Sneak Peek at Performance Network at its Dawn

The Performance Network, formerly an Ann Arbor professional theater group, enters Old News in 1982 with the article Their corner of the world’s a stage. “Our immediate aim is to be studio or work space,” explained David Bernstein, one of Performance Network’s co-founders. For the first two years, Performance Network was a place for directors, playwrights, actors and stage crew to develop their professional skills. A unique feature was the “Works-in-Progress” series, stage readings of plays followed by a discussion with the playwright. Among them was Rachelle Urist, a reporter for the Ann Arbor News, who had her play, "Just Friends,” stage read and later developed into a full production. Opening their doors was the play, "We Won’t Pay, We Won’t Pay,” which heralded the era of Performance Network. Stay tuned for additional articles, photographs, programs, and more, from Performance Network's long history.

The Art of Taiwanese Glove Puppet Theater

This presentation will explore the history, styles, and main themes of glove puppet theatre in Taiwan as well as its relationship to other Chinese theatrical and artistic forms. This event is in coordination with the glove puppet theatre performance by the I Wan Jan Puppet Theater on Tuesday, May 24 at 7pm at the Downtown Library.

Glove puppet (also called hand puppet) theatre is a traditional theatrical art form that combines aspects of folk arts such as woodcarving and embroidery with traditional music and Chinese dramatic forms based on famous historical novels.

This form of puppet theatre has been practiced in Taiwan since it was introduced by immigrants from the southeastern coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangzhou in about the 18th century. Overtime in Taiwan, it developed some distinctive Taiwanese characteristics with the use of the local dialects and artistic styles, as well as theatrical and technical innovations to engage an ever-changing audience.

Ann Arbor residents and Eastern Michigan University Professors, Guey-Meei Yang and Tom Suchan, will lead this presentation. Guey-Meei Yang is a Professor of Visual Art Education with a specialization in multicultural art education and technology integration. Tom Suchan researches medieval Chinese religious art. In addition to their individual fields they have collaborated on a number of joint publications and research projects.

Notes On Directing With John Manfredi and Suzi Regan Of The Performance Network

Executive Director John Manfredi and Artistic Director Suzi Regan of Ann Arbor's premiere professional theatre, Performance Network, will host an evening discussion on directing theatrical productions. They will discuss the process by which they choose, cast, design, produce and maintain the plays they direct, pulling from their collective 55 years of professional experience.

John Manfredi is an award winning actor, director, writer, teacher, arts advocate and has been producing theatre in Michigan for over 30 years. He is owner of Etico Productions LLC, a Michigan theatrical consulting and production company. You may have seen him as an actor on the Performance Network stage many times in some of their most recent box office successes such as An Iliad, A Picasso, and K2; at the Williamston Theatre in Lion In Winter where he also directed Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune; or at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre in The Scullery Maid.

Suzi Regan has been an actor, director, writer, sound designer, arts advocate and teacher in and around the Detroit area for 25 years. She has worked on or around every professional stage...Meadow Brook, JET, Williamston, Purple Rose... in the area including Performance Network where you many have seen her in Good People, Time Stands Still, and The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead. She was most recently seen on stage at Williamston Theatre in Outside Mullingan and is currently the director of Performance Network's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Celebrated Actress, Writer, and Producer Cindy Williams Discusses Her Career And Her New Autobiography: “Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life”

Actress, writer, and producer Cindy Williams is one of the most recognizable names and faces of 1970s & 1980s television.

Best known for her starring role in the hit TV show "Laverne and Shirley," she also had lead roles in such iconic films such as "American Graffiti" and Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation."

While millions have been entertained by her good-natured personality and comedy antics, she has rarely spoken about her life in entertainment, and how she came to star in one of the most popular shows of all time.

Join us for this truly special event at the Downtown Library as Cindy sits with local radio personality Lucy Ann Lance to discuss her life, career and new book Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life. In this hilarious and heartfelt book, she shares some of her most memorable stories including her role as Shirley Feeney in the iconic TV show "Laverne & Shirley." She shares stories of her experiences in her personal life (growing up in a blue-collar family) and show business as well as her encounters with entertainment giants such as Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Little Richard, Cary Grant, Jim Morrison, Ron Howard, and many more. Of course, she also talks about her professional partnership and personal relationship with her co-star and friend Penny Marshall.

This event includes a book signing and books will be for sale by Literati Bookstore.

"Why Shakespeare?" With Janice L Blixt, Producing Artistic Director of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival

Join Jan for a delightful evening as she answers that frequent question in a format combining history, literary criticism, and pop culture. She will also discuss the 21st Anniversary Season of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, featuring productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry IV, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals.

Jan Blixt has been a professional director and classical actor in Chicago and Michigan for nearly 20 years, having played most of the great female roles from Lady Macbeth to Twelfth Night’s Olivia. Entering her fifth year as the MSF's Artistic Director, Blixt will direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Henry IV.

In 2014, she directed the acclaimed Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and the Wilde Award for Best Comedy, winning for The Importance of Being Earnest. In 2013 she directed Twelfth Night, and in 2012, she directed both Richard III & George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. She has also directed Romeo & Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing and won the Wilde-Award for her Production of The Winter's Tale. She also adapted and directs the ongoing MSF touring productions of Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth.

As the Official Shakespeare Festival of the State of Michigan, the Michigan Shakespeare Festival is a professional Equity theatre company (LOA/LORT) dedicated to producing world-class classical plays. Now in preparation for their 21st year, the Festival performs in Jackson's lovely Baughman Theatre, and for the first time this year, they are expanding to Canton's beautiful Village Theatre of Cherry Hill. The Michigan Shakespeare Festival inspires and entertains a diverse audience while further developing an appreciation for professional performances of Shakespeare's works and other classical plays.

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Archive Launched on Old News


The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre is celebrating 85 years and AADL has launched a new website detailing the history of this award-winning local theater company.

View hundreds photos from the rehearsals, backstages and performances of the plays including never before seen shots from noted photographer Fred Beutler as well as the staff photographers at the Ann Arbor News. The Archive also includes hundreds of posters and programs from plays and over a thousand articles from the Ann Arbor News.

Old News will be adding more programs, photos and documents from the extensive collection at the Civic Theatre in the coming months but we need your help . . . can you identify any of the people in the photos where we don't have names? Everyone knows someone in Ann Arbor who worked in or for a Civic Theatre play, so browse the photos and add your knowledge in the Add New Comment feature. We have identified the lady at your left, that's Gilda Radner.

National Library Week Event: Let's Put On A Play! Celebrating 85 Years of the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

Did you know that Gilda Radner got her start on the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre stage? Or that Brynn O’Malley, the star of Broadway’s new musical Honeymoon In Vegas, won local awards for her Ann Arbor Civic Theatre performances as Maria in The Sound Of Music and Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music?

Take a musical step back in local theater history as AADL unveils its digital archive of Ann Arbor Civic Theatre with an evening of music, memories and performances by the beloved local theater company.

The evening includes reminisces from local Ann Arbor Civic Theatre celebrities: musical performances from Follies, Chicago, and Guys and Dolls; previews from upcoming productions of Rent and 101 Dalmatians; a digital look at past productions, and the official announcement of A2CT’s 2015-2016 season. Refreshments will be served.

Musical performers include Anne Bauman, Glenn Bugala, Amanda Burch, Jennifer Goltz, Caitlin Rowe, Kathy Waugh, the cast of Civic Theatre’s upcoming production of Rent and the young actors from the A2CT’s Junior Theater production of 101 Dalmatians. Laurie Atwood, Nancy Heusel and Chris Tabaczka-Hover will also offer poignant and amusing memories of Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s past.

AADL will unveil their new website detailing the history of this award-winning local theater company, including over 1,000 reviews and photographs from the Ann Arbor News, a chronology of past programs, and hundreds of photos and posters from the Civic Theatre's archive.

Wild Swan's 'Coming to America'

Wild Swan Theater presents a stirring musical play about immigration, following the journeys of four children from different parts of the world who make their way to a new life in America.

'Coming to America' is an original production based on the lives of children who came to the U.S. from around the world. This multicultural production interweaves the adventures, songs, humor, hardships, and triumphs of the people who built our country.

With music by Laz Slomovits of Gemini, the play follows the adventures of children from four countries: Russia, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and Lebanon as they leave their homelands and journey to America. Their stories are filled with the courage, hope, dreams and laughter of our collective immigrant histories as they overcome huge obstacles in their quest for a better life.

Before Bridgegate, Before SNL, Gilda Radner Was an Ann Arbor Star

Before becoming a founding member of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live, Gilda Radner was making her name as a performer with the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. Radner was a student at the University of Michigan and already showing her gift for broad comedy.

This week Radner, who died in 1989, was back in the news, in the guise of her most famous comic alter ego Roseanne Roseannadanna. On SNL's Weekend Update, Roseanne would respond to the complaints of a Mr. Richard Feder of Fort Lee, N.J. This week the New York Times writer Matt Flegenheimer wondered what Richard Leder would think about the controversy over the closing of the George Washington Bridge that connects Fort Lee with Manhattan. The closings have ensnared New Jersey governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie in a scandal.

Mr. Feder is a real person, the brother-in-law of an SNL staff writer. He never wrote letters to Roseanne, but mock complaining letters in his name and Roseanne's withering replies became famous. In one skit quoted in the Times Mr. Feder complained about his attempts to stop smoking, "I gained weight, my face broke out. I'm nauseous, I'm constipated, my feet swell, my sinuses are clogged, I got heartburn, I'm cranky and I have gas. What should I do."

"Mr. Feder, you sound like a real attractive guy," Ms. Roseannadanna said. "You belong in New Jersey."

As it happens, Mr. Feder was caught in the massive traffic jam around the bridge. Radner's brilliance at creating wild and yet endearing characters first came to life here in Ann Arbor.

Hill Auditorium ~ One Hundred Years of History

On June 25, 1913, Hill Auditorium was officially opened to the University and the community with the mission to bring the world to Ann Arbor. Grace Shackman's Old News feature tells the story of Hill and the thousands of performers, speakers, events and controversies that have made Albert Kahn's gorgeous building so central to Ann Arbor's history. Old News has published hundreds of Ann Arbor News articles and photographs that chronicle the history-makers, the premiere performers, the celebrations and the one-of-a-kind.

In collaboration with the University Musical Society, the complete UMS Concert Program Archives have been digitized. The program notes offer some of the best music criticism written. In keeping with a long-held Town & Gown tradition, UMS will celebrate Hill's 100th with a big Community Sing of Verdi's Requiem on May 14th, one hundred years to the day that they did the Requium in 1913. Come, sing and be a part of the continuing history of Hill Auditorium.

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