“Kayak” at Matrix Theatre Co

“Environmental Activism At The Center Of Matrix Theatre’s Next Drama”
by BWW News Desk Mar. 13, 2018

Matrix Theatre Company continues its 2017 – 2018 Mainstage Season with the environmental drama, Kayak, opening April 6 and running through April 29. The production runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM. All performances are presented at Matrix Theatre Company, located at 2730 Bagley Avenue in the heart of Mexicantown. Tickets are $22 for adults and $17 for students, seniors, veterans, and active military personnel, and may be purchased in advance or, if available, at the door. Group rates are also available. For further information or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.matrixtheatre.org or call (313) 967-0599.

Alone in a kayak on a vast stretch of water, Annie Iversen recounts the strange chain of events that got her there. A doting suburban mother, Annie was blindsided when her son, Peter, fell in love with Julie, a passionate environmental activist. Climate change, S’mores, SUVs, and Noah’s Ark are all part of Annie’s story as she sets out to save her son and unwittingly throws herself into the path of events larger than she ever could have imagined. “Kayak is an exciting play about personal activism, and we feel this is an important topic to bring forward during these trying times,” shared Artistic Director Megan Buckley-Ball.

“What does everyday climate activism look like? How do we individually make a difference? One of the things I love about Kayak is how nuanced this show and these people are while they struggle with those very complicated questions,” shared Kayak director Amanda Grace Ewing (Northville). Written by Jordan Hall, the play stars Dan Johnson (Ann Arbor) as Peter, Claire Joliffe (West Bloomfield) as Julie, and Kez Settle (Clawson) as Annie. The production team includes Sarah Drum (Westland), Chantel and Charlie Gaidica (Royal Oak), and Casaundra Freeman (Detroit).

The final dress rehearsal on Thursday, April 5 is a “Pay What You Can” performance. To help eliminate the barrier between audiences and live theatre, patrons can choose to pay whatever amount they want at the door to see the preview show of Kayak. Tickets will be available at the door that evening and can be purchased in advance by calling the box office at 313-967-0599. Doors open at 7:30PM for the 8PM performance.

In its 27th season as a non-profit, community-based theatre, Matrix Theatre Company is located in southwest Detroit and uses the transformative power of theatre to change lives, build community and foster social justice. Go to matrixtheatre.org for further information. Matrix Theatre Company’s Mainstage Season is funded in part by Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Kresge Foundation, and The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Foundation.

Photo Credit: Amanda Grace Ewing

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Written for LMDA

Recently, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) asked me to write a regional spotlight on what I see happening in Michigan theatre. My short article is below. Enjoy!

Regional Spotlight: Midwest – Michigan
Spot Op: Amanda Grace Ewing

“I keep a variety of quotes from this year’s LMDA Conference on my phone, which I revisit when I’m feeling stuck or need some motivation. In the past couple of months, I’ve begun to look for a note as I scroll: “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Affliction: trouble, burden, distress, oppress. Comfort: console, solace, support, uplift. Both of these verbs suggest a physical act of resistance and remind me that bodies carry text. As the national conversation around equity and diversity becomes more robust, theatre companies in my region, Southeastern Michigan, are more purposefully considering the dramaturgy of bodies: who gets to tell what stories and how? Who is afflicted and who is comfortable?

My artistic home is BoxFest Detroit (BFD), an annual one-act theatre festival that showcases local female-identifying directors. BFD has, and continues to, function as a springboard for local women and their directing careers. This year, when the organizers met to plan the festival, we began with strategizing how to leverage our visibility as an organization in order to serve more directors. In response to this challenge, we launched a new mentorship program. In this inaugural year, there were two mentorship opportunities available: Assistant Directing for Frannie Shepherd-Bates and the Tipping Point Theatre Sandbox Directorship. The first award granted a director a stipend and the opportunity to shadow, learn, and collaborate with a regional, experienced, female-identifying director at an Equity theatre; and the later award granted a director a stipend and the opportunity to direct a one-act play at an Equity theatre house. Our goals for this program are to: connect BFD directors with the greater Metro Detroit professional theatrical community, support the education of female directors, connect BFD directors with other female directors working in the community, remove challenges for BFD directors and professional theaters associated with the cost of education, travel, and artist salaries. While we are still in our pilot year – we’re excited to see how this program will affect hiring and visibility of female-identifying directors in Michigan.

Another Southeastern Michigan theatre company looking to create opportunities for marginalized communities is Black and Brown Theatre (BandB). BandB was founded in the summer of 2016 to address the inequity of casting in Michigan theatre. Like many other regions, white artists dominate Michigan theatre, and when considering casting, white is synonymous with neutral. Despite the Detroit area’s diverse population, oftentimes actors of color are only considered in casting when the script breakdown specifically calls for a certain race. Since their founding, BandB has worked to interrupt this narrative by presenting staged readings, showcases, productions, outreach, and education for and with communities of color – each action driving BandB towards the goal of becoming extinct in the next five to ten years. One valuable act of BandB is a humble Google Drive of headshots and resumes of actors of color, that casting directors can ask for access to. Currently, the database is viewable by 64 directors and has the information for 84 actors of color. This simple task has completely negated any claim of, I don’t know any actors of color, I can’t find anyone for this role, etc., and generated access for actors and casting directors to each other.

I’m excited that BFD and BandB are challenging narratives around who is in the room doing the work, that there are more companies in our region asking questions about access and equity, and that theatres and artists are using the resources that companies like BoxFest Detroit and Black and Brown Theatre provide. I hope that as all of us connect with each other we can be a force to afflict those comfortable in the white narrative, and comfort those looking to see themselves in the texts we present.”

 

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Nyjae Maria in “Valerie: A Cosplay Monologue” written by Asher Wyndham, directed by Amanda Grace Ewing. Photo courtesy of Kelly Rossi. (BoxFest Detroit 2017)

 

BoxFest Detroit 2017

Just a couple of images from the show I directed for BoxFest this year! The play was “Valerie: A Cosplay Monologue” written by Asher Wyndham, the actress is Nyjae Maria, and the photo was taken by Kelly Rossi.

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BoxFest Detroit 2017

I’m really excited to announce that this year I will be directing at BoxFest Detroit! After taking a few years off to serve primarily as a producer of the festival, this year I am happy that I will be able to do both.

This year I’m working on a one-act called, “Valerie: A Cosplay Monologue”. I’m thrilled to be working with this play that challenges the culture of sexual assault at comic cons through the voice of a single female character. I start rehearsals soon and I’m really looking forward to playing with the comic book style of this play. As an educator, I’m also really passionate about sharing this information on rape culture.

EncoreMichigan.com Review

shelby

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – The inadvertent family—unrelated people who choose to be with each other, often at a bar—has long been a go-to situation for theater and TV; think “The Iceman Cometh” or “Cheers.” Margaret Edwartowski’s play Hamtown Races at Hamtramck’s Planet Ant Theatre is such a tale of family-where-you-find-it and the results are more than satisfying.
One reason is the play’s specificity. Even without its title, the play’s setting is unmistakably Hamtramck, that funky, gritty and diverse little city surrounded by Detroit. In the neighborhood diner where all the onstage action takes place you’ll find proprietor Noor, an immigrant from Lebanon; her thoroughly Americanized college student daughter, Lolia; diner fixtures and bickering buddies Jimmy, who is African American, and Dobry, who is Polish; and finally Matt, young proprietor of the nearby T-shirt shop that caters to the town’s influx of millennials.
These are people who probably wouldn’t have voted for the current president-elect, but that’s not an issue here. Hamtown Races was first performed in 2012 and is back, more or less by popular demand, in a new production.
There is one other character, a late arrival; we’ll get to him…later.
Edwartowski provides several storylines but characters are the engine that drives her play, none more forcefully than the quarrelsome, inseparable duo of Jimmy (Falah Cannon) and Dobry (Stephen Craig Blackwell). Their dialogue is snappy, funny and very informative about Hamtramck and its ethnic divisions. Jimmy relates to profanity as if it’s a component of the air he breathes: oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, the n-word and the mother-word. He uses “dumbass” as a term of endearment.
Cannon musters all of Jimmy’s bluster in the cause of a man with a grudge against the word, railing against the system (he’s fighting to receive disability) and the “A-rabs” and other denizens of Hamtramck (including African Americans).
Blackwell, with a pitch-perfect accent, is Jimmy’s good-natured foil, adversary and occasional co-conspirator. He supposedly works in his brother’s unspecified business, and Jimmy doesn’t work at all, but neither man really has a life outside the café.
Noor (Maya Gangadharan) and daughter Lolia (Shelby Marie Schroeder) persuasively convey the conflict typical of a protective old-country mother and more modern offspring. One source of conflict: the mutual attraction between Lolia and Matt, the T-shirt guy (Andy Alan Reid).
The one subject they skirt is the absence of the husband and father who has stayed behind in Lebanon all these 11 years, but that subject becomes unavoidable when the man (Samer Ajluni) arrives without prior notice, suitcase in hand.
I could give away the plot (I won’t) and it wouldn’t diminish anyone’s enjoyment of Hamtown Races. Persuasively acted, and emphatically directed by Amanda Grace Ewing, it’s a play of flavors, pungent as the varied cuisines of Hamtown itself.

Hamtown Races

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It’s that time! Posters are out, the facebook event is created, it’s happening! In this post-election environment, it has been feeling so productive to come to rehearsals and create a show about race and culture that is inclusive, representative, and seriously funny. I think a lot of people are needing a good laugh right now.

Come out and see the show!

Show Dates: 
November 23, 25, 26, 29, 30 | December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17 | 8pm
Sunday December 4 at 2pm & Sunday December 11 at 6pm
Tickets – $20.00*
*Price includes a $1 per ticket online processing fee. Tickets are non-refundable.
Planet Ant Theatre  |  2357 Caniff Ave., Hamtramck, MI 48212  |  313-365-4948

Hamtown Races

I am excited to announce that I am directing “Hamtown Races” at Planet Ant Theatre this season. The show runs from November 23rd – December 27th.

From the Planet Ant website, “Planet Ant brings back an encore presentation of Margaret Edwartowski’s Wilde Award-winning play, Hamtown Races. Originally staged in Fall 2012, the play is set inside the Al Ameer Cafe, a family business belonging to Lebanese immigrants, which hosts a colorful and diverse collection of characters, each representative of the varied and shifting cultures in Hamtramck.”

As an Arab-American, whose great-grandparents immigrated from Lebanon, I am thrilled to be directing this show! I’m excited to explore this part of my family history and identity through this show – and further, I’m excited to explore race in Metro Detroit, and the history and changing culture of Hamtramck.

More to come!

BoxFest Detroit, 2014

Sixteen Jackies by Emma Miller
Directed By: Amanda Grace Ewing
Jackie: Vanessa Sawson
BoxFest 2014

Showtimes
Saturday, September 20th @ 7:00PM

BoxFest Detroit is an annual theatre festival that showcases and creates opportunities for women directors.  Though the main focus of the event is the directors, BoxFest Detroit creates a festive energy by including special opening and closing night events and by using the lobby to create an art gallery for female inspired art.  Proceeds from the event are normally given to two directors as a scholarship to help further her career and the winner of the audience vote competition is given the opportunity to direct a show with Planet Ant Theatre’s Late Night Series. This season because of financial difficulties the workshop scaled back to staged readings.

About the changes on BoxFest 2014 from EncoreMichigan.com.

“Sixteen Jackies”  is a one woman, one act, play chronicling the experiences of former first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. RUMPUSROOM has plans to mount a full production of “Sixteen Jackies” this autumn.

Sixteen Jackies

Lysistrata: Highlights Reel

This is a highlights reel from the musical numbers in Lysistrata provided by the choreographer, Alexa Kornas.

Enjoy!

Metro Detroit’s must-see theater for the 2015-16 season

By Martin Michalek
Read the whole article here

With another polar vortex probably on the way, take comfort in the knowledge that metro Detroit’s theater lights are heating up. The 2015-16 theater season has a little of everything: sex-withholding feminists, a world premiere by Jeff Daniels, and that play about gentrification you’ve been waiting for.

Lysistrata by Drue Robinson (adapted from the comedy by Aristophanes)

Playwrights have adapted Lysistrata as a condemnation of war and patriarchy numerous times since its debut in 411 B.C. However, Drue Robinson’s version is notably different: One, this version of Lysistrata is by a woman — not a 2,400-year-old man with opinions about women. Two, Robinson’s Lysistrata is the only modern adaptation written entirely in rhyme.

Here’s the gist: Lysistrata is an Athenian woman with the poise and command of Nicki Minaj. Fed up with the Peloponnesian War, she organizes the women of Greece into a sex strike. The message is simple: “No peace? No nooky!” Then, in a move reminiscent of Occupy Wall Street, the women seize the treasury and demand a farewell to arms. It’s an irreverent and timely spin on feminism and pacifism — or as the kids say, perfect fodder for your next Tumblr post!

Runs Oct. 9-18 at Bonstelle Theatre; 3424 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313- 577-2972;bonstelle1.com; tickets $15 and up.