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From performing inside barns to financing their own modern auditoriums, the Greater Lansing area theater community continues to evolve. Owosso Community Players first opened their curtains in the ’50s. Riverwalk Theatre started in 1989 — 22 years after performing as the Community Circle Players at The Okemos Barn Theatre. Lansing Community College has offered student plays for nearly 50 years, and the streaks don’t stop there.
After 16 theatrical seasons, seven of which took place in a renovated Senior Center in South Lansing, this will be Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.’s first at the Central United Methodist Church.
“Moving out of our old space at the Miller Preforming Arts Center was hard and sentimental,” Artistic Director Chad Swan-Badgero said.
Badgero said it took an army of helpers and “hundreds of volunteer hours” to tear apart the stage, seating, light and sound booth.
The church, located across from the Capitol Building, “offers great creative choices,” Badgero said. He will be directing the company’s first musical in the new theatre, the bluegrass, folk-infused “Bright Star.”
Facelifts in Owosso
After a 2007 fire and rebuild at the Lebowsky Center, Owosso Community Players saw a rapid expansion of participants and audiences. There will be a reveal of a new brand identity on Sept. 10 which Artistic Director Garrett Bradley said “will position us for continued growth.”
Bradley was also enthusiastic about the player’s opening of “Matilda the Musical,” which will triple Broadway’s cast of children. Bradley added “never before have we had so many children on our main stage.”
Owosso’s strong partnerships with the American Association of Community Theatres has helped them snag Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” The whimsical tale will get an extra dash of magic under the Lebowsky Center’s newly refurbished proscenium.
(Dysfunctional) family fun at Riverwalk Theatre, Lansing Community College
Riverwalk Theatre is eager to please the whole family with the revised script for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “Shrek the Musical.”
The company’s upcoming “Doubt” is an intense play about a nun’s confrontation with a priest suspected of inappropriate behavior. Manager Mike Siracuse called it “one of the best dramas of all time.”
Riverwalk is presenting a second installment of its yearly, “A Christmas Holiday Cabaret.” It’s a family-friendly singing and dancing revue of holiday pop and stage musical tunes.
Lansing Community College’s performing art’s schedule has stories that revolve around families as well. According to Melissa Kaplan, the Arts Outreach Coordinator, the majority of shows will deal with rivalries, deep love, dysfunction, and family connections.
As part of the college’s acknowledgment of the 400 years of African-American History Commission Act, established in 2018, “Sunset Baby” will open the season. Written by Dominique Morisseau, the play offers insights to the African-American experience.
The rights that took LCC the longest to obtain was Sam Shepard's “True West.”
As Starlight Dinner Theatre enters its 15th season, it remains the only area company that serves meals. After struggling with different services, this is its fifth year with International Catering Services.
This season, Granger will direct “Guys and Dolls,” produce “Something’s Afoot” and “The Lion in Winter.” Kelly Stuible-Clark is the director for “Afoot.” “Winter” marks Kristine Thatcher’s return to Starlight.
“It’s a dream come true to have professionals as immensely talented,” Granger said.
Starlight’s season was curated in the memory of two Lansing pros, Judie Town and Winifred Olds, who were active members at Starlight before they died a few years ago. Town directed “Dolls” in 1990 and “Afoot” in ’80s. Olds gave an award-winning performance in the latter as “Miss Tweed.”
Out with the old
One of Lansing’s newest theater companies, Ixion, dedicated its sixth season to focus on the Midwest experience. It has another Dominique Morisseau play, “The Skeleton Crew.” The blue collar play takes place in a Detroit stamping plant during the 2008 recession. Replicating that on the Robin Theatre stage will be accomplished by “magic,” president Jeff Croff remarked.
It ends with a collection of monologues called, “rUSt,” written by Ixion’s “Wheel Writers Group.”
Women write the majority of them and three of their full-length scripts are female-authored.
Ixion will continue its “Golden Ticket” program — reserving some free seats for each performance for those in need.
“Those who feel intimidated by theater should know they are welcome here,” Croff said.
Williamston Theatre’s 14th season welcomes five Michigan and World premieres. The season will open with the Michigan premiere of Kristine Thatcher’s “Safe House” about her real-life battle with ovarian cancer and her time spent in Lansing living with her ill grandmother
The season will close with another Michigan premiere, “Be Here Now,” by Deborah Zoe Laufer and directed by John Lepard.
“The Great American Trailer Park Musical” was on Joseph Dickson of Over the Ledge Theatre Co. we-should-produce-that list since he started the company in 2012. It will be the company’s second and final show for this season.
Dickson was optimistically curious to see how the theater community would help Peppermint Creek with its move.
“We really are one community and not competitors,” he said. “I’m excited and proud to be a part of such a great community.”