Posted tagged ‘“Dog Story Theater”’

John Adams and the US Navy

July 23, 2013

Earlier this month, Mary Beth and I attended the Tall Ships Celebration in Bay City, Michigan. This festival of sailing ships is a periodic event, but this was our first time going. We attended on the opening Thursday and, instead of going to the docks along the Saginaw river, we thought we would travel closer to Saginaw Bay and try to see the ships coming in under sail. Pride of Baltimore 3Now, I’m not a sailor, or even really a boater, but there is something about seeing sailing ships, especially ships of some size, coming in under the power of the wind that is thrilling to me. Our vantage point in a riverside park in Essexville, Michigan wasn’t far enough out to sea to actually see the ships coming in solely by wind power, but many of them had their sails unfurled, giving the illusion of natural propulsion. Some members of a local boating club saluted each of the eleven ships (one from as far away as Denmark) with a mock cannon blast. Each ship answered the salute, either with mock cannons of its own, or by blowing the ship’s horn. Pride of Baltimore 2The sky was bright blue, the temperature not too hot; all in all a great day.
This experience got me thinking about the US Navy. The Tall Ships Celebration website told me that some of the ships I was seeing would be participating in a mock lake battle on Labor Day, recreating a naval battle in Lake Erie during the War of 1812. I already knew how important the French fleet had been to the struggling 13 colonies during the Revolutionary War, and that without the protection of those ships, the war with Great Britain might well have been lost.
That same idea resonated with John Adams, too. “It was John Adams who drafted the first set of rules and regulations for the new navy — a point of pride for him as long as he lived. Indeed, in the 25 years that John Adams served his country, and especially as President, in his advocacy of a strong navy he stood second to none.” (David McCullough) Adams called the Navy “the wooden walls of America,” and fought tirelessly to create and strengthen it. No early test of the American Navy was greater than that faced during the War of 1812. In the ocean, and on the Great Lakes, the ships authorized by Adams during his Presidency performed brilliantly, far better, actually, than our land-based troops, which suffered defeat after defeat until Andrew Jackson’s post-peace victory in New Orleans (where he was aided by the ships of pirates). One-time friend turned political enemy Thomas Jefferson wrote Adams: “I sincerely congratulate you on the success of our little navy, which must be more gratifying to you than to most men, as having been the early and constant advocate of wooden walls.” Today, John Adams is known as the “Father of the Navy.”
I was also reminded, watching the ships enter the harbor in Bay City, of our trip to Massachusetts over the July 4th Holiday two years’ ago, when Mary Beth and I had the chance to tour the USS Constitution. 20110702_0297Authorized by President Washington, built in Boston, and boasting 44 guns, this oldest of all surviving US naval vessels was launched on October 21, 1797, during the first year in office of John Adams and just nine days before his 62nd birthday. Whether through superior building materials or fantastic luck, the Constitution withstood every assault aimed at her, earning her the nickname “Old Ironsides.” Much as Francis Scott Key’s ode to the “Star-Spangled Banner” sustaining over Fort McHenry, the survival and victories of the Constitution bucked up a nation desperately in need of positive news. Indeed, the victories of the Navy are thought by some historians to have played a large part in the wearing down process that finally brought Britain to the treaty table. Adams must have been very proud.
These topics, and many others, are touched on in GEM Theatrics’ production of Mary G. Kron’s “My Dearest Friend” available for booking at your venue right now. We’re thrilled to announce that the One-Act version of “My Dearest Friend” will be produced at Davenport University in September, 2013, as part of the Constitution Week commemoration. The full Two-Act version will be produced as part of the Lake Effect Fringe Festival at Grand Rapids’ Dog Story Theater February 28 – March 2, 2014. More details will soon appear on our website: http://www.gemtheatrics.com
We hope to see all of you at one of our performances!!
(All photos (c) Gary E. Mitchell; all rights reserved)

A Time For Reflection; A Time Of Anticipation

December 10, 2012

Christmas Tree“It’s that time of year”, the song says, “when the world falls in love.” We hope those words come true for each and every one of you reading this entry. With all of you, we at GEM Theatrics hope for Peace on Earth and Good Will among all people. We hope that the times of strife in our country and around the world will soon end and that our leaders can find the right path.
But the end of the year is also a time to reflect. For Mary Beth and me, this has been a year of professional growth as we saw our little theatrical business grow from a dream to something real, something we can be proud of. Over the course of the past 12 months or so, we brought Mary G. Kron’s wonderful telling of the story of John and Abigail Adams to life with performances of My Dearest Friend at Dog Story Theater last November, Davenport University this past September and The Red Barn Theatre in Saugatuck, MI in October. 8009093294_76e0099f04_bWe also showcased the show in Traverse City in June for the Michigan Presenters Annual Conference and in November for the Michigan Joint Social Studies Conference in Warren, MI. Audience response has been enthusiastic everywhere we’ve performed and we are confident that this is an informative and entertaining look at two fascinating lives from our history.
We are also thrilled to report that My Dearest Friend was accepted into the 2012 – 2015 Michigan Humanities Council Touring Directory. In order to be selected a short video from the show was reviewed by experts in the field, who judged it worthy of inclusion. What this means for non-profits looking to bring a quality entertainment to your venue is that grant money is available to underwrite 40% of the cost of hiring us! Just go to: http://www.michiganhumanities.org/programs/touring/index.php  for more information.
We also performed our signature piece, A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters, for two nights this past fall at Noto’s Old DSC_0020_croppedWorld Italian Dining as part of a dinner theatre package presented by StageOneGR, DSC_0017_croppeda new dinner theatre company founded by our new pal, Gary Morrison. We had a great time and the audiences got a superb meal and the chance to experience Mr. Gurney’s touching and funny play.

 

 

But, year ends are also a time for looking forward. Assuming the Mayans weren’t correct about that end of the world thing, 2013 offers a host of new opportunities for us — and that means also for you!

For those of you who have missed it so far, My Dearest Friend will be presented — in its entirety — Feb. 9 at the Kentwood Library, 4950 Breton Rd. SE, Kentwood,MI, at 2:00 pm.  Admission is free! We’re very grateful to the library for this opportunity. Come on out and see us!
In addition, details are being finalized to bring Love Letters to the Red Barn Theatre in Saugatuck, MI for the Valentine’s weekend. Save the date and stay tuned! More information to come!
Helping make February an even busier month for us, we’re very pleased to announce that GEM Theatrics will be participating in the first annual Lake Effect Fringe Festival!LEFF large with TM We’re thrilled to be a founding member of this very exciting venture, along with Dog Story Theater, Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and Stark Turn Players. One of the purposes of the Festival is to allow entertainment groups of all stripes who may not have their own theatre spaces to come together for a month of eclectic presentations all in one venue. We’re hoping this annual festival of performing arts will expose these groups to new audiences who may not know of our existence, not to mention showcasing the wealth of talent that exists right here in West Michigan. Tickets for all shows will be just $10/$8.
GEM Theatrics’ weekend will be Feb. 22 – 24, and we’re directing and producing two one-act plays by local playwrights. Based on the theme Working for a Living, we’ll be presenting Rock of Ages, by Mary G. Kron, about the effect of disaster on coal mining families, and the world premiere of The Interview, by Patrick M. Bailey, which deals with the issues of outsourcing. While some roles have been cast, we’re still looking for actors. Auditions will be January 12 and 13 and there is a link on the Home Page of this website for details.
So, as you can see, we have a lot of exciting events coming up in 2013. We hope you’ll check this website often for updates and follow our page on Facebook. Until we see you somewhere down the line, have a fabulous and heart-warming Holiday Season!!

Show video is coming!

November 21, 2011

Many thanks to Nancy Smith, who recorded the show last Saturday night! We have the DVD and will be editing snippets and posting them on Youtube and here on the website. Expect it right after the Thanksgiving holiday.
We at GEM Theatrics have much to be thankful for: We are blessed with good health and wonderful friends, we’re doing great theatre and have received some interest in bringing our shows to venues in the New Year! We could be busier — if you have a venue that could use quality entertainment, call or email us! You’ll be very glad you did!
We each wish all of you a fabulous Turkey Day!

Countdown — Liftoff!!

November 11, 2011

Tonight’s the night!! “My Dearest Friend” launches tonight at 8p at Dog Story Theater, 7 Jefferson, Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has been months in the making — from having the idea of bringing the lives and love of John and Abigail Adams to life on stage, to hiring accomplished playwright Mary G. Kron to craft a produceable play, to getting Scott Baisden on board to help with still and moving pictures, to hiring Todd M. Lewis to compose original music, and to putting in long hours learning lines, making set, props and costumes, blocking the show, building the characters, feeling the emotions, researching the lives of the characters and the history. . . . The list goes on and on.
But tonight none of those things will matter. Not to you, the audience. Tonight will be for you, and if we’ve done our jobs right, you won’t see the component parts, but just the whole — two hours of transportation into the parlor of John and Abigail Adams. You’ll be the Adams’ guests as they recount the “joys and sorrows, prosperity and adversity” of their lives together. If you leave the theater educated, enlightened, moved and entertained, we’ll know our work was worth it.
Dog Story tells us that tickets are going fast. I urge you reserve today! And if you come to see the show, stay long enough to say “Hi”; we’ll be glad to see you!
http://www.dogstorytheater.com
http://www.gemtheatrics.com

Countdown — T-1

November 11, 2011

Whether you get only a couple of rehearsal days in the actual theatre or nearly a week, it all comes down to this — final dress rehearsal! When your schedule is compressed, as ours is because we only get the Dog Story Theater for as many days as we can pay for (and as many days as the theater is empty, which isn’t many), the final day is long. We did two run throughs today; one to iron out the final technical problems and one to finally put our costumes on and see how they worked. As usual, I found the process of putting the costume on transformative. I don’t mean that I couldn’t play John Adams without the costume, I could. And, I’ve taught acting long enough to know that acting isn’t the set, the lights, the costumes and the sound cues, it’s what goes on in the actor’s head. Indeed, one of the best pieces of acting I’ve ever seen is a grainy old kinescope copy of the famous Gielgud/Burton “Hamlet” where the actors wore “rehearsal clothes” (really just ’60s street clothes). But what I mean about the transformative nature of putting on the costume for “My Dearest Friend” is that period clothes make you feel like you are part of the period. Posture becomes more important because it’s the only way those clothes look good on a person. I’m aware of leg position because my calves are exposed, only covered by stockings. And I think I move more elegantly because I feel more elegant!
So today, the show took a big step forward, a step that leads, inexorably, to opening night. We’ve done our part; we’ve put together a quality entertainment that we’re very proud of. Now, it’s your turn, because a show without an audience is like a tree that falls deep in the forest — it makes no sound.
If you’ve read these blogs with interest, then come and see our show — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Tell others who maybe haven’t heard about us and urge them to attend as well. Get them to tell their friends and before you know it, we’ll have a hit, just like the story of Independence we tell.
Come watch us play!!

Countdown — T-2

November 9, 2011

I want to step back from the fun and excitement of bringing “My Dearest Friend” to the Dog Story stage on Friday and talk about something serious.
Today is a down day for us here at GEM Theatrics because I have a “real” job that must be attended to. Don’t get me wrong: I love teaching at Davenport University and The Thomas M. Cooley Law School and, the economy being what it is, any job is a great job. But anyone who knows me knows that appearing in and producing plays is what really gets my juices flowing. It’s just that other things get in the way, and so there will be no rehearsal today. That doesn’t mean we’re not working to bring the best entertainment we can to our stage. Line rehearsals continue, characters still perk inside our heads and research goes on. AND, while I’m at school today, Mary Beth and Joel go to Dog Story to help unpack the new seating that will debut along with “My Dearest Friend” (and if you’ve been to Dog Story, you know this is a major, major improvement!).
What lead to all of this is a photo I saw on Facebook about the importance of supporting local businesses, including local artists, designers and crafters. When we buy locally, more of our money stays in and circulates through our community. Local employers are the biggest source of jobs in our economy. AND you say to those entrepreneurs “We appreciate what you do for us.” GEM Theatrics is an example. Our latest production was written by a local, talented author, Mary G. Kron. It stars two local theatre professionals, is performed in a locally owned theater and is supported by local technicians and a local composer, Todd M. Lewis. I am not knocking Broadway GR or Miller Auditorium or the Van Singel, who bring in touring shows — they’re great, but if you’ve seen a show at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, Actors’ Theatre, Circle Theatre or at the Dog Story, you know that our local talent can stand toe to toe with New York and Chicago professionals in terms of talent and entertainment value — all at an affordable price.
So yup, I want you to come and see “My Dearest Friend” this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Dog Story Theater, but even if you don’t (shame on you!), before you go to the big box store and buy something made in China, why not check to see if there’s not a similar item made in the USA and sold locally through a local merchant. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised and then gratified that you did!
We at GEM Theatrics appreciate it! Oh yeah, if you come to the show, stay a few minutes after and say hi — we’d love to see you!
http://www.dogstorytheater.com
http://www.gemtheatrics.com

Countdown – T-3

November 9, 2011

Moving into the performance space is an exciting, but also difficult proposition. It’s exciting because it means the show is one step closer to being a reality, one step closer to that moment we’ve spent weeks striving toward. It’s difficult because you know that the show will take a step backward while it is moving forward.
We’ve rehearsed for weeks, learning lines, getting inside the skins of our characters and creating sets, costumes and props that will help us tell our story of this most modern of historic couples. As the work goes on, we feel better and better about how it’s all coming together. Now, we move into a different environment — the room is different, the walls are different, we see chairs set up for audience members, our voices sound different coming off the walls. The desk that was four steps from the table is now six steps away because the space is a bit bigger than our dining room (our cheap/free rehearsal space), but the lights only cover so much area without lighting the patrons and so the dance segment is only four steps to the side instead of six.
And today our focus was split, literally. When you own your own company and you rent performance space, you have to adjust your own lighting using the instruments available. That means I was up and down a tall step ladder a lot of times today setting, testing and re-setting the lights. Sound equipment also had to be tested and sound levels set. Our show has projections and they had to be tested and acclimated to the brand of projector the venue has. All of these things are going on three days before we open and they aren’t really what the acting is all about.
This may sound like I’m griping, but I’m not. Mary Beth and I have been through this before, working for other people, so we know that the run through today was not about the performances, but all about getting our bodies, minds and voices used to a different arena. It’s uncomfortable but necessary work and, all in all, went surprisingly smoothly.
Over the course of the next couple of days, I’ll be telling you a bit more about how the theatrical sausage is made.
This show is ready for an audience. Come be part of it!
“My Dearest Friend”
November 11 – 13
Dog Story Theater, 7 Jefferson, Grand Rapids, Michigan
http://www.dogstorytheater.com
http://www.gemtheatrics.com


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