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Posted on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 7:05 a.m.

'The Laramie Project' at U of M, Shakespeare in rep at the Power Center

By Carla Milarch

It’s not just snow making Ann Arbor a great white way this week, with 11 shows running, 8 of which are openings. From Shakespeare plays running in rep, to Michigan premieres of Tony-winning plays, to a World Premiere of a play by a Michigan playwright, we’ve got our own mini-Broadway right here.

With so much theater you literally couldn’t see it all if you tried, it’s an embarrassment of riches. A show for the kiddies on winter break, a showcase of scenes about race, even a benefit for the Matthew Shepard Foundation—there’s theater to fit every age, taste, and social consciousness.

So, get out and see some theater this weekend. Give my regards to Ann Arbor.

Show: “Erase Hate: A Benefit Concert for the Matthew Shepard Foundation,” one-time event, Friday, Feb. 22 at 11:30 p.m.
Company: U-M SMTD Dept. of Musical Theatre Studio Production
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 14+
Description: A cabaret following the performance of “The Laramie Project,” Friday Feb. 22 in the Arthur Miller Theatre, to raise money and awareness for the Matthew Shepard Foundation's Erase Hate Campaign. This celebration features the Laramie cast of musical theater BFA majors, with musical direction by Associate Professor Cynthia Kortman Westphal. With song they hope to offer further tribute to Matthew Shepard, and continue the conversation of tolerance that began with his death.
For tickets and information: 734-764-2538, tickets.music.umich.edu

Show: “Wolverine Will” by Carla Milarch, one-time event, Saturday, Feb. 23 at 1 p.m.
Company: Performance Network’s Children’s Theatre Network Saturday Series
Type of Company: Professional Theater for Children and Families
Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
Recommended Ages: 4+
Description: From lumberjacks to lug nuts, the bumbling and lovable Wolverine Will takes you on a whirlwind tour of Michigan history. From the earliest migrations of the Native Americans, to our unusual journey to statehood, to the innovations of Henry Ford, Michigan's native son uses music and laughter to tell some of the greatest stories of our great state.
Fun fact: Professional Equity actor Phil Powers returns to his role as Wolverine Will after his recent star-turn in Performance Network’s World Premiere “Brill.”
For tickets and information: www.performancenetwork.org/, 734-663-0681

Show: “Voices on Race: Black and White in America” composed by drama students of the Residential College, One-time event, Sunday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.
Company: Residential College Drama Program
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Ruthven Natural History Exhibit Museum, 1109 Geddes Ave., Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 14+
Description: This is a collage performance of dramatic material and personal monologues on the experience of black and white in America. A scene from Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" is juxtaposed with Bruce Norris's new play "Clybourne Park" with scenes from Lydia Diamond's "Stickfly" and David Mamet's "Race" also included.
Fun fact: This is part of the LSA Theme Semester on Understanding Race and is generated out of a class that explores this subject through the lens of new American playwriting.
For tickets and information: Tickets are free, but seating is limited

Show: “Twelfth Night” and “The Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare, presented in repertory through Feb. 24
Company: University Musical Society and Propeller Theatre
Type of Company: Tour
Venue/location: Power Center, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor.
Description: Propeller returns after its much talked-about 2011 performances of “Richard III” and “The Comedy of Errors” with new productions of “Twelfth Night” and “The Taming of the Shrew,” two comedies full of mistaken identities, transformations, and deceptions that ultimately reveal truth. In “The Taming of the Shrew,” a man playing a boy dresses up as a girl, which confuses Christopher Sly. In “Twelfth Night,” a man plays a girl disguised as a boy, which confuses everybody. Both plays explore beautifully how being in love with the wrong person can reveal true feeling.
Preview article from AnnArbor.com
Fun fact: Propeller uses an all-male cast as was done in Shakespeare’s day. Mixing a rigorous approach to the text with a modern physical aesthetic, the company updates the productions in surprising ways, with actors also performing live music.
For tickets and information: 734-764-2538 or www.ums.org

Show: "The Skin of Our Teeth" by Thornton Wilder, through Feb. 24
Company: U-M SMTD Department of Theatre and Drama
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N. University Ave., Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 12+
Description: Follow the extraordinary Antrobus family through the ages as they survive various cataclysms by the skin of their teeth.
Preview from AnnArbor.com
Fun fact: Director Jonathan Berry is a 1997 graduate of the Department of Theatre and Drama.
For tickets and information: 734-764-2538, tickets.music.umich.edu

Show: "The Laramie Project" by Moisés Kaufman and Members of the Tectonic Theater Project, through Feb. 24
Company: U-M SMTD Department of Musical Theatre Studio Production
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 14+
Description: In 1998, Matthew Shepard's murder shocked a nation. Its effect on the small town of Laramie, Wyoming, was equally as devastating and extraordinary. The play draws on hundreds of interviews conducted by the theater company with inhabitants of the town, company members' own journal entries, and published news reports. It is divided into three acts, and eight actors portray more than sixty characters in a series of short scenes.
Fun fact: The play has also been performed by high schools, colleges, and community theaters across the country, as well as professional theaters in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
For tickets and information: 734-764-2538, tickets.music.umich.edu

Show: “Urinetown, the Musical” music and lyrics by Mark Hollman, lyrics and book by Greg Kotis, through Feb. 24
Company: Eastern Michigan University Theatre
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Quirk Theatre on EMU's Ypsilanti campus
Recommended ages: 10+
Description: Multiple award-winner including Tony Awards for Best Book and Score, “Urinetown” is an irreverent musical satire. When a 20-year drought causes an epic water shortage, private toilets are banned and public toilets cost money per use. If anyone refuses to uphold the laws, they are sent to the mysterious Urinetown, never to return. This sharp musical comedy not only comments on the environment, the legal system and corporate mismanagement, but also the form of the Broadway musical. A hilarious tale of greed, corruption, love and revolution, that is sure to have audiences up out of their seats - and not just to run to the lavatory.
More information
Fun fact: The characters of Bobby Strong and Hope Cladwell were both included on New York Theatre Monthly's list of "The 100 Greatest Roles in Musical Theatre.”
For tickets and information: 734-487-2282, www.emutix.com

Show: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, through March 3
Company: Encore Musical Theatre
Type of Company: Professional Equity Guest Appearance Contract
Venue/location: Encore Musical Theatre, 3126 Broad Street, Dexter
Recommended ages: 12+
Description: The first collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice tells the story of a young man named Joseph living in the land of Canaan. His father's favorite son, Joseph is perhaps a little spoiled. While the rest of his brothers are forced to wear sheepskin, he struts around in a fabulous rainbow-colored coat, a gift from his adoring father. The rest of Joseph's brothers aren't too pleased with the situation, and when Joseph goes so far as to tell them of a dream he has had in which their stacks of wheat bow down to his stack of wheat, they decide they have finally had enough.
Review from AnnArbor.com
Fun fact: Kevin Rose (who plays Joseph) has actually done the show four times. All in different roles, but this is his first as Joseph.

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Photo by Sean Carter Photography

Show: “The Meaning of Almost Everything” by Jeff Daniels, through March 9
Company: The Purple Rose Theatre Company
Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
Venue/location: The Purple Rose Theatre, 137 Park Street, Chelsea
Recommended ages: 17+
Description: Step right up and grab a seat for the hilarious and sometimes painful circus that is life! Two men will astound you with their feats of daring and sometimes cowardice as they pratfall their way to the big answers in “The Meaning of Almost of Everything.” This world premiere comedy questions the nature of our world and the absurdity of it all.
Review from the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Fun fact: During rehearsals, the cast watched the 1929 Skeleton Dance cartoon for movement inspiration.
For tickets and information: 734-433-7673 or www.purplerosetheatre.org

Show: “Good People” by David Lindsay-Abaire, through March 31
Company: Performance Network Theatre
Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 E. Huron, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 16+
Description: When you got nothin', you got nothin' to lose - or so it would seem for Margie Walsh, a Dollar Store worker from Boston's Southie district, where this week's paycheck pays last week's bills, and a round of Bingo is a night on the town. Fired from her job and facing eviction, she reaches out in desperation to a high school boyfriend who has made it out, inviting herself to a chic cocktail party in his home. Once there, a series of awkward moments reveals a secret about their past, putting Margie in the driver's seat for the first time. This 2011 Tony nominee is a touching and funny look at America's great economic divide.
Preview from AnnArbor.com
Fun Fact: The play was nominated for two 2011 Tony Awards - Best Play and Best Leading Actress in a Play (Frances McDormand), with the latter winning.
For tickets and information: www.performancenetwork.org/, 734-663-0681