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September Is The Coolest Month

September 1, 2012

For T. S. Eliot, April may have been the cruelest month, but for us at GEM Theatrics, September is the “coolest” month. We have a lot of activity to report and the best part is: you get to take part in most of it with us!
We kick off right after the Labor Day holiday with two nights at the fabulous Noto’s Old World Restaurant performing our signature piece, A. R. Gurney’s “Love Letters.” For those who know about this unique and touching piece of theater, “Love Letters” tells the story of Andy and Melissa, who met in the second grade and continued a life-long friendship, suffering ups and downs, loves and hates, separations and reconciliations. The entire story is told through their letters to each other. Mary Beth and I met performing this show at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre more than a decade ago. The show changed our lives (for the better); come experience it with us and maybe it will do the same for you! Shows are September 11 and 12.  Dinner starts at 6:30p both nights, with curtain at 8p.  Tickets are just $45 for dinner and the show (it’s Noto’s, the food will be superb!) or $25 for show only. More information can be found on our website; tickets can be purchased at: Bringing dinner theater to Grand Rapids is a new venture by our friend Gary Morrison, who began StageOneGR just for this purpose. We’re proud to be part of the opening season and wish Gary much success!
The following week is Constitution Week, a week set aside to reflect on the founding of our nation and the principles we stand for. Davenport University is commemorating the week with our performance of the One-Act version of “My Dearest Friend.” We’re honored to be selected. While this performance is not open to the public, we hope to see many students there to share a little history and spark some discussion about what it means to be an American.  If any of you work for a non-profit agency, you can bring “My Dearest Friend” to your venue and the Michigan Humanities Council will help you pay for it.  We’re now part of the Council’s Touring Directory and grants are available!  Go to for more information.
This just in!! We’re thrilled to announce that we will be performing the full Two-Act Version of “My Dearest Friend”, by Mary G. Kron, for two nights in late September at the Red Barn Playhouse, in Saugatuck, Michigan. This historic barn has been turned into a wonderful rustic theatre, but with all the production values one could require. The shows are September 28 and 29.  Curtain is at 7:30p each evening and Tickets are just $15 or $12 for students and seniors. October was an important month in the Adams legacy: John was born in October, the Adamses were married in October and Abigail died in October. We also have a Presidential election right around the corner, so come out to get a glimpse into how it used to be! Tickets can be gotten from the Red Barn by calling 269-857-5300 or by email at
We hope you will come out to one or both of these events and watch us play!!

Humanities Council and War of 1812

May 15, 2012

I know this should be two separate blogs, but we’re so busy at GEM Theatrics right now, that I’m making this one do double duty.
First, we just found out that our production of “My Dearest Friend,” by Mary G. Kron, has been selected to be part of the 2012 – 2015 Arts and Humanities Touring Directory by the Michigan Humanities Council. We’re gratified by this selection! Every entry is judged by an “independent panel of experts in the appropriate humanities and arts fields” in order to be included. What this selection means is that not only was our show deemed worthy, but non-profit groups all over the state will be able to see our entry and, if they want to book us, will be able to get financial assistance from the Council to make the presentation of our show happen! The new Directory will be available online by August 1, 2012. If you know a school or library or museum that would like to bring a quality historical theatrical piece to their venue, let them know about us!

Second, June 1, 2012 marks the 200th Anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812. On June 1, 1812, President James Madison sent to Congress a declaration of the grievances against Great Britain and a request for a Declaration of War. Congress obliged on June 18. The grievances stated were: British interference with US trade with France, the impressment of US sailors who were former British citizens, and British support of Indian raids on US outposts in the territories.
You might be thinking: “Gary, what has this got to do with John and Abigail Adams? Adams was defeated in 1800 and had long retired from politics.” All of that is true. But, what is also true is that, without John Adams, the United States might well have lost the War of 1812. We almost lost as it was. For the only time in our history, a foreign power invaded Washington, DC and burned government buildings, including the White House (in fact, the Executive Mansion wasn’t called the White House until after the war, when white paint was used to cover the charred exterior). The truth is that we only “held our own” during the conflict and our only real victory (Jackson’s defeat of the British in New Orleans) came after the peace treaty had been signed. That we were able to hold our own was largely due to the long out of office John Adams. Adams had managed during his presidency to avoid a much sought after war with France that surely would have decimated US capital and armaments. In addition, Adams was responsible for the growth of the US Navy, without which our ground troops would surely have been overrun by British forces landing on our shores. Adams had, since the Revolution, believed that sea power was the one force of arms that would establish the US as a true world power. In this, as in many other things, he was truly ahead of his time. US naval strength would prove itself time and time again to be of monumental importance in safeguarding American freedoms, and, despite the advance in nuclear and other weapons, is still a vital force in the world today.
We at GEM Theatrics salute our Navy and all of our men and women serving their country at home and abroad in every branch of our armed forces. If you’d like to bring our bit of history to your venue, we’d be extremely pleased to hear from you to set it up!

GEM Theatrics Celebrates Women’s History Month!

March 9, 2012

On this International Day of the Woman, and the start of Women’s History Month in the United States, we at GEM Theatrics want to say “Here’s to the Ladies!” For myself, personally, I know that I am the luckiest guy around to have the love and support and talent and intelligence of Mary Beth, the other half of our business. I bet most of the other guys out there owe a lot to the women in their lives, too.
But today, I want to focus just a bit on two women close to our theatrical lives — Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. If you’ve followed these blogs, you already know a lot about Abigail Adams and if you don’t believe by now that she was pretty remarkable for her time, maybe by the time I’m done you’ll be convinced.

Abigail Adams

Abigail’s experiences probably weren’t unique; we maybe just think so because so many of her letters survive. Like many wives and mothers before her and since, when left behind while their men went off to do the “Nation’s business”, she had to expand her fields of expertise. She did it, too — wonderfully well. John Adams recognized the person she became: “Farmer, Parent, political Advisor, Manager of my business, my confidant, my Counselor — my Eyes of the Revolution!”
We also know, however, there were other areas where Abigail yearned for equality —  barriers that even as liberal a man as John Adams couldn’t see fit to help her surmount. Perhaps the largest disagreement Abigail and John encountered in their more than 50 years together involved the question of equal rights for women. Don’t misunderstand me; Abigail was no Susan B. Anthony. She didn’t want the vote, didn’t want that responsibility, but she always firmly believed that women had a place in the social order of things and that place was not subservient to men. We’ve posted a short clip on the home page from “My Dearest Friend” by Mary G. Kron that illustrates her point of view: “I long to hear that you have declared in the New Code of Laws that you remember the Ladies”, she wrote John, “and are more generous and favorable to them then your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember, all Men would be tyrants if they could.” John pooh-poohed her suggestion, and my personal view is that he probably never knew how much he hurt her by doing so (Adams was NOT a very empathetic person). But, WE know.
We know, because of the friendship Abigail had with Mercy Otis Warren.

Mercy Otis Warren

Mercy Otis could have been a member of the Mayflower Society — her mother’s ancestors had come to this country on that fabled ship. Her father was a judge, a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and an ardent supporter of Independence for the American colonies. Mercy was “raised in the midst of revolutionary ideals”, one of which was the education of females. Like Abigail, she had no formal schooling, but was tutored along with her brothers in her father’s home. Also, like Abigail, she was a frequent and powerful writer. Under pseudonyms, she published poems and plays that attacked the British crown, and in 1805, under her own name(!), she published a three-volume “History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution”, the first such history written by a woman.
When Abigail was rebuffed by John for her “remember the Ladies” letter, Abigail turned to Mercy Warren: “but I will tell him I have only been
making trial of the disinterestedness of his virtue, and when weighed in the balance have found it wanting.” We don’t know for certain, but it is likely that she never said anything of the kind to Adams’ face; it is only by virtue of the fact that letters can make us braver than we might be in person (email flames, anyone?) that we know of this dispute at all.
So, during this Women’s History Month, we at GEM Theatrics remember two very special ladies: Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. What historical women inspire you? Let us know!  We’d love to hear!

ps — stay tuned for some very special news about an encore public performance of “My Dearest Friend”.  Details are still to be worked out, but we’re very excited!

GEM Theatrics celebrates Black History Month!

February 12, 2012

As I’m sure most of you know, February is Black History Month, and while I’m not black, I do know some history and I thought I’d share some information with you.
Here at GEM Theatrics, we spend quite a bit of time delving into the early days of our country. Our newest production, “My Dearest Friend” by Mary G. Kron, focusses on the lives of John and Abigail Adams, who both had strong opinions on the issues of slavery and racial equality. We today tend to think of slavery as a southern state phenominon, and largely it was, as a result of the largely agricultural economy of the South. But, the sad truth is that for many years after the first settlers came to our shores at Jamestown and Plymouth, African slavery was a way of life in most of the thirteen colonies until the Revolution and after. And, even after slavery was abolished in some northern colonies, New England seafarers profited from the slave trade by carrying slaves to America in ships as part of the “triangle trade” (‘Molasses to Rum to Slaves’ from “1776”).
In fact, Abigail Adams’ own father, the Reverend William Smith, had owned a slave, Phoebe, that had been well beloved by Abigail. Reverend Smith made provisions in his will to free Phoebe and provided her with a life-long pension. Phoebe was married in John and Abigail’s home and Abigail put her in charge of the Adams’ household when she went to France and, later, England to be with her husband in the 1780s.
Despite this history of slavery, even in her own family, Abigail was convinced that slavery was wrong and that blacks deserved equal educational, if not social and political, rights. Indeed, she recounts in her letters a memorable incident with a local resident about the education of a free hired black lad working on the Adams’ farm. A telling of that story is on the first page of our website —
It is possible that John Adams lagged behind his wife in his thinking about this issue. I’ve come to the conclusion that Abigail was often more “progressive” than John is areas of social conscience, but John, his cousin Samuel Adams, and others, recognized that the slavery issue would one day impede the country’s progress. Sam Adams wrote in the 1770s that the slavery issue would cause “trouble a hundred years hence.” John wrote that slavery would “cost the country dear.” Even Thomas Jefferson, main author of the Declaration of Independence, and a slave-holder, included language in the Declaration condemning it, but southern state delegates forced it to be removed.
Slavery was, of course, officially abolished after the Civil War by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would officially do away with segregation and racial discrimination, but we all know that the fight for equality goes on.
For myself, I hope that the day comes soon when, in the words of Abigail Adams: “I heard nothing more about the matter” and that we “shall all go to heaven together.”

ps — MB and I will be at the Grand Rapids Public Library February 13 at 7p to present our signature piece, “Love Letters” by A. R. Gurney. Admission is free! AND Gary is performing with AP Theatrical in Holland in “Marriage Is Murder” by Nick Hall. This is dinner theater. The food is very good and the price is reasonable. Performances are every Friday and Saturday in February. Go to for details and to order tickets.

February is a hot month for GEM Theatrics personnel!

February 1, 2012

While February is usually a cold and cruel month here in West Michigan, this year is starting out as an exception. After a very warm January, February is continuing the trend, with temperatures in the 40s today.
Whatever the weather, this February will be a hot month for us here at GEM Theatrics. We invite all our friends to join us February 13 at the Grand Rapids Public Library as we perform our signature piece, “Love Letters”! This performance starts at 7pm and is absolutely free! So, come celebrate Valentine’s Day with Andy and Melissa, thanks to the good people at GRPL. You’ll be glad you did! Check the rest of the website for more information about this Pulitzer Prize nominated show.
Even while those preparations are going on, I’ve been busy working with my good friends at AP Theatrical to appear in their Winter production of “Marriage is Murder.” This is a very funny tale of a now divorced husband and wife murder mystery writing team, who are suddenly re-united when there’s a demand for more novels starring their detective, Miss Charlie. The couple’s separation was acrimonious and their way of writing is to try the possible ways of murdering people out on each other, so there’s a lot of hilarious tension. This show runs Fridays and Saturdays in February beginning February 10. Tickets are just $35 for dinner and the show, or $18 for the show only. That’s a great value because the food is great! Venue is the Baker Lofts in Holland. For more information, or to order tickets, go to
This year also marks the bi-centennial of the War of 1812, and that has our John and Abigail Adams noses twitching with excitement! I’ll bring you up to date on that War and the Adams’ part in it in my next blog. Stay tuned!
Until then, stay warm and safe and dry and be sure to follow us on Facebook!

Happy Holidays!!

December 21, 2011

This is the time of year when we get a lot of messages that begin “All of us at _____ wish you a joyous, etc.” And that’s great, and we smile. But, here at GEM Theatrics, there is no “all of us.” There’s just Mary Beth and me. So, let me make this as personal as I can:
Mary Beth and I sincerely wish that this Holiday season is filled with as much joy as your heart can stand, as much love as your heart can hold, and as much cheer as your heart can bestow. And may 2012 give to all of us a smile, a handshake, a hug, a tear or two (of joy) and good health, a warm bed and love in abundance. If we can get those things, the rest will take care of itself.
Peace, my friends, and love — the mercenary stuff will resume after the Holidays!

Exciting News! and Request for Help

December 9, 2011

As I write this, West Michigan is getting its first real snow of the season!  Yep, the Holidays are here and I have a couple of gifts for you and some exciting news.

First, the gifts — Check out our home page and you’ll find a new video taken right from the premiere of “My Dearest Friend” by Mary G. Kron that appeared at the Dog Story Theater in November.  This short clip shows John and Abigail Adams celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  For those of you not familiar with why we have parades and shoot off fireworks on the Fourth of July, listen closely to what John Adams says.  There’s also another video from the show on the “My Dearest Friend” tab in the “Current Productions” menu on our website.  Take a look at these videos and I think you’ll see what a quality production this is — one that you’ll want to see if it comes around again or to recommend to your group (school, library, museum, corporate outing)!

Now the news — Our home page also provides information about our upcoming performance of our signature piece, “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney on February 13, 2012 at the Grand Rapids Public Library.  Mary Beth and I are delighted to be asked to share this tender and unique look at a fifty year relationship, told entirely through letters, for Valentine’s Day!  Admission will be free, so mark the date on your calendars and keep checking the website for more details.  Come watch us play!

Last, the request — Websites are great, social media is fun, but word of mouth and personal connections are the best!  If you saw our show and liked it, if you’ve been to our website ( and were impressed with our product offerings, if you appreciate history and quality theater, then we need you to tell others about GEM Theatrics.  Send your friends or associates to our website, let your child’s social studies teacher know about “My Dearest Friend”, mention our shows to colleagues in your office or at your social gatherings.  Get these people to visit our site and fill out our new contact form.  We can’t do it all — We need YOU!

Mary Beth and I wish all of you a safe and joyous holiday season!

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