A recent study by Wellesly Centers for Women found that less than 27 percent of theatres have women in the artistic director role. A 2015 study by the Dramatists Guild found that 78 percent of plays produced were written by men.
“I’ve always been aware of the lack of roles, both onstage and off, for women. There are far more women at auditions and vying for jobs, but theatre is often still a man’s world.” Krista Schafer Ewbank, founding artistic director of Open Book Theatre Company, explained. “I always look for plays that feature strong roles for women. It’s harder than you might think with so many plays being written by men. I think we’ve found a really good balance.”
She didn’t, however, set out to hire all women directors, but in choosing the right director for each play in this upcoming season, that’s exactly what happened.
“I’m so excited to work with each of the directors this season,” said Schafer Ewbank. “They bring a wealth of experience and education and insight to their work.”
The slate of directors have impressive credentials, including resumes stuffed with degrees in theatre and experience acting, directing, producing and stage managing at renowned professional theatres all over Michigan.
Sarah Hawkins Moan appeared on stage in Who Am I This Time in 2015, and will be directing Emilie in January.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be working at Open Book as a director, as I have had such a positive experience with this organization in the past as an actor. Open Book is such a welcoming and creative environment that has been producing some really amazing works in the last few years, and it has a truly unique season ahead driven by female directors. I’m delighted to be part of the team for this season.” Hawkins Moan said.
“Not only are Open Book plays top quality and relevant to today’s world, this theater encourages women to use their intellect and leadership,” said Madeleine Jones, Open Book board member and President of the Wyandotte Downriver Branch American Association of University Women.
Open Book is excited to follow up the success of the past year with added performances this coming season.
“Our audience more than doubled last year,” explained Schafer Ewbank. “Our new location on West Road has given us much more visibility, and word of mouth has certainly helped us grow as well. Everyone who comes is impressed with our welcoming, versatile and professional space, but even more so with our talented actors and interesting plays. They tell us they’ll be back for the next show … and they often bring friends with them!”
Critics agree that Open Book produces exceptional, professional theatre. Last season’s shows have garnered three Wilde Award nominations for the company: Best Theater for Young Audiences (Peter and The Starcatcher, Krista Schafer Ewbank, director), Best Performance-Theater for Young Audiences (Alexander Sloan, Peter and The Starcatcher) and Best Performance, Lead Actress – Play (Krista Schafer Ewbank, Boy Gets Girl).
The Wilde Awards, Michigan’s answer to the Tony Awards, honor excellence in professional theatres across Michigan. Nominees were chosen from the 242 eligible shows this past season. On Aug. 28, EncoreMichigan.com will name the winners of the 2017 Wilde Awards at an awards show at The Berman Center for Performing Arts in West Bloomfield.
“It’s an incredible honor to be nominated,” Schafer Ewbank said, “I couldn’t be more proud.”
Open Book Theatre was the winner of a 2015 Wilde Award for Best Design-Lights, awarded to their resident lighting designer Harley Miah for his work on Red.
But for now, the directors, designers and actors of Open Book are focusing on getting ready for the upcoming shows.
The season will kick off in September, and each of the five plays will run for four weekends, for a total of 11 performances for each show. The intimate theatre can be arranged in different configurations, which causes a slight variation in the total number of seats available, but usually seats between 70 and 80. Last season several performances sold out.
“As an artist, I’m excited that the stage can be configured in different ways to fit the requirements of the play and the vision of the director. As an audience member, I love that there are no bad seats and that I’m so close to the action I really feel like I’m a part of things,” explained Wendy Katz Hiller, who will direct the last show of the season.
The season offers five shows that are sure to keep you thinking about them long after the curtain call:
Life Sucks (Sept. 8-30) by Aaron Posner, is “sort of adapted from UNCLE VANYA by Anton Chekhov” and directed by Krista Schafer Ewbank.
“It’s a play about finding the beauty in the broken pieces of our lives,” Schafer Ewbank said. “I’ve always loved the plays of Anton Chekhov, but they can sometimes be hard for modern audiences. This retelling has all the love and longing and humor of the original, with a modern American sensibility. I fell in love with it the first time I read it.”
The play focuses on a group of seven old friends, ex-lovers, estranged in-laws, and lifelong enemies as they collide and stumble their way towards a new understanding that life sucks! Or does it? The Chicago Tribune called it “a funny, wise night that reminds you of how much more fun theater can be than any other form of dramatic entertainment.”
Be a Good Little Widow (Oct. 27-Nov. 18) by Bekah Brunstetter will be directed by Adriane Galea. This sad comedy about loss and longing introduces us to 26-year-old Melody. Melody has never been to a funeral — until her husband dies in a plane crash. Expected to instantly assume proper widowhood, Melody wonders what’s the right way to grieve? Fortunately, her mother-in-law is a professional. Widow, that is. Under her guidance, Melody must try her best to be a good little widow.
“Grief isn’t linear,” explained Schafer Ewbank, “and it certainly doesn’t always look the way we’re told it’s supposed to. This play is funny and touching and surprising, in just the right measures. Anyone who has ever lost someone they loved will enjoy this show.”
Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight (Jan. 12-Feb. 3) by Lauren Gunderson will be directed by Sarah Hawkins Moan, about 18th century scientific genius Emilie du Châtelet, who is determined to answer the question: love or philosophy, head or heart? Emilie defends her life and loves and ends up with both a formula and a legacy that permeates history.
“I think it is important to tell stories about the women in history who were influential in their various areas but are overshadowed by their male counterparts.” Hawkins Moan said. “Telling these stories empowers women of all ages, but especially those young girls who are just beginning to discover what they like and who they want to be. I think it is incredibly important for us as storytellers and artists to give those girls strong, smart women to look up to and be inspired by.”
Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike (Feb. 23-March 18) by Christopher Durang will be directed by Angie Kane Ferrante. Vanya and his sister Sonia live a quiet life in the Pennsylvania farmhouse where they grew up, but their peace is disturbed when their movie star sister Masha returns with her twentysomething boy toy, Spike.
“This play is fun!” said Kane Ferrante. “It is certainly hilarious. When you put strong willed characters in a close intimate space, things are bound to happen. Everyone has family – whether we’re born into it or chose them. Watching this family deal with each other will certainly be relatable…no matter how ridiculous the circumstances are.”
Time Stands Still (May 11-June 2) by Donald Marguiles will be directed by Wendy Katz Hiller. It tells the story of Sarah and James, a photojournalist and a foreign correspondent, who have a partnership based on telling the toughest stories. But when their own story takes a sudden turn, how will they move on to the next chapter?
“Time Stands Still touches on many of the issues we struggle with today.” Director Katz Hiller said. “With all the terror and world crises in the news, it’s sometimes hard to balance how to stay engaged in working to make things better, without losing hope and our own joy and humanity. How can we connect with our own needs and maintain strong relationships with those we love when the world can seem increasingly chaotic and meaningless? We don’t want to turn away from the problems, but facing them head-on can be overwhelming. How do we each choose what’s the right answer for us?”
Individual tickets are $20, or $15 for students or seniors, with tickets for the opening night gala at $30 each. Season tickets for all five shows offer a discount: $85, $65 for students and seniors, or $100 for opening night. Tickets can be purchased online at openbooktc.com. More information can be found online or by calling (734) 288-7753.
Open Book Theatre Company is located at 1621 West Road. Visit www.openbooktc.com.
Links to the referenced studies re: women in theatre: www.wcwonline.org/Active-Projects/womens-leadership-in-resident-theaters, http://www.indiewire.com/2015/11/study-nearly-two-thirds-of-theater-productions-written-by-white-male-playwrights-212862/
Seaway Chorale will be holding auditions for its Christmas upcoming show, “Making Spirits Bright,” Aug. 29, Sept. 5 and Sept.12. The Christmas show will be held Dec. 8-9 at The Flat Rock Community Auditorium in Flat Rock High School.
Auditions will be held for adults. Auditions for youth will begin the same time and run through Sept. 26. Auditions will be held at Faith United Methodist Church, 2530 Charlton Road, Trenton. Rehearsals for adults begin immediately on Aug. 29, and youth begin Oct. 3.
Solo opportunities are available for men, women, small groups and youth. There is a $20 membership fee each year and a $30 participation fee per season, as well as the cost of purchasing or renting a tuxedo for men and skirt and top for women. Youth participation fee is $20 plus costuming. Practice is held every Tuesday from 7-10 p.m. at Faith United Youth Rehearsal is from 6-6:45 p.m.
The week of the show, rehearsals are every night from 6:30-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays. Fridays and Saturdays there will be a call time of 6:30 p.m.
Also businesses and family members can purchase an ad in the 2017-2018 show program book by going to the website, www.seawaychorale.org and completing the form.
Call Edie Raleigh at (734) 671-5530 for audition times with Director Anthony Lai.