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A Midsummer Night’s Dream…Michigan Shakespeare Festival 2015 Off to a Great Start July 12, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Michigan, Shakespeare, Theatre.
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Okay, truth be told, I should not review shows at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, since I am the Vice Chair on the Board of Directors of the MSF. But that doesn’t mean I can’t tell you about it anyway. And its my blog. So if it happens to be a great production I can mention that, right? And not having had a hand in any aspect of the production (in fact, I saw it for the first time last night), I have some thoughts…

The MSF 2015 season opened with a rousing production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream last night. Swiftly and expertly directed by MSF Artistic Director Janice Blixt, the production times in at 2.5 hours with the intermission, and there’s a terrifically talented cast onstage.

Shawn Pfautsch is back! And he plays an impish and athletic Puck — another amazing role for him (some will recall he played Hamlet last summer for MSF). He effortlessly delivers his lines while romping around the forest-set, and he’s hilarious to boot. But its expertly crafted — watch one of his exits in which an invisible force pulls him offstage by one leg for example.

AMND is one of my personal Shakespearean favorites — not because its his most interesting, or funniest, or even most creative…but because it really is a showcase for actors and wide-open to the interpretation of directors. Everything in this production looks great, and the acting can’t be beat.

There are some lovely pairings here — David Blixt and Janet Haley as Oberon and Titania…Lydia Hiller and Brandon St Clair Saunders as Hermia and Lysander…and Laurel Schroeder and Milan Malisic as Helena and Demetrius.

The Rude Mechanicals are humorously played by Alan Ball (Bottom), David Turrentine, Dan Wilson, Edmund Alyn Jones, Eric Eilersen and Andy Head.

Matthew Fahey, Annie Keris, Daniel Helmer, Rick Eva, Sarah Pidgeon and Evelyn Blixt round out the wonderful cast. The well-known dialogue comes trippingly off the tongue across the board, and as usual at MSF the action is staged cleanly and it is all easy to follow, even for Shakespeare newbies.

It all looks and sounds great on Jeremy Hopgood’s set, with Renae Skoog’s costumes, Diana Fairchild’s lighting, and Kate Hopgood’s sound design and musical composition.

Its a great way to get the MSF season of too a terrific start — Henry IV (both parts) and Sheriden’s The Rivals follow with openings next weekend. All three productions move to the Village Theater on Cherry Hill in Canton two weeks from now.

MichiganShakespeareFestival.com for tickets. In repertory through August 16th.

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Michigan Shakespeare Festival 2015 — Ready to go! June 15, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Detroit, Entertainment, Michigan, Shakespeare, Theatre, Travel.
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Hello fellow Shakespeare lovers! You know me as the owner/reviewer of my blog — A2View.com…but I wear other hats as well…I own and work as a neuropsychologist at BrainTrainers Brain Injury Day Program…I direct (coming up: Bonnie & Clyde for Encore Musical Theatre Company)…I perform (this summer as Mr. Simmons in Memphis the musical at Croswell Opera House)…

But today I am writing as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

When I first moved to Michigan from NYC, I came across this small outdoor theatre festival in Jackson, Michigan that performed outstanding Shakespeare productions in the park — and from the first show I saw I was hooked. The Festival has since grown tremendously in scope and nature, has for many years been located indoors in state-of-the-art, air-conditioned, bug-free splendor, and has continued to present remarkable theatre for five weeks every summer.

This year, the Festival is expanding to include three weeks in Canton, MI as well! We know that many of our audience members travel to Jackson from the SE Michigan area, and now we are pleased to be in our own backyard, centrally located in Canton. We don’t ever plan to leave Jackson, but its an exciting expansion into Wayne county which is more convenient for Detroiters and Ann Arborites.

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival is a professional Actors Equity Association-LORT theatre festival, featuring all-professional actors, artistic staff, and technicians. Everyone gets paid a living wage — except for us Board Members of course.

Because the Festival maintains high artistic professional standards that result in top quality productions utilizing artists of the highest caliber, it is no wonder that the company is the most award-winning theatre in the state, garnering not only local but national acclaim. Reviews called last season’s productions “Outstanding” (MLive), “You may never again see this play done so well” (Encore Michigan),  “Remarkably relevant” (Examiner), “Four out of Four stars” (Detroit Free Press), and “Exquisite…gorgeous…perfect” (Jackson Citizen Patriot).  BroadwayWorld named last season’s production of Hamlet the Best Shakespearean Production of 2014.

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival has also been named the “Official Shakespeare Festival” by the State of Michigan.

If you have never attended — you should. Its kind of a big deal. Come see why the shows win all those Wilde Awards every year. If you have, then you already know that the festival regularly gets visitors from all over Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Chicago, and Canada…its destination theater year after year.

This July 9- August 16, 2015 the Festival will offer William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and both parts of Henry IV, along with Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals, at both venues — in Jackson and in Canton. Tickets are now on-sale.

Jackson performances are July 9 – 19 at Jackson College in the Boughman Theatre…and Canton performances are July 29 – August 16 at Village Theatre…the complete schedule for every night is at michiganshakespearefestival.com

Tickets are available at all sorts of price points — with special reduced preview performances, and other deals. Group sales are also available.

But as you know, (and this that part of the post where owning your own blog comes in handy once a year), ticket sales make up a very small proportion of the monies required to keep a professional theater company up and running. We depend on our sponsors, theatre patrons, and you to make it all happen summer after summer. We’re not talking outdoor-theatre-in-the-park anymore —- we’re talking something that rivals every other professional Shakespeare Festival company nationwide (and that other big festival in Ontario).

If you can, won’t you please take a moment to remember the Michigan Shakespeare Festival with a donation or sponsorship? It’s easy. Just make out a check to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival and mail it to the address below, or call the phone number, or donate online. There are all sorts of sponsorship packages available — from program ads to sponsoring almost every aspect of the shows and festival itself. What a great way to get your name affiliated with something pretty cool and hip. I’m proud to say that my company BrainTrainers is a sponsor of the Festival as well.

We’ll thank you, we’ll applaud you, we’ll salute you with another season of awesome Shakespeare. And you’ll know that you made the difference.

Thanks in advance — hope to see you at our shows this summer!

Ronald P. Baumanis

MSF Board of Directors, Vice Chair

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival

215 W. Michigan Ave.

Jackson, MI 49201

517-998-3673

www.MichiganShakespeareFestival.com

10 Reasons you need to get to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival this summer August 9, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Michigan, Shakespeare, Theatre.
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With only a couple weekends left, it has come to my attention that some of you have yet to get out to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival this summer…so what are you waiting for? Here are the top 10 reasons you should get out there now, before its over for another season….

1. Shawn Pfautsch in Hamlet

2. Shawn Pfautsch in Hamlet

3. Shawn Pfautsch in Hamlet

4. The superb sparring partners in The Importance of Being Earnest — Joe Lehman and David Blixt are both hilarious, as are Lydia Hiller and Rachel Hull who exude their own merry camaraderie

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5. Cymbeline — the rarely produced dramedy is like finding a twenty dollar bill in your pants pocket — you’ve probably never seen it before, and you might not see it again anytime soon…so see it now because it is a magical colorful production.

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6. The strong direction of Janice Blixt and Robert Kauzlaric. These folks know what they are doing, and you’ll appreciate the very well edited and clearly focused productions.

7. Its inside!! I can’t believe people still think the Michigan Shakespeare Festival is outside — its not. And its been indoors at Jackson College (nee Jackson Community College) for the past decade…in sumptuous air conditioned bug-free splendor…and next summer it adds three weeks in Canton! So if you are thinking that an evening at the MSF means sitting in a bug-filled Ella Sharp park, then you have waited far too long to go see a show there.

8. MSF is LOA/LORT professional theater — and the quality is superb…and they have Wednesday matinees!!!

9. To count the number of cucumber sandwiches, muffins, and breads that David Blixt consumes over the course of Earnest…and to watch Joe Lehman laugh at him because he doesn’t have to.

10. Because it rivals the Stratford Festival in quality and variety and every season gets stronger and stronger — and its right here in your backyard. I’ve been attending shows at MSF for almost twenty years, and they get better and better each season — they’ve long surpassed my minimal expectations and quite frequently surpass my most stringent expectations.

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Presented in Repertoire, you still have the chance to catch:

Saturday Aug 9  – 2:00 Hamlet — 7:30  The Importance of Being Earnest

Sunday Aug 10 –  2:00 Hamlet

Wednesday Aug 13 – 2:00 Hamlet

Thursday Aug 14 – 7:30 Cymbeline

Friday Aug 15 – 7:30 The Importance of Being Earnest (closing)

Saturday Aug 16 – 2:00 Cymbeline (closing) and 7:30 Hamlet

Sunday Aug 17 – 2:00 Hamlet (closing)

Get tickets at http://www.michiganshakespearefestival.com

 

 

Hamlet – Michigan Shakespeare Festival – Shawn Pfautsch July 26, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Michigan, Shakespeare, Theatre.
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I just got home from this afternoon’s performance of Hamlet, in repertoire at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. While I don’t usually review non-musicals, I have to give two shout outs…

First, this is an excellent production under the guidance and direction of MSF Artistic Director Janice Blixt. Set in modern era clothing, it resounds as powerfully as it most likely did 420 years ago. Her direction is swift, perfectly focused, and edits are judicial and appropriate. Its a tight, gorgeous production, with beautiful lighting and scenic design, and a small, expertly crafted acting ensemble.

Second, Chicago-area actor Shawn Pfautsch turns in an amazing performance as the Dane…at first reserved and almost lifeless, he quickly takes on the role with an energy and performance force that you have to see. By Act two, he’s barefoot and galavanting around the stage faking his mental deterioration; while instantly being able to transform to composed, plotting, and revengeful. By Act V, he’s a force to behold. Combine his natural abilities with Blixt’s sure directorial hand, and this is a fine, fine Hamlet indeed.

I’m looking forward to the Festival’s other two offerings this summer — The Importance of Being Earnest, and the little-performed Cymbeline — but Hamlet is clearly this season’s centerpiece — and its a remarkable work of art.