Three Exciting New Plays Featured in WSU’s Heck-Rabi Festival

The 2015 Louise Heck-Rabi Dramatic Writing Festival will take place February 26–28 at 8 p.m. and March 1 at 2 p.m. at the Studio Theatre, located underground at the Hilberry Theatre at the corner of Cass and Hancock on WSU’s campus. This year’s festival features new works from three promising playwrights who are best known as members of the acclaimed Hilberry acting ensemble.

The Louise Heck-Rabi Dramatic Writing Competition and Festival are both named for Louise Heck-Rabi who was a dedicated writer and member of the Detroit literary scene. She created the playwriting scholarship in hopes that young Detroit writers would carry on her passion. The Heck-Rabi Festival is a unique opportunity for emerging playwrights to have their work staged. The Festival is administered by the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance and the English Department and features winning finalists from the Writing Competition. This year’s winning plays were selected from six finalists, which were all presented as dramatic readings in the fall. Winning playwrights receive a scholarship and the opportunity to work with undergraduate directors, designers, and actors to realize their visions onstage at the Studio.

For tickets, call 313-577-2972, visit wsushows.com, or stop by the WSU box office located at the Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass Avenue, Detroit, at the corner of Cass and Hancock.

Dark Monday by Bevin Bell Hall (Nevada City, CA)
Directed by Kendall Talbot (Warren)
This dark comedy pays homage to the art of acting and many of its previous forms.

Featuring: Maggie Beson (Riverview); Ibrahim Karim (Baghdad, Iraq); Kate Martinez (Flat Rock); Graham Todd (Shelby Township)
Stage Manager: Shannon Hurst (Warren)

Good Girls by Sarah Hawkins Moan (North Manchester, IN)
Directed by Taylor Morrow (Warren)
Midlife crises are hard. Especially for a twenty-something whose mom is the one in crisis mode.

Featuring: Hanna Butcher (Taylor); Michaella Mallet (Byron); Donnevan Tolbert (Detroit); Danielle Wright (Lathrup Village)
Stage Manager: Madeline Schnorr (Marshall)

Wallpaper by Brandy Joe Plambeck (Ferndale, MI)
Directed by Carl Bentley (Flat Rock)
Based on the famous short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, a teenaged boy struggles to find his place in his changing family structure.

Featuring: Christianno DeRushia (Jackson); Malcom Harris (Chicago, IL), Clearie McCarthy (Lansing); Graham Todd (Shelby Township)
Stage Manager: Delaney O’Brien (Brighton)

Production team: Scenic Designer, Jon Pigott (Wyandotte); Costume Designers, Alyssa Gawel (Sterling Heights) and Anthony Toney (Sterling Heights); Lighting Designer, John Schmidt (Farmington Hills), Sound Designer, Valerie Frawley (Warren); Producer, Dan Finn (Armada); Production Stage Manager, Allison Baker (Bellefountaine, OH); Publicist, Kevin Replinger (Centennial, CO)

About the Studio Theatre

The Studio Theatre is an intimate, 110-seat, open-stage theatre in the lower level of the Hilberry Theatre on Wayne State University’s campus. it is often used for experimental, student, and classroom productions. Annual programming includes the Student Stage and the Louise Heck-Rabi Dramatic Writing Competition. For nearly fifty years the Studio Theatre has presented great theatre featuring WSU undergraduate students. With generous support from patrons and donors, the Studio Theatre underwent renovation in 2010. For box office hours and information on performances, tickets, and group discounts, please call the box office at (313) 577-2972 or visit the theatre’s website at www.wsustudio.com

About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic–programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students.

Calendar Information

February 26–28 at 8:00 PM
March 1 at 2:00 PM

REVIEW: Monstrous Mammals! “Bat Boy: The Musical” at the Bonstelle

Reviewd by Sue Suchyta

Click HERE to read the review on Sue’s blog.

View production photos!

Nicholas Yocum  (center, kneeling) as the Bat Boy and Bridgette Jordan (standing , center) as the Reverend  attend a revival meeting with the townfolk. (Photo by Kevin Replinger)

Nicholas Yocum (center, kneeling) as the Bat Boy and Bridgette Jordan (standing , center) as the Reverend attend a revival meeting with the townfolk. (Photo by Kevin Replinger)

The rock ‘n’ roll show “Bat Boy: The Musical” flies out of its cave and into the Bonstelle to close out the Wayne State University undergraduate theatre’s 2012 – 2013 season.

The musical, first performed on Halloween in 1997, drew inspiration from a 1992 fictional account of a Bat Boy chronicled in the tabloid “Weekly World News.”

“Bat Boy” opened April 12 and runs for two weekends, with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. The theatre is on Woodward Avenue at Elliot in Detroit.

Tickets are $20 to $25 and are available by phone or online. For more information, call (313) 577-2960 or go to www.bonstelle.com.

When a local veterinarian and his family adopt a boy with bat-like features found living in a cave, residents of their small town become suspicious.

The townspeople exhibit hypocrisy, racism and revenge, which for some lead eventually to understanding, forgiveness and acceptance. The show’s serious themes are interspersed slapstick, surrealism and a campy sense of humor.

There are Biblical allusions, and references to humans exploring their dark side or animalistic urges as they answer the drive to fulfill their needs as a species for food, sex, power and control. The play hints at the need for humans to embrace their basic animal instincts so as a species they will no longer fear their base desires and urges.

The story is many things, and one senses from the beginning that the end will not be happy – this is not a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Audiences accept early on that death will happen, there will be sadness, and the survivors will not be celebrants.

It is, however, a different type of show, and well performed. Viewers will either love or hate the storyline; indifference is not an option.

Likewise, the acting and production talent is very much evident.

The Bonstelle cast and production team are top notch. Directed by Michael Barnes, with choreographer Jeffrey Michael Rebudal and music director Daniel Greig, the actors display an energetic devotion to the show, delivering a fast-paced production with strong acting, singing and dancing.

The songs, while well-performed, are not as memorial as musical songs often are; and while rock ‘n’ roll works fine for some musicals, there are not any signature songs that one leaves the theater humming or singing.

Most of the sixteen cast members performed multiple roles and all had rapid, multiple costume changes.

Stand-outs in the cast include Nicholas Yocum of Royal Oak as the Bat Boy, Kelly Robinson as Royal Oak as Meredith Parker and Britta Peele of Harrison Township as Shelley Parker.

Bridgette Jordan of Southfield as the revival reverend, Alyssa Lucas of Garden City as the mayor and Matthew Miazgowicz of Dearborn as Lorraine and other cameo roles are notable as well.

The multi-level set designed by Curtis Green is creative and versatile, segueing from a subterranean cave to a suburban home with a quick flick of the stage magic wrist. Fred Florkowski, technical director, and stage manager Meghan Lynch, contribute to the stage magic as well, with exceptional lighting design by Brian Scruggs.

Kudos to properties master Anthony Karpinski and costume designer Mary Gietzen.

The casting is fascinatingly androgynous, perhaps to remind audiences that humans are merely predatory mammals dressed in pseudo-civilizing sheepskin.

REVIEW: ‘Time Stands Still’ a must-see production

Reviewd by Sue Suchyta

Click HERE to read the review on Sue’s blog.

View production photos!

James (Carl Ghigliazza), Mandy (Maria Radu), Sarah (Sydney Machesky), and Richard (Michael Fisher)Photo: Kevin Replinger

James (Carl Ghigliazza), Mandy (Maria Radu), Sarah (Sydney Machesky), and Richard (Michael Fisher)
Photo: Kevin Replinger

Despite the title, time is running out to see Donald Margulies’ Tony award-nominated “Time Stands Still,” a well-written and acted, thought-provoking production at Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre, 4743 Cass at Hancock in the lower level of the Hilberry Theatre.  One performance, 8 p.m. April 6, remains to see the show. Tickets are $10 and $12, and are available through the Studio Theatre Box Office. Mention coupon code 3CP7 and receive $2 off the price of your ticket. For more information, call (313) 577-2972 or go to www.wsustudio.com.

Directed by Katherine Skortz, the show focuses on Sarah, a photojournalist injured by a roadside bomb. As she recovers, she and her boyfriend, James, try to explain to their friends, Michael and Mandy, the reality of covering tragedies in war zones. Why photojournalists record the events for the world, while non-journalist people might take an immediate hands-on approach to relieve suffering, is a key discussion point for the play’s characters.

Sydney Machesky of Shelby Township is stellar in her performance of Sarah, a photojournalist recovering from serious injuries caused by a roadside bomb. Not only does she consistently portray the physical limitations connected to her recovery, she captures the short tempered personality of someone who has undergone so much stress that they are just barely holding on to a veneer of civility.

Carl Ghigliazza of Southgate is very believable in his portrayal of James, her longtime boyfriend, portraying both guilt at not being overseas with her when she was injured and frustration over Sarah’s insistence on doing a job that constantly puts her in danger, which is as essential to her as oxygen.

Providing a lighter and entertaining counterpart to the two main characters are Michael Fisher of Livonia as Richard, James’ editor, and Maria Radu of Westland as Mandy, Richard’s girlfriend, a young, perky event planner.

Radu remarkably creates a likeable person out of her role, despite the character being much younger and an intellectual lightweight compared to the other three characters. Her naïve optimism and genuine “niceness” creates much of the comic relief in the show, and she shows us how people not in the news reporting business react to the horrors and violence of war and other human tragedies encountered by field reporters.

As Richard and Mandy’s relationship grows stronger over time, more cracks appear in Sarah and James’ bond, even though they try to strengthen it.  Sarah’s desire to return to the field becomes stronger than James’ persuasion to stay safe stateside and start a family with him.

Whether she needs adrenaline, or driven by a career more than maternal urges remains open to the viewer’s interpretation.

“Time Stands Still” runs for one more performance at 8 p.m. April 6, at the Studio Theatre. For tickets or more information, call (313) 577-2972 or go to http://www.wsustudio.com.

REVIEW: ‘Time Stands Still’ at WSU’s Studio Theatre

Review by Patty Nolan, The Examiner

Click HERE to read the review on the Examiner’s website.

View production photos or join the Facebook Event!

Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre is home to the PhD Directors’ Series and a perfect venue for the gifted students in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance.

Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)Photo: Kevin Replinger

Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)
Photo: Kevin Replinger

Their newest production is “Time Stands Still,” the Tony-nominated play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies. It’s one of those seemingly simple plays that takes place entirely within the Brooklyn flat of war correspondents and lovers Sarah and James. But the distance we travel emotionally and the complex, contradictory points of view expressed in the dialogue, give this drama a delicate intelligence and unpretentious sophistication.

The Studio Theatre cast, under the direction of second-year PhD student Katherine Skoretz, is most impressive.

The play opens as Sarah (Sydney Machesky), a photo journalist, returns home after being seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Her boyfriend James (Carl Ghigliazza) feels guilty about not being with Sarah when she was nearly killed. But he is dealing with his own emotional trauma. Sarah’s scars show. James’ do not. Both are trying to come to terms with their feelings about witnessing outrageous horrors and being required to maintain a professional detachment. Are they helping the victims of these tragedies by getting the story out to the rest of the world? Or are they exploiting the victims for personal gain?

The name of the play comes from Sarah’s description of how she copes with the horror she witnesses as part of her job. When she’s looking at the world through her camera lens, searching for the perfect shot, “time stands still.”

The perspective of these war-hardened journalists is contrasted to that of their friend Richard (Michael Fisher) and his young girlfriend, Mandy (Maria Radu). She is sincere but naïve, and doesn’t understand how Sarah can witness human suffering without wanting to put down her camera and help her subjects. Sarah believes it is up to journalists to show people the truth – the hard reality of what some people endure. Mandy admires the raw beauty of Sarah’s work, but doesn’t know what she’s supposed to with that “truth” except feel bad about it.

“We are a nation born to movement,” Director Katherine Skoretz explains. “We are also a nation of crusaders, believing that we can change the world for the better, even when we aren’t sure how to do that. Our desire to change the world for the better conflicts with our desire to be comfortable. Since September 11 we have seen a massive deployment of Americans trying to make a difference in the world: both soldiers and civilians. In the last couple of years, playwrights, like Donald Margulies, have been writing about what happens when veterans of war zones come home. What does home mean when we’re intimately confronted with what goes on in war zones?”

Ultimately, this play explores the need for home and comfort as weighed against the addictive satisfaction of being the person who can deliver the goods in the midst of imminent danger, chaos and overwhelming human tragedy. Sarah and James are seeking healing together, but where does that healing lead? Should they go back out on assignment in the Middle East, or stay home and build a new, more conventional but safer life? Is it “okay” to choose happiness, or is that even an option when daily horrors continue to disrupt the world?

This thoughtful production of “Time Stands Still” raises important questions without forcing the answers. Sydney Machesky, as the wounded Sarah, finds the right balance of smart and bitchy, tough and vulnerable. Carl Ghigliazza, as James, is the conflicted man who loves Sarah because of her fearlessness but is terrified of losing her. Michael Fisheras Richardis convincing as the average good, informed American guy trying not to feel guilty about choosing happiness. And Maria Radu, as Mandy, gives the play its chief comic relief and, in some ways, its most empathetic and grounded character.

The stellar production company includes Cassandra Maniak (Stage Manager), Amy Schneider (Lighting Designer), Lois Bendler (Scenic Designer), Melissa Hall (Costume Designer), Michael Hallberg (Sound Designer), and Felix Li (Publicity Manager).

“Time Stands Still” runs through Saturday, April 6, 2013. Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 – $12 and are available by calling the Studio Theatre Box Office at (313)577-2972, by purchasing them online, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock. The Studio Theatre is located downstairs from the Hilberry.

REVIEW: Impressive ‘Time’ at WSU Studio

Review by Robert Delaney, New Monitor

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Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)Photo: Felix Li

Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)
Photo: Felix Li

The physical, emotional and ethical aspects of war reporting all figure in Donald Margulies’ 2009 play Time Stands Still, the current production at the Studio Theatre on the Wayne State University campus.

Ph.D.-candidate director Katherine Skoretz, working with some very fi ne undergraduate acting talent, has given us a production of this play that would stand up to any professional yardstick.

Sarah (Sydney Machesky), a photojournalist, and her lover, foreign correspondent James (Carl Ghigliazza) are back in the United States, but bear physical or emotional scars of their recent overseas assignments in combat zones.

Sarah is recovering from serious injuries incurred when a roadside bomb exploded; James is dogged by guilt because he had left her in Iraq to accept another assignment just before the incident.

Sarah’s publisher, Richard (Michael Fisher), visits with his new — and much younger — girlfriend, Mandy (Maria Radu), which provides the natural opportunity for Sarah and James to talk about what has happened and what they are going through.

And although Mandy is not only from another generation, but totally out of the others’ league when it comes to education or awareness of current events, her very innocence of the big issues leads her to raise uncomfortable questions.

We see the two couples’ relationships develop during the course of the play. And not only does this happen in a quite believable way, but these four young actors are so good that we really do believe them. They do such a good job of bringing their characters to life that we not only suspend our disbelief in the usual sense, but reach the point where it is truly as if we were seeing these four people living out their lives before our eyes.

This is not the first time Fisher has impressed me. He is clearly an exceptional young talent — one who really should go far if he makes acting his career. But Machesky and Ghigliazza, both of whom I had only seen before in minor roles, were also able to show us something of the depth of their talent in this play.

And to learn from the program that Radu is a freshman in her first WSU production is simply startling.

Besides being a triumph for Skoretz and her cast, this is also a show of which scenic designer Lois Bendler, costume designer Melissa Hall, lighting designer Amy Schneider and sound designer Michael Hallberg can be justly proud. Alas, however, as is always the case with Studio shows, this production only has a two-week run, which means you only have three remaining opportunities to see it. So what if you’ve made other plans — cancel them and see this show.

“Time Stands Still” continues through April 6, with performances at 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, in the Studio Theatre, downstairs at the Hilberry Theatre at Cass and West Hancock on the WSU campus.

‘Time Stands Still’ opens tonight!

Break a leg and happy opening night to the cast and crew of Time Stands Still!

Time Stands Still

James (Carl Ghigliazza), Mandy (Maria Radu), Sarah (Sydney Macheskey), Richard (Michael Fisher)
Photo: Kevin Replinger

The Studio Theatre presents Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies, a story about Sarah, a photo journalist. After being injured by a roadside bomb, she is forced to face the reality of covering tragedies in war, and whether reporters should intervene to try to relieve suffering. Time Stands Still will run Thursday, March 28 through Saturday, April 6, 2013. Tickets are $10 – $12 and are available by calling the Studio Theatre Box Office at (313)577-2972, online at www.wsustudio.com, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

See our photo album or join the Facebook event!

REVIEW: Louise Heck-Rabi One Act Festival offers three distinct student plays

Reviewed by Patty Nolan, The Examiner.

Click HERE to read the review on The Examiner’s website.

View production photos or join the Facebook event!

Posted March 1, 2013

Zyle Cook as Sandy, Joe Sfair as Lou, Dan Miller as Felix
Photo: Felix Li
Check out more photos!

If you are interested in new plays, new playwrights and the emerging theatre scene, don’t miss WSU’s Heck-Rabi One Act Festival. This is an annual showcase of three one-act plays composed by student playwrights, performed by student actors and directed by, yes, fellow students.

The Louise Heck-Rabi Dramatic Playwriting One Act Festival has been an annual event since 2000, a program designed to encourage young playwrights to submit their original works in hopes of having them produced. Each year, six or seven semi-finalists are chosen out of all submissions. The plays are then read at a Workshop, where they are critiqued by judges. Three finalists win a scholarship as well as the opportunity to produce their play in front of a live audience. Each winning playwright has the invaluable opportunity to work with a student director and student performers to realize their productions on the stage.

Opening last night, February 28, and running through March 9, 2013, audience members at the Studio Theatre were treated to a diverse selection of winning plays – spanning the abstract, the inevitable, and a haunted theatrical production. All three plays are performed in a single evening with a short intermission between each — a three-course dramatic meal that is most satisfying. Making it even more interesting is that all of the winning playwrights are also actors whom you may have seen perform on the Hilberry stage.

This year’s selected student plays include: “Hurts So Good,” by Carollette Phillips and Edmund Alyn Jones, (who appeared together in “Richard III” as Lady Anne and Richard); “A New Play by Neil Simon,” by Dave Toomey (“Frank Langella’s Cyrano”); and “Chiseled,” by Laura Heikkinen (“Summer and Smoke”).

“Chiseled,” by Laura Heikkinen opens the show and is the most abstract of the three pieces. A sculptor encounters a young woman at a gallery displaying his newest work – and they are inexplicable drawn together. In a series of staccato scenes, we watch their relationship unfold and his creative work wax and wane until we are not sure which is art and which is artifice. This abstract piece is open to much interpretation and is sure to stimulate conversation regarding what we “thought” happened.

Directed by Sharayah Kay Johnson, the cast for this play features Hannah Butcher as Model, Denzel Clark as Dan, Kristen Dawn-Dumas as Cee, Tayler Jones as Em/Guest 1, Bryauna Perkins as Elle, Laith Salim as Jay and Brad Smith as Guest 2. Amanda Mahoney is the Stage Manager.

Dave Toomey’s “A New Play by Neil Simon” is a hilarious backstage play with a sinister twist. Lou, a theatre veteran and director, has returned to his hometown to help out best friend Sandy, who has sunk everything into a decrepit theatre and the production of a new play by renowned playwright Neil Simon. The trick is, the play doesn’t sound anything like Neil Simon – with themes of demonic repossession and grisly murder. The ill-fated production takes a turn for the worse when disembodied voices and shadows haunt the theatre. You may scream … you’ll certainly laugh.

“Hurts So Good,” by Carollette Phillips and Edmund Alyn Jones, drops us into the middle of a story between two people who clearly have a history. Are they friends? Lovers? Both? Ultimately, this is a moving little slice of life about complicated relationships and the eternal struggle to know if what feels right is really all wrong.

“Hurts So Good” stars James Jordan and Alexis Mabry under the direction of Zee Bricker; Michael Hallberg is the Stage Manager.

It’s always fun to watch students in action in the intimate Studio Theatre (downstairs from the Hilberry Theatre) and these young actors hold up to close scrutiny. This trio of unrelated plays makes for a most entertaining evening – put it on your calendar.

Tickets are a bargain at $5 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2972, purchasing online, or by visiting the box office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.