post-show collapse

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

“I act because it compels…” The Penny Seats’ upcoming production of Elektra

“…The audience is being given the gift of live theater. Films do not ask from us in their enacting, a film can merrily play out to an empty room, but the very beauty of live theater is the human exchange. Without that sense, it is dead.”

– Emily Miller Mlcak

(Mlcak is a beloved professor from my undergraduate days at Wabash College, and she wrote this in response to “scha·den·freu·de.”)

Elektra cast photo by Dawn Marie Kaczmar

Elektra cast photo by Dawn Marie Kaczmar

These words rang in my ears the other week when I crashed a rehearsal of The Penny Seats’ summer production Elektra (as adapted by Ann Arbor’s own Anne Carson) for a sneak peek of the glorious mayhem that is sure to delight audiences at the West Park Band Shell July 10 – 26.

In the spirit of transparency (oh, how I do hate that overused expression), I am one of the founders of The Penny Seats, and I held featured roles in the company’s first slate of offerings: Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), What Corbin Knew, She Loves Me, and Little Me. However, to reclaim some balance in my personal life, I stepped off the board last year and am just a blissfully unencumbered theatre-goer this summer.

(I think I’d be pretty lousy in Greek tragedy anyway – my cheesy musical comedy shtick would likely grate in the world of Sophocles.)

“The very beauty of live theater is the human exchange.” From what I saw of Elektra’s opening scenes, that quality is evident by the bucket-ful. Portraying the title character, Ypsilanti’s Emily Caffery, who recently appeared onstage at both Performance Network and Two Muses Theatre, captures the visceral heartache of a daughter betrayed as her family unravels before her very eyes.

For those unfamiliar with the tragedy, Elektra details the revenge scheme the title character and her brother Orestes exact upon their mother Clytemnestra and step father Aegisthus, in retribution for father Agamemnon’s murder. The action takes place in Argos, shortly after the Trojan War.

Caffery, a student of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Theater Institute, notes, “This translation is not stuffy. The piece is very recognizably human. It is immediate and real, and I am using the text as much as possible to bring each image to life.” Indeed, her Elektra is violent yet empathetic, adrift yet fierce, inconsolable yet laser-focused … Dorothy Gale by way of Katniss Everdeen.

The yin to Caffery’s theatrical yang is Sonja Marquis as Elektra’s soccer-mommy-from-hell Clytemnestra. Marquis, a resident of Brighton, has worked at Tipping Point, Purple Rose, Encore, Two Muses, and The Ringwald among many other local theatre companies. “Don’t be scared of the Greek mythology. You’ll find lots to enjoy,” Marquis observes. “Clytemnestra is painted as a villain, but I don’t judge her. As an actor, I look for the justification … Elektra’s father killed my child [Iphigenia, sacrificed to the gods before the play begins]. Obviously, Elektra sees it differently, but why wouldn’t Clytemnestra be angry?”

Marquis quickly adds, with a hearty laugh, “But don’t worry … I definitely haven’t identified with my character’s villainy that much!”

Remaining cast members include Samer Ajluni (“Old Man”/“Aegisthus”), Scott Wilding (“Orestes”), DeAnnah Kleitz-Singleton, Sarah Lovy, Katherine Nelson, and Kez Settle. Like Marquis and Caffery, these accomplished thespians have all appeared in venues across Southeast Michigan: Hillberry Theater, Abreact Performance Space, Waterworks, Wild Swan, Planet Ant, JET, and more.

Director Russ Schwartz along with assistant director JP Hitesman are mining the material for contemporary resonance – familial discord, jealousy, anxiety in wartime, sexism, ageism – and are layering in a light amount of cheekiness to keep their audience engaged (and to highlight the darkness that much better). For example, keep your ears open for Ajluni’s marvelously witty take on the expository tale of Orestes’ “death” by chariot race – imagine Ben-Hur as told by an announcer at the Belmont Stakes.

Ajluni, who calls Farmington Hills home, is savvy to the challenges of outdoor theatre. (Elektra will not only be performed outdoors, but the production will take full advantage of all the space surrounding the West Park Band Shell.) “I once did a show in Central Park, and you get a different feel every show. Focus is key,” notes the actor, adding that playing two very different characters “lets you do something far from yourself. … I love when the Old Man gets to be the voice of the audience, telling the characters, ‘Stop giving so many speeches!’”

Lovy, who plays Pylades, a mute boy, chuckles, “I like that they gave me a chance to do drag! Seriously, though, plays like this are important for education. I was introduced at a young age to the classics. That exposure has helped me relate to daily life, family dynamics, and themes. I’m really grateful for that. … I’m the eyes and ears of the show, and I can’t let on what I know or the whole family will blow up”

Settle, one half of the show’s Greek chorus, concurs, “We are there to influence the outcome. We have a job to do … but we are ethereal beings performing a delicate dance between justice and vengeance.”

Nelson, Settle’s fellow chorus member, elaborates, “Ancient Greece is where theatre started, and it continues as a source of great drama with plots as extreme as any summer blockbuster. In our daily lives, we are all so worried about being calm and polite, but a show like this? You can really cut loose.”

With such a fun, fizzy, and damn erudite cast, Schwartz is grateful for this summertime collaboration and echoes his actors’ perspectives. “This show and this cast are so perfect for the space. This is different than anything The Penny Seats have done before, and we wanted to expand our direction a bit.”

Hitesman adds, “This is challenging stuff … very active. The relationships are so intense, like a real family, and working on this reminds you how much the Greek classics have influenced today’s theatre, film, TV.”

Schwartz concludes, “Carson’s adaptation gets to the spirit of what modern audiences will appreciate. It is very immediate and draws you in. If you’ve been away from Greek drama for a while, this show is a great way to reconnect … and if you’ve never seen a Greek tragedy, this is the one for you. Immediate and relatable.”

In the play’s opening scene, Elektra declares, “I act because it compels.” In the context of the play, this proclamation indicates an urgency of movement, but, witnessing this intrepid band of actors exercise their talents, these words take on double meaning. Indeed, they do act because the very doing compels – compels the hearts and minds of both performers and audience. And I, for one, can’t wait to see the finished results!

Elektra opens July 10 and runs through July 26. Shows are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7 pm, and tickets are $10 per person. You can purchase tickets at www.pennyseats.org or by calling (734) 926-5346. Patrons may want to may want to bring blankets or camp chairs to sit on, as the tiered seating around the pavilion does not have back support. The company has partnered with a local caterer to have food on-site, and picnicking (beginning at 5:30 pm performance nights) is encouraged.

[This piece first appeared on BroadwayWorld here – I appreciate their wonderful support!]

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.