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Posted on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 6:43 a.m.

'Shipwrecked' at AADL, 'Godspell' at Encore Musical Theatre

By Carla Milarch

This spring, it’s not just flowers that are popping into bloom all over Michigan. This week is a veritable botanical garden of new plays here in Washtenaw, with four world premieres in the listings, three of them by Michigan playwrights.

So, with the general climate in American theater trending toward conservative and well-known plays, how did Washtenaw County become a hotbed of new play development? Credit numerous factors, including the Purple Rose, whose celebrity firepower brings attention to developing playwrights, and Performance Network, whose connection to the National New Play Network has helped them garner prestigious national recognition.

Not only that, many smaller groups like the New Theatre Project, Wild Swan, and newcomer Threefold Productions, have embraced the rewards and challenges of bringing new work to life as a regular part of their offerings. Now, not only can Washtenaw County boast world-class productions of new plays, but a thriving community of Michigan playwrights as well.

Theater listings for the week

Show: "Next Fall" by Geoffrey Nauffts, through April 7
Company: Basement Arts
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Studio 1 of the Walgreen Drama Center, 1226 Murfin Dr., Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 16+
Description: Luke is a strict Catholic, Adam is a strict atheist, and both men are gay. “Next Fall” explores how homosexuality and religion can coexist while chronicling the five year relationship between these Adam & Luke. In a time when gay individuals often live in secrecy, are frowned upon by religious organizations, and cannot get married, "Next Fall" asks the question, how important is it to be honest about who you are?
Fun fact: Basement Arts' mission is to provide quality student produced theater every weekend of the school year. Its productions are student directed, acted, and designed and are open to the whole University of Michigan community.
For tickets and information:

Show: “Stealing for Al-Qaida” by Craig Draheim, through April 7
Company: Threefold Productions
Type of Company: Pre-professional
Venue/location: Mix Performance Space, 8 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti
Recommended ages: 16+
Description: Desperate times call for desperate measures in this political satire about two down on their luck Americans who find themselves in third world trouble. 'Dog Day Afternoon' meets 'Dr. Strangelove' in this staged reading of a new comedy by Craig Draheim.
More information
Fun fact: The show was a part of The Blackbird Theatre’s Raw Staged Reading Series in the summer of 2011; however, the piece has been expanded from its original one-act form into a full-length production.
For tickets and information:

Show: Theater Panel Discussion: “Wild Swan Navigates Shipwreck Alley In Their Newest Play,” one-time event, April 5 at 7 p.m.
Company: Ann Arbor District Library/ Wild Swan Theater
Type of Company: Panel discussion about the making of a youth theater event
Venue/location: Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room
Recommended ages: Adults and teens
Description: Go behind the scenes as playwright Jeff Duncan, director Hilary Cohen, and Wild Swan actors discuss the making of "Shipwrecked!"—the newest play by Ann Arbor's award-winning Wild Swan Theater. Discover the process and the people behind the development of this exciting play about Michigan's maritime heritage and greatest natural resource -the Great Lakes!
Fun fact: AADL is presenting this panel discussion and the Monday, May 9 production of Shipwrecked! in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of one of the most incredible shipwrecks of all time—the sinking of the Titanic which occurred on April 15 1912.
For tickets and information:, 734-327-4555

Show: "Cloud Nine" by Caryl Churchill, through April 8
Company: UM Department of Theatre & Drama
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 18+
Description: A wild ride through the sexual politics of one family over two centuries.
Review from
Fun fact: The play uses controversial portrayals of sexuality and obscene language and establishes a parallel between colonial and sexual oppression, using incongruity and the carnivalesque to convey Churchill's political messages of tolerance.
For tickets and information: 734-764-2538,

Show: “Dead Man’s Shoes” by Joseph Zettelmaier, through April 8
Company: Performance Network Theatre
Type of Company: Professional Equity (SPT)
Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 16+, Contains adult themes and language.
Description: From the playwright of the smash hit “It Came From Mars” comes a dastardly comedy, based on fact, but steeped in the tone of a good old-fashioned outlaw movie. Injun Bill Picote and Army deserter/camp cook Froggy wander the wild west in search of a man who done a truly despicable deed. Filled with true grit and dark humor, it’s a fast-paced and panoramic journey to the dark side of American history. Winner of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award.
Review from the Detroit Free Press
Fun fact: Dr. John Eugene Osborne, the man responsible for skinning outlaw George Parrot and turning him into shoes, was apparently quite proud of his man-shoes and wore them all the time, including special occasions. One occasion in particular was his inauguration as governor of Wyoming!
For tickets and information: 734-663-0681,

Show: Wild Swan Theater Presents "Shipwrecked!" One-time event, April 9 at 7 p.m.
Company: Ann Arbor District Library/ Wild Swan Theater
Type of Company: Children’s Theater
Venue/location: Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room
Recommended ages: Grade 3 and up
Description: Set in 1893, "Shipwrecked!" is about a Detroit family of three—mom, dad, and 12 year old son—who carry cargo on the Great Lakes for their livelihood. They set sail on Lake Huron through "Shipwreck Alley" with a load of Christmas trees from the Upper Peninsula only to be battered by one of the fierce November storms that have over the years imperiled thousands of ships on the Great Lakes.
Fun fact: Written by Wild Swan resident playwright Jeff Duncan, the play was developed in collaboration with the Detroit Historical Society/Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Michigan Historical Museum, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Michigan Geographic Alliance, and the Michigan Council for History Education.
For tickets and information:, 734-327-4555

Show: “Godspell” by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Trebelak, through April 22
Company: The Encore Musical Theatre Company
Type of Company: Professional Equity Special Appearance Contract, Non-Equity.
Venue/location: The Encore Musical Theatre Company, 3126 Broad Street, Dexter
Recommended ages: All
Description: Godspell is a musical based on the gospel of St. Matthew, using a collection of songs written by Stephen Schwartz and vaudevillian skits. With songs like "Day by Day", "Turn Back O Man", and "All For the Best."
Review from
Fun fact: The musical is structured in a series of parables, based on the Gospel of Matthew, and three parables from the Gospel of Luke, interspersed with modern music set primarily to lyrics from traditional hymns.
For tickets and information:, 734-268-6200

Show: “White Buffalo” by Don Zolidis, through June 2
Company: The Purple Rose Theatre Company
Type of Company: Professional Equity (SPT)
Venue/location: The Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park Street, Chelsea
Recommended ages: 14+ (contains some adult language and content)
Description: When Carol Gelling discovers that a buffalo born on her farm is pure white, she thinks it’s nothing more than a curiosity. She soon learns that the birth of the white buffalo fulfills an ancient Sioux prophecy—the coming of peace on earth and unity of mankind. Almost overnight, her small farm becomes a hotbed of spiritual outpouring—from Native American pilgrims to the Dalai Lama. When a mysterious businessman offers to buy the calf, Carol must decide whether the white buffalo signals the end of her financial hardships or the beginning of her own spiritual enrichment.
Preview from
Fun fact: It took 6 full deer hides to make just one of the male chorus member's costumes.
For tickets and information: 734-433-7673,