BONSTELLE THEATRE TO OPEN SEASON WITH LYSISTRATA: A WOMAN’S TRANSLATION

“Aristophanes’ classic comedy has been reimagined into Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation by Drue Robinson. The Bonstelle Theatre is excited to kick off their season with this bawdy and hilarious translation, playing October 9 through October 18, 2015. Tickets for Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation range from $10-$20 and are available by calling the Bonstelle Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2960, online at Bonstelle.com, or by visiting the Hilberry Theatre box office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street.

Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation is the only modern adaption of Aristophanes’ classic comedy written entirely in rhyme. This lascivious translation revitalizes a timeless classic while offering a message of female empowerment. When the women of Sparta and Greece become fed up with their husbands always being away at war, they decide to take matters into their own hands or, their legs. Led by Lysistrata, the women join forces to unanimously deny their men any carnal release until they stop fighting. Tensions will rise – among other things – but will the women succeed at stopping the war?

Written by, directed by and starring women, the Bonstelle Theatre’s production of Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation is an uncouth, fast-paced celebration of womanhood. While remaining true to the themes of the original text, Robinson’s refreshing look at a classic brings the exploration of rhythm and feminine wiles to a new level. Director, Amanda GraceEwing, brings these characters to life through a playful and erotic voice.

Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation contains strong language and sexual references that may not be suitable for all audiences.

The Bonstelle Theatre

The Bonstelle Theatre is a Broadway-style house with a 1,034-seat auditorium featuring a balcony and much of the original Beaux-Arts architecture. The Theatre was built as Temple Beth-El in 1902 and converted to the Bonstelle Playhouse in 1922.

The Bonstelle Theatre Company includes BA and BFA actors, designers, and stage managers in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University. Here, future stars of theatre, film, and television follow in the footsteps of successful alumni like Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning S. Epatha Merkerson (NBC’s Law and Order, Lackawanna Blues), David Ramset (CW’s Arrow, NBC’ Blue Bloods), Lily Tomlin (9 to 5, Grace and Frankie, ABC’s Desperate Housewives), and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, NBC’s Heroes). For box office hours and information on performances, tickets, group discounts, and corporate packages, please call the box office at 313-577-2960 or visit the theatre’s website at http://www.bonstelle.com.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to over 26,000 students.

Cast
Alexis Barrera, Hartland (Myrrhine); Hannah Butcher, Taylor (Lysistrata); Veronica Estigoy, Livonia (Ismenia/Phoebe); Jordan Allen Fritz, Detroit (Magistrate); Shannon Grant, Livonia (Old Woman); Bonnie Holmes, St. Clair Shores (Lampito/Alexis); Jada Johnson, Gwinnett, GA (Old Woman); Kayla LeFebrve, Roseville (Old Woman); Caitlyn Macuga Westland (Theola/Herald/Spartan Delegation); Monica Mingo, Farmington Hills (Calonice); Bailey Morin Grosse Ile (Old Man); Jared Morin Warren (Old Man); Maria Ochoa, Clawson (Old Woman); Patrick Roache, Detroit (Men’s Leader); Kristian Shauntee Detroit (Athenian Delegation); Rachel Smith, Detroit (Women’s Leader); Nicole Sparks Detroit (Policewoman); Paige Stefanski, Warren (Old Woman); Kevin Talanges, Dearborn (Woman from Corinth/Reconciliation); Graham Todd, Shelby Township (Old Man); Nigel Tutt, Detroit (Herald/Spartan Delegation); Michael Vultaggio, Centerline (Old Man); Allen Wiseman, Roseville (Athenian Delegation/Cinesias).

Production Team:
Amanda Grace Ewing (Director); Delaney O’Brien (Stage Manager);

McKenna Voss (Asst. Stage Manager); Michael Sabourin (Scenic Design);

Sammi Geppert (Costume Designer); Thomas Schrader (Lighting Design);

Brian Dambacher (Technical Director); Peter Lawrence (Sound Designer);

April Thomson (Properties Master); Jason Goldman (Publicist).”

I just wanted to take a moment to say how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to work with Wayne State University undergraduate students on this exciting translation of Lysistrata. They opened the show last night – I am so proud of the energy and excitement they brought to their work.

Congratulations, team! Have a great run!

“Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation” at the Bonstelle Theatre. 2015

For the past five weeks I have been working with Wayne State University students on Lysistrata. Below is my program note for the show – explaining the reasoning behind choosing burlesque as the concept for this translation of Lysistrata.

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“Burlesque is a private joke between you and the audience that slowly reveals itself as the clothes hit the floor.” – Tanya Cheex

The performance history of Lysistrata is rife with feminist productions of this classic battle of the sexes. From more traditional productions, to musicals, to abstracted performances – the gender politics at the heart of Lysistrata have earned it the auspicious title of the “first feminist play in history.”

I experience feminism as a type of humanism – a striving for equality focused around gender parity. When I first read this translation of Lysistrata, I knew that burlesque was my way into this story about war, gender politics, and sex. Both Lysistrata and burlesque actively perform an exaggerated version of femininity, and challenge gender roles and sexual politics. Both use sex as a tool to accomplish another task. Both taunt social taboos. And both are ridiculously fun.

At its core, burlesque is a type of humor that hangs on the absurd – a parody often heightened by a striptease. Burlesque, like most art, has had several reincarnations. It first exploded into American popular culture in the mid-1800s thanks to Lydia Hiller’s British Blondes. These women scandalously wore pants and portrayed men on stage in their spoofing of the Greek story of Ixion. From these early comedic roots burlesque can be found in the history of Follies, cabaret, vaudeville, Fosse, and the Broadway musical.

In the early 1990s a group of sentimental performers revived this rich American and European tradition. Neo-burlesque, as it has been coined, is a conscious act of agency – displaying only what the performer wants to display in an act not curated by, or seeking validation from, men. It is a genre of performance that embraces sexuality, femininity, masculinity, and self-expression. Neo-burlesque features women (and more than a few men) of all shapes, sizes, and races challenging gender norms and taking ownership over one’s own sexual power.

Our production of Lysistrata takes you back to Athens through the veil of neo-burlesque. Very sexy, powerful, and a lot of fun, we encourage you to hoot, holler, whistle, and gasp – and please, enjoy the show.

– Amanda Grace Ewing, Director

Director’s Note Precious Little

The limits of my language are the limits of my world. – Ludwig Wittgenstein

Trying to capture the essence of something that exists, but can’t be totally understood or adequately described through words is the reality of Madeline George’s play, “Precious Little.” While language is central to its plot, trying to use language to describe this play always leaves me grasping. It’s ineffable.

The number of conversations I’ve started with “…uhhh… well… there’s a gorilla in in?” is staggering.

In the latter half of the 20th century, Western philosophers began exploring language in relation to our perception of reality – this movement is now known as the linguistic turn. This questioning of language brought dynamic scholarly exchanges about whether or not animals have language, whether experiences you can’t describe are experiences you’ve had, and a broad questioning the nature of language itself.

We discovered in the rehearsal process that there often comes a time when the actual words do not seem up to the task of describing how we feel – so instead we have to find other ways. Sometimes sidelong look, a way of holding hands, or a gesture can feel like a more accurate way of communicating than trying to find the right words. In this way we create our own language as we go.

So how does one sit down to write a director’s note about a show that tests the limits of human language? While it may be a challenging task, it is much easier than describing what it means to be a mother, a friend, a lover, or even defining and describing what it means to be a stranger.

It has been an honor to collaborate with this incredible team of artists, and a privilege to now share that work with you. It has been very sweet, eppsa sauzhinutte. Thank you.

Amanda Grace Ewing, Director

Happy holiday weekend, everyone!

While we all take a few days off to relax with family and friends, I am thrilled to be spending Memorial Day weekend with the all lady cast of “Precious Little” by Madeline George at Matrix Theatre Company.

“Precious Little” is at its core a struggle and celebration of experiences that can’t be adequately described through words. This play explores the limits of language and the true nature of communication.

“This type of show is new for Matrix Theatre,” says Matrix Artistic Director Megan Buckley-Ball. “I couldn’t be more excited about it.  It will give our audiences a chance to step away from the realism they’re used to seeing here and give them a taste of the experimental.  The overall message of the show is both relatable and important, so I’m really looking forward to hearing feedback from our patrons.”

We have been experimenting with movement, speech, and digging deep into the text over the last couple weeks. We are now halfway through our rehearsal process and I’m struggling to find the words to express this experience.

So I’ll leave you with these press releases and this quote: “Whatever you do, something will happen. It’ll be a new life, and you’ll be inside it.”

Precious Little 1

Pictured in header: Linda Rabin-Hammell
Pictured above: DeAnnah Kleitz-Singleton

Photos courtesy of Megan Buckley-Ball

Press:
Broadway World
Detroit Performs
EncoreMichigan.com

Rosie Sharp of the Knight Arts Detroit Community Blog:

“Overall, a tight performance, doing a lot with a little. While “The Glass Menagerie” maintains some outmoded language and concepts less relevant considering the options afforded to modern women, the play’s examination of the fate of those left behind carries some resonance in a city whose hopes have been raised and dashed a hundred times since the play’s original debut.”

“The scene between Laura and Jim (portrayed by Zach Hendrickson) is the most moving of the performance, and gives both actors a spotlight to shine, lifting our hopes for Laura before—in true Williams fashion—they are extinguished, literally and figuratively.”

Review from The Detroit Free Press:

“In the capable hands of director Amanda Grace Ewing, this familiar material is imaginatively staged without being overly showy. Best are the beautiful pantomimed interludes in front of a phantom mirror. Amanda adjusts her hair and hat just so and is reminded of the glory days when she would receive as many as a dozen gentleman callers in a single afternoon. Heikkinen’s Laura, much more pretty than plain, admires herself in the same mirror. She reaches a hand out and grasps it lovingly with the other, a hint that she, too, desires someone to free her from crippling loneliness.”

“For the past three years, the Puzzle Piece Theatre has been a gypsy company of sorts, but now it has landed in the cozy confines of the Abreact Performance Space. The intimacy there proves vital to this “Glass Menagerie.” How can you not be engaged when a gentleman caller, just an idea in the first act, is now living, breathing and standing in the aisle only an arm’s length away from you?”

Review from EncoreMichigan.com:

“The current Puzzle Piece Theater production of the play, directed by Amanda Grace Ewing, appreciates the pliable nature of Williams’ text and its interpretation, creating a kind of theatrical sandbox in which the characters can dramatically frolic in pain and heartache that travels well beyond the confines of the playwright’s American south.”

“To reinforce the conceit of the memory play — that this is not absolute truth, but rather how the present Tom’s subjective mind perceives it — the production design takes corresponding liberties. Schroeder’s lighting design particularly unburdens itself from strict scene breaks and transitions however it sees fit, and sound design by Ewing plays up moments of aggression and sentimentality with a range of cinematic scores that push themselves boldly to the foreground.”