So … THIS is happening. 10/28 – 11/7. I should be ready to leave my basement by then. 😉 🎶 Thank you, Diane Hill, Ryan MacKenzie Lewis, and Theatre Nova, for your kindness, including me in this fabulous upcoming event!
A fundraiser for Theatre NOVA and presented in concert, Sing Happy! is a celebration of the work of Broadway’s famous duo, Kander and Ebb. An ensemble of singers will take the stage with showstoppers from “Cabaret,” “Chicago,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and many others while weaving a tale of strength and determination.
Directed by Diane Hill. Music Direction by R. MacKenzie Lewis. Featuring Jason Briggs, John DeMerell, Kalyse Edmondson, Diane Hill, Elizabeth Jaffe Smoot, Sarah Stevens, Connor Thomas Rhoades, Carrie Jay Sayer, and Roy Sexton (that’s me! 🤩).
Spoiler alert: my solos are “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago and “A Quiet Thing” from Flora the Red Menace.
LIMITED ENGAGEMENT October 28 – November 7, 2021 Single tickets: $30
Had a great time popping in briefly to celebrate one year of this great show Beyond the Ghost Lightfrom The Ibis and hosted by the divine Luna Alexander, Victoria Rose Weatherspoon, and Nick Rowley. I mused about what The Black Hole and American Psycho The Musical reboots could look like in 2021. I appear around the 22 minute mark.
Show description: “This Sunday join the Creative Coven and returning guest, the ever delightful Michelle Kisner, as we discuss reboots, remakes and reimaginings and celebrate a whole year of Beyond The Ghost Light.”
On today’s episode, we chat with the divine Roy Schwartz about his book Is Superman Circumcised?from McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers and the Jewish context for comic book icon Superman. Schwartz is an accomplished legal marketing professional, and he details how his appreciation of storytelling, graphics, character, and effective narrative have enabled him to help lawyers discover their business development super powers.
We *may* also talk (a lot) about comic books.
Rob Kates and I also chat with my mom Susie Sexton about fleas, the Olympics, and the joys of marriage. Other topics addressed in today’s show, in no particular order: Britney Spears, Bill Cosby, Jack Kirby, Stephen Colbert, cosplay, pool toys, Richard Donner, Christopher Reeve, Superman and Lois, writing, Halloween costumes, Schneider, and heaven knows what else.
Shout outs include Richard Pinto, Scott Neitlich, Merry Neitlich, Andrew Laver, Jessica Aries (happy birthday!), Kimberly Schwartz, and more!
I have to say I am pretty damn proud of today’s show. Thank you, Terry Isner and Greg Griffin, for suggesting this and helping map out the approach and, Rob Kates, for being utterly amazing. In addition to Terry, we had gracious, candid, funny, loving guests in Keith Wewe and Amber Bollman. And my brilliant ma Susie Sexton is now EVERYONE’s ma. I’m so proud of her.
And our engaged and supportive commenters and friends Deborah McMurray, Heather Morse-Geller, Vivian Gorin Hood, Marcia Delgadillo, Tahisha Fugate, William Fitzgerald who kept the party going and helped us feel confident and loved every minute.
Yes, we laughed and shared deep truths. And there was singing. From I Will Survive to MacArthur Park, Don’t Leave Me This Way to Part of Your World. But, and I will only speak for myself, I suspect there will always be a part of any #LGBTQ+ professional worried about reception and approval and support. I know it felt very special to feel all of those things today. One hundred fold. #pride #loveislove #family 🌈
Our friend and fellow LMCT host Tahisha Fugate wrote, “Today’s episode of Legal Marketing Coffee Talk was one for the books. Do yourself a favor and catch the replay. The stories, the transparency, and of course the entertainment were phenomenal! You’ll also want to add a few songs to your playlist. … A special thanks to our wonderful host Roy Sexton and guests Keith Wewe , Amber Bollman, Terry M Isner and Roy’s mom (my favorite social mom).”
Terry wrote: “This was a big first for me, I am very comfortable being me, but never really discussed being me publicly like that, lol. … I love that the conversation has started and that our small community of legal marketing brothers and sisters are all in to create a community of acceptance and inclusion. … PRIDE is about everyone being proud to be themselves. 🐝 U but remember to 🐝Kind to everyone along the way.”
The pandemic pushed my theatre friends to increasingly innovative avenues of creative expression. My pal Kyle Kimlick – we were in Farmington Players’ Legally Blonde the Musicaltogether nearly ten (!) years ago – started an arts collective Four Horsemenwith a few of his buddies. Kyle’s day job is helping manage automotive marketing events, but somehow he and his cohorts found time to film a 60-minute thriller last year. And a pretty damn good one.
I made the mistake of watching Life the other night right before bed. Don’t do that. I’ve had creepy dreams since. That’s how effective the piece is. From their website:
Nothing is as it seems as a sinister force puts strain on the relationship between two best friends, bringing out the best and worst in both of them and revealing the true nature of their relationship.
The project that started it all! We came together on a whim and made this movie during the beginning of lockdown. We’re extremely proud of it. If you can look past the amateur quality of the camera and sound at times, we think you’ll really enjoy what we put together.
P.S. watch it a second time for an entirely different experience….
Kyle plays one of said best friends, and his real life BFF Eli Ansara portrays the other. They are named “Kyle” and “Eli” in the film respectively (natch). AND they directed and wrote Life, also respectively.
Like any good horror – think Stephen King, Twilight Zone, Hitchcock – the premise of Life is allegorical but based in a real-life dynamic. I suspect Kimlick’s and Ansara’s shared bachelor life is not dissimilarly grubby and devil-may-care as what is depicted in the film.
That said, capturing such a dynamic on film – notably guerrilla style – isn’t easy. Life succeeds at plumbing the natural love these two clearly feel for each other and, indicative of their generation’s sensibilities, doesn’t shy away from any homoerotic subtext in their otherwise heteronormative frat boy antics. That is refreshing.
I don’t want to spoil the twists but there is, yes, a supernatural component. Think Groundhog Day as channeled by George Romero or Sam Raimi. Morgan Gagnon has a nicely spidery turn as the potential mystical catalyst for the boys’ troubles.
But don’t be mistaken. The problems Kyle and Eli incur are uniquely their own. That is likely what I appreciated the most. The film both celebrates and skewers the man-boy impulses of their age group, noting that toxic masculinity begins at home, between obsessive online gaming and rec room bar aspirations.
The film is shot and edited in a compelling, grungy, skittering fashion. Blair Witch-esque but with a bit more élan. If I were to offer a critique or recommendation, it would be to trim a few minutes, primarily from scenes of the boys’ party antics. Those sequences do set up context for how primal their living situation has become, but ultimately they pull focus from the unraveling mystery of Kyle awaking every morning in the nearby woods.
The film is currently free to view on the Four Horsemen’s website and is well worth checking out. This arts collective is one to watch as they also promise offerings in poetry, DJ sets, design, and more. Pandemic has been good in some strange and surprising ways.
This week’s Legal Marketing Coffee Talk guest is Gregory Griffin, who recently joined Jaffe PR as Senior Vice President, Client Service. Roy Sexton and Greg will discuss keeping conversation strategic when coaching attorneys on business development opportunities and how this pandemic has turbo-charged those efforts, and Greg’s exciting, new role at Jaffe to share his insights as a legal industry consultant.
Greg will also share his fitness journey as a half-marathoner and how his cerebral palsy has given him a drive to succeed and an empathy that fuels his extensive community volunteering. Recently listed by the Houston Business Journal as one of its ‘40 Under 40,’ Greg consistently gives back to his community, profession and others.
History shows that, when the majority in rule starts to feel that they are losing their cultural hegemony, they get ugly and they go on the attack, no matter what lip service they provide to the contrary. Even in some of my volunteer board service recently, I have seen it from others in ways that truly have shocked me.
My mother and I were having this conversation yesterday. The wonderful thing in this moment is that those who have been forced to live in the margins now have access to so many megaphones – digital and otherwise – by which to tell their stories and hopefully cement positive, permanent change.
One such example is Theatre NOVA’s latest “Play of the Month”: The W.I.T.C.H, a firecracker of a show, written and performed by incisive, chameleonic Morgan Breon and ably directed by Diane Hill with a keen eye toward economy of space, dance-like movement, and the rich language of the text itself. (THE W.I.T.C.H. stands for Wound Intervention Through Care and Healing.)
From the press release: “Theatre NOVA, Ann Arbor’s professional theatre with an exclusive focus on new plays and playwrights, presents a new play written specifically for the Zoom format each month (January through April) with their PLAY OF THE MONTH series. ‘THE W.I.T.C.H’ by Morgan Breon, the fourth offering in the series, will be performed live on Zoom on Wednesday, April 28 at 8pm and available ON DEMAND for Series Pass holders through the end of May 2021.
“‘THE W.I.T.C.H.’ shows the joys, pains, and struggles of Ms. Morgan, a newly hired Behavior Specialist at a Detroit public high school. When hope begins to crack open her students’ hearts and minds, Ms. Morgan’s office might just be the most dangerous room in the entire school. Directed by Theatre NOVA Producing Artistic Director, Diane Hill. Featuring Morgan Breon in a tour de force role as she portrays an array of characters in the public school setting including a behavior specialist, students, teachers and administrators.”
And that press release isn’t just hype. It is one of the most accurate descriptions I have seen in a press release about a piece of work in a long time. Morgan Breon in style and delivery is like this wondrous combination of Anna Deavere Smith and Zoe Caldwell. She is alchemic and transfixing. A one person show is never easy, let alone holding the audience’s rapt attention via Zoom for 30 minutes.
Like quicksilver, she depicts a host of characters – from teachers to multiple teenagers to school administrators – gracefully, sharply, rapidly morphing from one to the next, each clearly drawn and distinct. It is a remarkable performance, made that much more significant in service as it is to a message of inclusion and of the necessity for all of us to break down the fears that hold us back from authentic connection.
Note: the performance was followed by a talk-back about the play and the desensitization to trauma amongst youth experiences in and out of school. Interested attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and join the discussion.
Tickets are $10 each month, or $30 for a Series Pass, which includes admission to four plays for the price of three and the opportunity to view all four plays ON DEMAND if any of the live performances are missed. Purchase tickets online at www.TheatreNova.org. All proceeds benefit Theatre NOVA’s ongoing efforts to stay alive through the pandemic. This activity is supported in part by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Morgan Breon (playwright/performer) earned four degrees from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor—none of which are in theatre. She holds an: LLMSW, EdMA, BA Psychology and BA English. She kick-started her theatre career playing 15 of the 16 characters featured in Nilaja Sun’s, “NO CHILD” at Matrix Theatre Company. Morgan is an ensemble member of Shakespeare in Detroit and is an alumnus of Mosaic Youth Theater in Detroit, University of Michigan’s CRLT Players, and the University of Michigan Educational Theatre Company and has received awards for her plays “WAKING UP ALIVE” and “PORTRAIT OF A WISE WOMAN.” Morgan was a 2017 Mitten Lab Fellow, 2017-2018 University Musical Society (UMS) Artist in Residence, 2018 Playwriting Scholarship Recipient with PlayPenn Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, and a 2018 Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellow. Her docu-play “TELLING OUR STORIES” platforms the narratives of Black women in America, and a technology-infused version of the project was showcased at the 2018 TEDxDetroit Lab in collaboration with Metropolitan Museum of Design Detroit. The exhibit told stories through QR codes, and was entitled “smART: Telling Our Stories | Black Women in America.” In December, 2020, Morgan published “A Refugee of Me: A Collection of Poems and A Refugee of Me: The Workbook,” which uses poetry to guide readers into self-reflection and healing. Morgan credits Jesus Christ for her gifts of anything creative.
Diane Hill (Director) is a Producing Artistic Director at Theatre NOVA and was founder and Artistic/Executive Director of Two Muses Theatre, another nonprofit, professional theatre in West Bloomfield. There she performed in and directed many plays and musicals each year and did the work of technical director, publicist, sound designer, webmaster, and graphic designer for every production. Diane was a professor at University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland Community College, where she originated and designed the Theatre degree program. She has a Ph.D. in Theatre from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts in Theatre from the University of Michigan. She previously taught high school drama and music, where she produced and directed theatrical productions in the public school system (Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor) for 20 years. Diane has additionally produced and directed shows for professional theatre companies including Breathe Art Theatre Company in Detroit, Opus Mime in Ann Arbor, Jewish Ensemble Theatre in West Bloomfield, Tipping Point Theatre in Northville, and Heartlande Theatre Company in Detroit. Diane is an award-winning actor and member of Actors’ Equity Association and the American Guild of Musical Artists and has performed at many professional theatres in southeast Michigan, including the Fisher Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, Masonic Temple, Michigan Opera Theatre, Detroit’s Gem Theatre, Purple Rose Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Encore Musical Theatre, Croswell Opera House, Open Book Theatre, The Ringwald Theatre and Cherry County Playhouse. She was awarded a Wilde Award for her portrayal of Professor Vivian Bearing in “WIT,” a Rogue Critic’s Award for her work as Mama in “‘NIGHT MOTHER,” both with Breathe Art Theatre Project, and an Ann Arbor News Award for her work as Agnes in “I DO! I DO!” at Kerrytown Concert House. Diane also has performed leading roles in several independent films, television and radio commercials, and industrial films. At Theatre NOVA, she directed “CLUTTER,” “FOLLIES IN CONCERT” and “KILL MOVE PARADISE” (Council Cargle Award for Excellence in Diverse Storytelling) and has kept very busy this year producing, directing and stage managing several Zoom plays written especially for Theatre NOVA. Theatre NOVA audiences saw her play Olympe de Gouges in “THE REVOLUTIONISTS” (Wilde Award Best Production), Zelda in “THE HOW AND THE WHY” (Wilde Award Best Actress), Penelope Easter in “THE TOTALITARIANS,” Sherri in “ADMISSIONS” and Phyllis in “FOLLIES IN CONCERT.”
For kids of all ages – the #PiedPiper – with yours truly reading the title role. Thank you, Debbie DeCeco Lannen and Pass The Time Players, for having me. NOTE: no (virtual) rats were harmed in the making of this #Zoom event. You’re welcome. 😊 🐀 🎶
The Pied Piper of Hamelin Narrator: Debbie Lannen / Orlando, FL Merchant: Sally Daykin / DeLand, FL Erich – Kyle Coykendall / Wixom, MI Advisor: Tomothy Majzlik / Westland, MI Mayor: Joe Lannen / Orlando, FL Pied Piper: Roy Sexton / Saline, MI
Only I would take this beautiful day, and spend most of it indoors, working my way through the very long Zack Snyder’s Justice League. But it was worth it. Even if every 30 minutes John wandered through and said “Is this still on?”
I can barely remember the theatrical version, which is likely for the best. What I found in this updated version is that Snyder had room to explore ideas and relationships. And that made all the difference. I am not a fan of his work. By any stretch. But, perhaps because of what he has lived through the past few years, this film had something many of his previous efforts did not: heart.
My mom Susie Sexton’s take on Carey Mulligan’s Promising Young Woman:
GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY…already loved this actress … discovered her on PBS in a Dickens entry years ago. Outstanding!
This movie upends with its surreal treatment of a very real truth bedeviling this globe since the appearance of manKIND walking on its own evolved two feet – astounding, disturbing and so true and sad that it hurts, haunts and breaks any heart that is the least bit human.
The barbie doll sets and clothes simply enhance the deep damage done to humanity as we have all looked the other way and endured unnecessary heartache. Give it a look, enjoy!
No nudity, and only one supposed murder. An oddly wholesome at times comedic treatment of a tragic problem. Bravo!
Threw this viewer for a loop (which most all of us have existed within for all of eternity). Truth on film if there ever ever was. Whew?
If classic playwright Dario Fo wrote for Saturday Night Live in these technologically insular COVID days, I suspect he would have come up with something like Ron Riekki’s 4 Genres. That is a compliment BTW.
From Theatre NOVA’s press release: “Theatre NOVA, Ann Arbor’s professional theatre with an exclusive focus on new plays and playwrights, presents a new play written specifically for the Zoom format each month (January through April) with their PLAY OF THE MONTH series. 4 Genres by Ron Riekki, the second offering in the series, will be performed live on Zoom on Wednesday, February 24th at 8pm and available ON DEMAND for Series Pass holders through May.
“In 4 Genres, four characters reveal what they’ve learned after being trapped within four respective film/theatre genres (musical theatre, documentary, slapstick, and horror). A hilarious comedy exploring the role of art in life and society, 4 Genres is directed by Theatre NOVA Founding Artistic Director, Carla Milarch and features Jennifer Felts (An Almost British Christmas), Nate John-Mark (A Hero of Our Time, 2020), Dan Johnson (Kill, Move, Paradise) and David Moan (I’m Streaming of an Alright Christmas).”
The show uses its “high concept” as a lens to address (lightly) the existential dread we have all been experiencing for one year now under COVID – this week being the anniversary of first going into lockdown, if I recall correctly. My mind feels as rattled as those of the characters in this piece.
4 Genres moves briskly. More than a few technological mishaps (I’m assuming unintentional) – dropped sound, internet wobbles – aid and abet the viewing experience. We ain’t looking for polish in quarantine.
The four performers are marvels of commitment. John-Mark has the showiest role, and he doesn’t miss a trick. He mines comedy gold from the anxiety of being trapped in a “summer camp/asylum/orphanage” populated by werewolves, witches, chainsaw killers, but NO orphans. The richest laughs come from his exasperated delivery of quips aplenty.
Moan has a ball leveraging his musical comedy chops. Ironically, singing seems to cause his character physical pain, even as his dulcet tones delight the viewer. Spoiler alert: you may never hear “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen the same way again. And Moan’s “Rose’s Turn”-style nervous breakdown medley at the play’s conclusion is pretty damn brilliant. For that moment alone, this is one of the few Zoom shows I wouldn’t mind seeing staged IRL when and if this quarantine ever ends.
Felts and Johnson do reliably fine work in their respective roles. If Riekki were to make any revisions to the script, I might recommend taking another pass at these characters. These two roles don’t benefit from the same comically sharp definition as the others, so the piece suffers a slight imbalance. Again, that isn’t a result of Felts’ and Johnson’s performances. They both go all in, but they don’t have as rich of material to explore.
Director Carla Milarch knows how to position new works effectively. She has a marketer’s eye for pulling out a unique hook that will engage the audience. She leverages the immediacy of Zoom with its inherent isolating limitations – literally everyone is in a box – to provide a proper framework for the narrative. However, she also gives her actors *some* free reign, pulling the camera back a bit so that they each exist in three dimensional space, be it a charnel house, B&W soundstage, or velvet curtained cabaret. This offers the actors refreshing opportunity for physical business, in addition to the more typical “lines delivered directly at the camera” that we see so frequently in the ever-evolving pandemic-remote staging style.
I must admit that one of the things I find most appealing about this Zoom-based delivery mechanism for theater is that I can watch it on a Sunday afternoon, a week and a half after the premiere, knowing that my review can still benefit the overall experience, not only of this production but of the series. Will we ever go back to showing up collectively at one start time on one date and committing an evening to viewing theater? I hope so, but I don’t hate that this show is only 30 minutes and I could enjoy it while wearing my pajamas.
The show is a helluva lot of fun, as witty as it is thought-provoking, and serves as a nifty little showcase for four very talented local performers. Definitely check it out. If nothing else, it provides a lovely waiting room distraction as we all still figure out how in the heck to get vaccinated.
Tickets are $10 each month, or $30 for a Series Pass, which includes admission to four plays for the price of three and the opportunity to view all four plays ON DEMAND if any of the live performances are missed. Purchase tickets online at www.TheatreNova.org. For more information, pleaseemail firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds benefit Theatre NOVA’s ongoing efforts to stay alive through the pandemic. This activity is supported in part by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
MEET THE CAST OF 4 GENRES:
Nate John-Mark (Horror) is originally from Grand Rapids, MI. He attended Western Michigan University where he pursued a degree in Organizational Communication. Nate has always had a passion for performance and poetry which he satiated by hosting events on campus to create platforms for artists like himself to be heard and seen. After undergrad Nate began an Audience Development Assistantship at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where he was later introduced to performing Shakespeare with the OSF school tour. He has since joined Universes Theatre Ensemble, performed in Shakespeare tours around the country and is now living as an actor and playwright in Detroit, MI.
Dan Johnson (Doc) returns to Theatre NOVA after previously appearing in James Ijames’ KILL MOVE PARADISE (Winner, 2019 Council Cargle Wilde Award) and has been fortunate enough to work in SE Michigan theatre for the past decade, including recently winning 2020 Wilde Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Play (MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY) and in a Musical (MAN OF LA MANCHA). Along with his partner, Ashley M. Lyle (blaqn.org), Dan has also co-created “Toward An Anti-Racist Michigan Theatre,” a statement and workshop meant to help facilitate the work of positive, transformative change in 2021 and beyond. Many thanks to the cast and crew, to Mom, Dad and Angela for their love and support and (now more than ever) THANK YOU for supporting live Michigan theatre and theatre artists. Enjoy!
David Moan (Musical) is honored to be back on the virtual NOVA stage as part of 4 GENRES. Originally from Pittsburgh, David was most recently seen as the Big Man in Red in the 2020 panto, I’M STREAMING OF AN ALRIGHT CHRISTMAS at Theatre NOVA. In the before times, David could be seen on real stages throughout southeast Michigan most notably as John Wilkes Booth in ASSASSINS and SWEENEY TODD at the Encore, God in AN ACT OF GOD at the Dio, and Martin in CANDIDE with the Michigan Opera Theater. Until Theatre is back in full, you can find David “performing” while playing video games at twitch.tv/davidmmoan. David would like to thank “everyone at Theatre NOVA for finding a way to make theatre happen, Monica and Kim for keeping me sane in quarantine and all of you for supporting the arts in the time we need you most.”
Jennifer Felts (Slapstick) is currently a lecturer of Theatre at Eastern Michigan University and received her Master of Fine Arts from The London International School of Performing Arts. She directed TROJAN WOMEN and THE BIRTHDAY PARTY at Eastern Michigan University and VENUS IN FUR at the Performance Network Theatre. She has created movement, choreography and stage combat for many productions including SPRING AWAKENING, ONE MAN, TWO GUV’NORS, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, URINETOWN, JULIUS CAESAR, ANGELS IN AMERICA, DEAD MAN’S CELL PHONE, BUD, NOT BUDDY and EQUUS (Wilde award for Best Movement Direction). As a performer, she has worked at the London Gate Theatre in the UK, Tipping Point, Andiamo Theatre, Theatre NOVA, and Performance Network. She also enjoys devising and collaborating on new work such as SIMONE: AN EVENING IN CHAPTER TITLES at Detroit’s Planet Ant Theatre or SHOULDER TO THE WHEEL at the Riverside Arts Center.
My notes on a wildly uneven show, that ultimately found its footing after a literal amateur hour opening …
Let’s hope next year, we see some return to normalcy, whatever that once was. And we won’t have to play whack-a-mole trying to figure out where and how to watch the various movies and shows being honored.
“at least borat won the night! i call that justice! otherwise, i kept forgetting what exactly i was watching or why….and maya rudolph did remind me of past mavens of the entertainment industry whom i would list here but i ain’t gonna! tina and amy got pretty feisty, did they not? in that opener? i guffawed in spite of myself as i feel feisty as well…they captured the essence of this nonsensically bizarro world.”