Saturday, June 04, 2011

Elizabeth Rex

The final meeting of The Society's 105th season included a production of Timothy Findley's Elizabeth Rex, directed by Stephen Shrader and produced by Marianne Shrader.

Would you believe that Shakespeare and his players once entertained Queen Elizabeth in a barn? That historical fantasy is roughly the premise of this play, a whimsical post-show talkback between the legendary Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare and his troupe of actors known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men.

It's a play within a play. It is the evening before the Earl of Essex is to be beheaded for the crime of treason against his former lover, the Queen.

Veteran FASD actor Julia Keim, provided us with a convincing Queen, who banters combatively with Ned Lowescroft, Shakespeare's leading portrayer of "mature" female roles played by George Abud. Their verbal duel of wits, filled with electricity, lead to the Queen's challenge to Ned "if you will teach me how to be a woman, I will teach you how to be a man."

The director made the unusual, but not surprising, choice of a woman to play the part of William Shakespeare in this production. Afterall, women were never allowed on stage in Shakespear's time. The talented Karen Quarnstrom filled this role admirably.

The queen's lady-in-waiting Lady Mary Stanley, played by Agnes Ward, and another of the acting troupe, Matthew Welles played by FASD guest performer Deshon Favors, provided a secondary theme in the play. Lady Stanley was assisted in her duties by servants played by Katherine Shrader and Abigail Carney.

The troup's costume mistress, Kate Tarwell played by Gina Telford, provided some comedic relief during this intense play.

Lecta Stewart as Anne, Countess of Henslowe, Bruce Maters as Lord Robert Cecil, Matthew Miazgowicz as star actor Jonathan Edmund, Bill McCarthy as over-the-hill actor Percy Gower, Cody Shrader as young actor of female roles Henry Pearle, Zach Langenburg as yound actor Benjamin Herlie, Bob Lee as the lecherous actor Luddy Beddoes and Carolyn and Lindsey Shrader as Ned's pet bear "Harry" rounded out the cast.

The simple yet effective set, built and painted by Dave Wojtan, Greg Ridella and Bonnie Denler, came alive with costuming by Shirl Williams and Norma Eschenburg and lighting by Andrew Denler and Jesse Villegas, and the large cast was aptly kept on their toes by stage manager Jonathan Davis. The vast array of period props was provided by the artful Sally Van Deventer, assisted by Anne Maters and Bonnie Denler. Frank Van Deventer managed the many sound effects during the play, and period music was provided live by Michael J. McGillivray on violin, Catherine Sherwin on flute and David Haughey on cello. Makeup by Laurie Striebel, Margaret Dawson and Sharon Conte made the actors visible in the dim lighting of the production. Dance sequences were choreographed by Laura ver Beek. Gary Miller and Nancy Radke served as assistant directors through the long rehearsal period.


The winter meeting of The Society included a production of the hilarious comedy RED HOT Mamas by David W. Christner. Directed by Bill McCarthy and produced by the team of Norma Eschenburg and Shirl Williams, the cast kept FASD members and guests laughing throughout the evening.

The newly empty-nestered couple of Dan Casey and Abby Adams, played by Charly Davis and Amy Kuta, find their lives turned upside down when their respective mothers, move into their home.

Abby's mother Sarah Casey, played by Laurie Striebel, is a proper lady with a big problem.

Dan's mother Claudia Adams, played by D.J. Haska, is a free spirit wishing to live her life to the fullest.

Peter Mason, played by Steve Shrader, comes to visit and reveals Sarah's problem as her AA sponsor.

Two of Claudia's gentlemen friends, Stan Walker played by Geno Pirrami and Russ Neary played by John Diebel, complicate things further by visiting at the same time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Modern Harp Quartet

The Founder's Room of The Players Playhouse provided the perfect setting for a mid-winter Sunday afternoon concert by The Modern Harp Quartet, composed of alumni from the harp studios of Cass Tech, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. The afternoon was augmented by a delightful selection of teas and sweets, presented by Donna and Greg Ridella, Sally Van Deventer and Marianne Shrader.

Maurice Draughn, arranger and composer of music for the harp, voice and choir, is currently a freelance harpist performing with several orchestras in and around Michigan.

Amy Ley is principal harpist for the symphony orchestras of Flint, Ann Arbor and Windsor, performing regularly in concert and in education and outreach events.

Anne Brege has performed with the Wayne State Symphony Orchestra, the WSU Wind Symphony and the Detroit Civic Symphony. She also is a regular freelance harpist in Mackinaw City during the summer months.

Lydia Cleaver has performed with many orchestra and choral ensembles throughout the Midwest, and has worked with Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Eartha Kit and Mickey Rooney.

This wonderful group of harpists is a testament to Patricia Terry-Ross and the harp department of Detroit's Cass Tech High School, with Maurice, Anne and Lydia being introduced to and falling in love with the harp under her tutelage.

The program, titled "Dance", included

  • Sixth French Suite (J.S. Bach)
  • Malaguena (Ernesto Lecuona)
  • Suite of Eight Dances (Carlos Salzedo)
  • Le Tombeau de Couperin (Maurice Ravel)
  • Maple Leaf Rag and Bethena (Scott Joplin)
  • Juba (R. Nathaniel Dett)

Each piece held the audience spellbound, culminating in a standing ovation and a wonderful little encore.

Special thanks to Joshua Blenman for the event photography.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Motor City Brass Quintet

The Fine Arts' Christmas season was again enhanced by this local brass quintet, led by John Rutherford on trombone. Joining John were Derek Lockhart and David Ammer on trumpet, Jacob Cameron on tuba and Detroit Symphony Orchestra member Bryan Kennedy on French horn.

The Motor City Brass Quintet presents "Christmas Vespers." from Brassjar Music on Vimeo.

Halloween Costume Party

Members and guests were hosted by Joann Castle/Hamlin and husband Mike Hamlin in the Signature Grill at The Riverfront Apartments for a rolicking good time at the first annual?? Fine Arts Halloween Costume Party.

A silent auction of items donated by members enhanced the FASD treasury.

For more pictures, see Joann's Album