Bonstelle Theatre stages brilliant production of August Wilson’s ‘Fences’

By Patty Nolan, reposted from The Examiner. Read the full review here.

Rose Maxson (Will Bryson) and Troy Maxson (Kayla Mundy). Courtesy Bonstelle Theatre

Rose Maxson (Will Bryson) and Troy Maxson (Kayla Mundy). Courtesy Bonstelle Theatre

A fence means something different depending on which side of it one happens to be standing. A fence can be used to define a border – it signals “this is mine, not yours.” A fence can protect what’s inside from those on the outside; conversely, it can imprison people inside who long to get out.

In August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play “Fences,” garbage collector Troy Maxson deals with literal and metaphorical fences as he struggles to make a better life for his family in 1950s-era Chicago. This new Bonstelle production, the latest outstanding effort by Director Lynch R. Travis, is a compelling story about a family struggling with race relations, paternal responsibility and the gap in generational expectations that affect every family dynamic.

As the play opens, Troy (Will Bryson) is bragging to his friend and co-worker, Bono (Danté Jones), about how he officially complained to management because only the white workers get to drive the garbage trucks, while the African American garbage men are required to lift and empty the heavy cans all day long. We sense that this is a common theme with Troy – the expectation that a black man must work twice as hard as the white man and be happy with half the reward. We quickly learn that Troy is an imaginative, proud, physically strong man who carries a deep resentment against his father, against the white-man’s world, and against anyone who challenges his authority.

Troy’s stories of his own exploits are hilariously larger than life – including a wrestling match with Death himself. Troy’s wife Rose (Kalya Mundy) tries to leaven Troy’s big talk with practical words, but it only seems to provoke Troy to tell bigger, more outrageous stories. As we watch him sawing boards for the fence he is building, he reminisces about swatting baseballs over the outfield fence back when he was one of the highest scoring players in the Negro Leagues. Even with his mighty swing, he couldn’t clear the racial barrier that kept African Americans from playing Major League Baseball. And when that fence came down, after WWII, Troy was too old to compete. Now in his early ‘50s, his resentment includes the men of color who now play in the majors – certain that their skills are nothing compared to his own prowess.

Read the full review here.

August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ Opens Next Friday, February 13.

Don’t miss August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning drama, Fences, opening next Friday and playing from February 13 through 22. Tickets are $15 – $20, with student rush tickets available for $10 on the day of the performance. To purchase tickets call 313-577-2960, by visit http://www.bonstelle.com, or stop by the Wayne State University Theatre Box Office located at 4743 Cass Ave. inside the Hilberry Theatre.

Fences New Monitor Ad

‘Fences’ Directed by Lynch Travis at the Bonstelle Theatre

DETROIT – The Bonstelle Theatre is excited to welcome local guest director Lynch Travis as its 2014-15 season continues with Fences, the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play by August Wilson. Playing February 13 – 22, 2015, Fences follows an African American father and his son as each struggle through unfulfilled hopes and shattered dreams in the 1950s. Travis is a Chicago-native who has resided in the Greater Detroit area for the past 28 years. Active in the Detroit theatre community as a director, actor, and coach, Travis’ work has been lauded through awards from the Ann Arbor News, Oakland Press, Detroit Free Press, and the Wilde Awards. Speaking of his engagement to direct, Travis states “It is certainly a privilege to direct August Wilson’s Fences. It is without question one of the best plays written in my lifetime, by a playwright that was able to tell stories from the African American experience that resonates with audiences no matter their background or ethnicity. We look forward to bringing you the story of a family caught in the dynamics of a changing world.”

Family  - RoseTroyCory

Kayla Mundy, Will Bryson, and Donnevan Tolbert in Fences.

Written in 1983, Fences is the sixth play in August Wilson’s ten-part “Pittsburgh Cycle” and explores the evolving African American experience while examining race relations during the 1950s. The story centers around Troy Maxon, a former Negro League baseball star who was excluded from the major leagues during his prime. Now a Pittsburgh garbage man, Troy harbors a lingering bitterness that threatens his relationships with his wife and his son, who wants his own chance to play ball.

Tickets are $15 – $20, with student rush tickets available for $10 on the day of the performance. Tickets are available for purchase by calling 313-577-2960, by visiting http://www.bonstelle.com, or by visiting the Wayne State University Theatre Box Office located at 4743 Cass Ave. on the corner of Hancock St.

The Cast (In Alphabetical Order)
Will Bryson – Highland Park, MI (Troy Maxson), Gerald Palmer – Rochester Hills, MI (Gabriel), Dante Jones – Detroit, MI (Bono), Demetrius Mahone – Detroit, MI (Lyons), Kayla Mundy – Detroit, MI (Rose Maxson), Donnevan Tolbert – Detroit, MI (Cory Maxson)

The Production Team
Lynch Travis (Director), Chista Tausney (Scenic Designer), Melissa Hall (Costume Designer), Patrick Field (Light Designer), April Thompson (Properties Master), Valerie Frawley (Sound Designer), Catelyn Girard (Stage Manager), Brian Dambacher (Technical Director), Amanda Schindler (Publicist), Jason Goldman (Assistant Publicist)

The Bonstelle Theatre
The Bonstelle Theatre is a Broadway-style house with a 1,034-seat auditorium featuring a balcony and much of the original Beaux-Arts architecture. The Theatre was built as Temple Beth-El in 1902 and converted to the Bonstelle Playhouse in 1922.

The Bonstelle Theatre Company includes BA and BFA actors, designers, and stage managers in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University. Here, future stars of theatre, film, and television follow in the footsteps of successful alumni like Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning S. Epatha Merkerson (NBC’s Law and Order, Lackawanna Blues), Lily Tomlin (9 to 5, ABC’s Desperate Housewives), and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, NBC’s Heroes).  For box office hours and information on performances, tickets, group discounts, and corporate packages, please call the box office at 313-577-2960 or visit the theatre’s website at http://www.bonstelle.com.

The Bonstelle Theatre, Where Wayne Plays.
Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to over 26,000 students.

Calendar Information

February 13 – February 22
Fri. 8:00 PM                        Feb. 13, Feb. 20
Sat. 2:00 PM                       Feb. 14, Feb. 21
Sat. 8:00 PM                       Feb. 14, Feb. 21
Sun. 3:00 PM                      Feb. 15, Feb. 22
Wed. 10:00 AM Feb. 18 (School matinee, contact 313-577-0852 for more information)
Thur. 10:00 AM Feb. 19 (School matinee, contact 313-577-0852 for more information)

Happy New Year!

Welcome back and Happy New Year! Lots of food has been had, family and friends were greeted with joy, and fun was had by all, but we’re glad to be back working in the theatre after a refreshing holiday break. We’re back full force this spring with a hit lineup of shows here at the Bonstelle Theatre: Fences, the 86th annual Spring Dance Concert, and Urinetown.

Kicking off the year is the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-Winning show Fences by August Wilson. This production is about an African American father and son and their struggle for hope against the bleak background of unfulfilled dreams set in the American Civil Rights era. Guest director Lynch Travis is directing this particular piece, and guest artist Will Bryson will play the part of Troy. We’re eager to not only work with our guests, but also to share this piece of history with the greater Detroit area.

IMG_8474

A promotional photo shoot for Fences.

We recently worked with the Communication Department at Wayne State for a promotional photo shoot for Fences. It’s amazing the number of people needed for a successful shoot, but it’s a lot of fun.

IMG_8489

Fences stars guest artist Will Bryson (center) as Troy, Kayla Mundy, and Donnevan Tolbert.

If you’d like to join us in Fences, don’t hesitate to call our box office, open Tuesday through Saturday, 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm, to order your tickets by calling 313-577-2960, or reserve your tickets online by visiting Bonstelle.com. We can’t wait to see you at the theatre!

An Interview with Student Choreographer Christina Chammas

10 Christina ChammasThe Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance December Dance Concert features select student choreography.  Many students submit their pieces for consideration, but only a few are included in the concert.  We sat down with Christina Chammas, one of the selected student choreographers, to find out more about her and her work.

Tell us about your December Dance Concert piece?

My dance has 6 dancers. It is something that I have been thinking about doing for a long time. It was inspired by a poem that I really love by Andrea Gibson, “Birthday for Jenn.” The second movement of my piece is performed to the actual poem.  The main inspiration for my piece came from the themes from the poem along with things from my personal life that I could tie in.

Was there a specific line from the poem that inspired you?

There are a lot of different moments in the poem that really stick out.  There’s one particular line that is probably the most notable:  “We were all born on days when too many people died in terrible ways, but you still have to call it a birthday.” That line really hit me; it relates us to the world as a whole. That was an important concept that I hung onto while I was working on this.

How long have you been a dancer?

My mom started me in classes when I was four.  I went to ballet class once a week but it wasn’t anything serious. When I was in 8th grade, my mother found an article in the newspaper for a performing arts school that was near my house. I was dancing every day at the new school, and I loved it. That is when I started training seriously and took it more as something I may want to do for the rest of my life.

Have you choreographed before?

Last year, I choreographed a trio that was in the Spring Dance Concert at the Bonstelle Theatre.  That was the first full length piece I choreographed at Wayne State.  Two years before that, in my senior year of high school, we had to choreograph our own dance as part of our senior dance capstone.  That was the first full piece I ever created.

What styles of dance are most interesting to you?

Right now, I’m interested in modern and contemporary dance.  I was trained in ballet and classical modern techniques such as Horton and Limón.  When I came to Wayne State, I started working with contemporary styles, and I’ve molded the two together to create my own.

What do you find most rewarding about being a choreographer?

Seeing the final product, having the support from other people and hearing that they actually liked and appreciated what I created. That’s the most rewarding part.

Why did you choose Wayne State University to study dance?

My dance teacher in high school had been a teacher at Wayne State and is a WSU alumnus.  He took us to WSU dance concerts and invited us to sit in on his classes.  Through this, I had already formed a bond with Wayne State before I was even thinking about going to college.  I knew what the college had to offer and I was already comfortable with the style of dance I was doing.  When I came to Wayne State, the transition wasn’t a hard one.

How do you like WSU dance?

I love it and I’m so happy that I made the decision to come hereI feel like it’s the right amount of opportunities given to the student to choreograph and perform, but it’s also very challenging at the same time. When I started out I was confident in my dancing, but I quickly learned that I had so much more to learn. Once my mind was exposed to all of these new things, my dancing started improving and I was still being challenged in class.

Do you think WSU has prepared you for the future?

Yes, I do think so.  Especially being in dance workshop because it’s student managed.  We do our own fundraising, we have committee chairs within the company for which I’m the Secretary. We have specific jobs and responsibilities. We have to manage our budget and we’re planning a trip to go to New York to give a performance.

What advice would you give someone looking to become a dancer?

Just trust yourself.  If you feel this is the thing you should be doing, it probably is.  Just go with your gut feeling.

Performances are at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Avenue, in midtown Detroit on Friday, December 5th at 7:30pm and Sunday, December 7th at 2:00pm. Tickets range from $10-$20 and are available by calling (313) 577-2960, online at Bonstelle.com, or at the Wayne State University Theatre Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street.

An Interview with Student Choreographer Sam Horning

08 Sam DancingThe Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance December Dance Concert features select student choreography.  Many students submit their pieces for consideration, but only a few are included in the concert.  The Bonstelle Theatre sat down with Samuel Horning, one of the selected student choreographers, to find out more about him and his work.

Tell us about your December Dance Concert piece?

It’s about how you build a family.  What is the foundation of a family or anything?  It’s about the relationships that we have with each other.

 How did you come to decide on this theme?

When I came in, I had a basic idea that I wanted to use somewhere between 6 to 8 dancers and a table as a prop. I was going to create a dance that I felt would provide some sort of harmony between the dancers.  That’s something I’ve been very interested in, finding harmony, and not just a one level relationship on stage. I wanted something that went deeper than just the skin.

At the beginning I was working with a lot of choreographic tools and developing work, but I had no trajectory toward how I felt the piece was going to end. Then the dancers and I had a discussion about the subject of the dance.  What is it about?   What is it that I’m making? It really took off from there.

We did this amazing exercise where I left the room and my dancers choreographed what I already made. They played with it and mixed it up a bit.  They made this whole new thing and from there I knew what my dance was about.  I knew what it wanted to be.

How long have you been a dancer?

I have been a dancer for 5 years, three of which have been at Wayne State.

How did you get into dance?

I was in a humanities course in high school in which we had a specific focus group on dance. The people in my class had to investigate dance from the 1920s. It just sort of sparked interest for me. I was going to be a plastic surgeon and then the next day I was going to be a dancer.

Are there specific styles of dance you prefer?

I would definitely consider myself more of a ballet, contemporary, and modern dancer. I also like a lot of experimental dance.

What do you find most rewarding about being a choreographer?

Just looking at my dance when it’s finished and saying “I did that.”  Or, in this case where I worked so collaboratively with my dancers, “I facilitated that.”  I created that rapport between my dancers. I was able to bring them to this level. It’s the same thing when I teach dance, you see a student and something clicked with them,  or you did an exercise and they get something out of it.  It’s very rewarding.

Why did you choose dance at Wayne State University?

When I applied to universities, I needed a place with dance and pre-med programs. So it pretty much narrowed down to the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.  I was accepted at both UofM and Wayne State.

I had known some people who were in the Wayne State program that I looked up to and was beyond impressed. After I looked up the work that was occurring at Wayne State, I knew I needed that. Alumni of Wayne State I looked up to were dancing in New York and had made a future for themselves. I wanted that.

Do you feel WSU has prepared you for the future?

I would say yes, Wayne State has definitely prepared me for the future.  It’s been very rigorous for me in the best way.  I’ve been so totally immersed in everything that there’s no way not to be prepared for the future.  I noticed that when I leave and do activities outside of Wayne State I am very much more prepared than other students from other universities and programs which is a boost of confidence and is reassuring.

Any final thoughts?

In general, my time at Wayne State has been very eye-opening. I’ve dramatically changed both as a person and as an artist since I’ve been here.  It’s also very curious to see my fellow students that have grown with me since you work so closely with the people you are in the department with, and it’s so amazing to see the transformation of my fellow peers so that’s been incredible.

Performances are at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Avenue, in midtown Detroit on Friday December 5th at 7:30pm and Sunday December 7th at 2:00pm. Tickets range from $10-$20 and are available by calling (313) 577-2960, online at Bonstelle.com, or at the Wayne State University Theatre Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street.

Award-winning choreographer Doug Varone featured in WSU’s December Dance Concert

Work by nationally renowned dancer and choreographer Doug Varone, WSU’s 2014-15 Allesee Artist in Residence, graces the Bonstelle stage during the December Dance Concert. Tickets range from $10-$20 and are available by calling (313) 577-2960, online at Bonstelle.com, or at the Hilberry Theatre box office, temporarily located at 4841 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street on the 3rd floor of Old Main.

06 Doug Varone

Award-winning choreographer and director Doug Varone works in dance, theater, opera, film, television and fashion. He is a passionate educator and articulate advocate for dance. His work is extraordinary for its emotional range, kinetic breadth, and for the many arenas in which he works. His New York City-based Doug Varone and Dancers has been commissioned and presented to critical acclaim by leading international venues for nearly three decades. In 2008, Varone’s Bottomland, set in the Mammoth Caves of Kentucky, was the subject of the PBS Dance in America: Wolf Traps Face of America. Varone has created a body of concert dance works presented globally. Commissions include the Limón Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Rambert Dance Company (London), Martha Graham Dance Company, Dancemakers (Canada), Batsheva Dance Company (Israel), Bern Ballet (Switzerland) and An Creative (Japan), among others. His dances have also been staged on more than 75 college and university programs. Varone received his BFA from Purchase College where he received the President’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007. He has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship, an OBIE Award, two individual Bessie Awards, two American Dance Festival Doris Duke Awards, and four National Dance Project Awards.