Monday, February 8, 2016

Getting back on the blog horse...

Hi, everyone!

Megan Buckley-Ball here to apologize for the radio silence of the past <<gulp>> 2 1/2 years.  It's been a really busy time here at Matrix Theatre Company, but I'm here to tell you that we are getting this backstage blog back on track!  We're going to change things up a bit, though - instead of this blog serving just the production branch of the organization, you'll be hearing from our education department here, too, as well as a couple of guest bloggers from different projects we have running.

We would love to hear from our readers, supporters, and participants - what would you like to read about?  Matrix runs so many fantastic programs for all ages, and we can't wait to tell you all about them.  If you're feeling impatient, though, you can always find out how to get involved by visiting our website at www.matrixtheatre.org!

This very moment is a particularly busy time for the organization.  We're getting ready to mount our WORLD PREMIERE of agua de luna (psalms for the rouge) by Caridad Svich.  Sherrine Azab (from local theatre company A Host of People) is directing and, after seeing the cast's very first run of the entire show last week, I can confidently say that she's doing a great job!

This production is a little bit different from the shows we've offered recently.  First off, nobody has ever seen it before.  With funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Michigan Humanities Council, we commissioned bilingual playwright Caridad Svich to write a brand new play that was inspired by the spirit of Southwest Detroit.  She visited Detroit back in April of last year and met with many people from the community in a range of settings.  Shaun Nethercott (a Matrix co-founder and CEO at the time) toured Caridad around our neighborhood and introduced her to many of the wonderful and influential people that call Southwest home.  She visited Western International High School,  attended mass at Holy Redeemer, spent an afternoon at Clark Park, and, well, you get the idea.  She also met with the Matrix Teen Company and the Writer's Circle. From there, she began to develop a script for us.

Caridad came back in October to workshop the new script.  We called in some actors to read for each of the eight(!!) roles, then hunkered down in the theatre to do a couple of read-throughs, some Q&A sessions, and some character development.  Here's Caridad at one of those sessions with director Sherrine Azab, costume designer Dorothy Melander-Dayton, sound designer Billy Mark (who was doubling as a reader on this particular day), and workshop actors Eleni Zaharopoulos, Samer Ajluni, Katie Galazka, Torri Lynn Ashford, Bethany Hedden, Amy Choudhury Martin, and Chris Jakob.  Can anybody tell what show we had running when we gathered for the workshop?  ;)  Once our week of workshopping was complete, Caridad took the script back home with her to start working on little changes and cuts here and there to give us a tight, 90-minute, intermission-free play,

Fast forward from October to January 5th - we've hired designers, held the necessary auditions, chosen the cast, and prepared the space.  On January 5th, everyone came together for the very first read-through of the updated script. (I won't say final script here because it still had almost two months of rehearsals to go through.  It's not final until the show is open!)  It was a great first read, and everyone left excited for the show.

Sherrine and the cast have been hard at work ever since, and the play is taking shape really nicely.  It'll be the first show we've done in the round (with seating on all four sides) in all of my 7 years here.  While that kind of staging certainly has a very specific set of challenges, it can also offer a really beautiful result. Remember when I said that this production is a little bit different than our past shows?  Well, the differences don't stop there.  Caridad has worked in a certain element of magic and mystique that takes us away from the realism that you've seen in our recent productions. There will also be live music and singing to help tell the story, and a fantastic dog puppet built by costume designer Dorothy Melander-Dayton.  Take a look at our promo shot - beautiful, right?

From left to right (back row first), we have Bethany Hedden, Justino Solis, Candace P. Hale, Chris Jakob, Torri Lynn Ashford, Myrna Segura, Samer Ajluni, and Amy Choudhury Martin.  I absolutely LOVE how this shot turned out!  Unfortunately, Candace had to step down from her role shortly after we took this picture, so you won't see her in the show.  We certainly wish her all the best, though!  Luckily, we were able to find a woman by the name of Aja Dier to play that role and get caught up with the blocking fairly quickly.  Such is life in the theatre, I suppose.  Sometimes it doesn't play out as smoothly as you'd like.  (But it certainly keeps it from getting boring!)

So, here we are, 18 days out from opening.  I'm planning the menu for the opening night reception already.  We have plans for Sherrine and Caridad to do a talkback session with the audience after the second performance.  Detroit Performs will be interviewing them as well as a couple of the actors, then taking some b-roll of the performance to do a feature on us (how exciting!).  Model D Media is running a feature article on our 25th Anniversary and the creation of the play.  It's a great time for Matrix Theatre Company, and we're so lucky to have all of you along for the ride!

We anticipate high ticket sales for this production. so we strongly suggest that you purchase or reserve your tickets very soon!  You can do so by clicking either of those links or by calling the box office at 313-967-0599.  We can't wait to see you at the theatre!


Also, here's the obligatory fine print:
With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Michigan Humanities Council, Matrix Theatre Company has partnered with internationally renowned playwright, Caridad Svich, and commissioned her to create a new full-length theatre piece inspired by the spirit of southwest Detroit. Svich's work explores themes of biculturalism and construction of identity. agua de luna (psalms for the rouge) is a part of Matrix Theatre Company's D*Versity initiative. D*Versity is made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities of Michigan Humanities Council. 




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

No Child... is almost here!

Sunkari Clifford Sykes as Janitor at the Matrix
Mainstage Season Preview Party, 8/25/13
(School.  Morning.  JANITOR enters, mopping floor as he sings.)

JANITOR: Trouble in mind.
                  I'm blue.
                 But I won't be blue always.
                 Cuz the sun's gonna shine
                  In my back door someday.

(To audience.) Hear that? Silence.  Beautiful silence, pure silence.  The kind of silence that only comes from spending years in the back woods. We ain't in the back woods (though I'm thinking 'bout retirin' there).  It's 8:04 A.M. - five minutes before the start of the day.  And, we on the second floor of Malcom X High School in the Bronx, USA.  Right over there is my janitor's closet, just right of the girls' bathroom where the smell of makeup, hair pomade and gossip fills the air in the morning light.  

Now, you might say to me, "Jackson Baron Copeford the Third.  Boy, what you doin' up dere on dat stage? You ain't no actor." That I know and neither are these kids you about to meet. (He clears his throat.) What you about to see is a story about a play within a play within a play.  And a teacher (or as she likes to call herself - a teaching artist - just so as people know she do somethin' else on her free time).  The kids call her Ms. Sun and in two minutes from now she gonna walk up them stairs towards the janitor's room and stop right at Ms. Tam's class.  She gonna be something they done never seen before.  Now I know what you're thinking:  "Oh, Baron.  I know about the public schools.  I watch Eyewitness News." What I got to say to that?  HUSH! You don't know unless you been in the schools on a day-to-day basis. HUSH! You don't know unless you been a teacher, administrator, student, or custodial staff.  HUSH!  Cuz you could learn a little sometin'. Here's lesson number one: Taking the 6 train, in eighteen minutes, you can go from Fifty-ninth Street, one of the richest congressional districts in the nation, all the way up to Brook Ave. in the Bronx, where Malcom X High is, the poorest congressional district in the nation.  In only eighteen minutes. HUSH!

That is an excerpt from the opening monologue of No Child... by Nilaja Sun - our first production of the 2013-2014 Mainstage Season.  Sunkari (pictured above) is one of TWO actors in the show.  He plays the janitor.  Morgan Breon is the other cast member.  She plays the other FIFTEEN characters.  We got a little taste of the brilliance of both of them at the preview party about a week ago, and I gotta tell you - even if I had no interest whatsoever in live theatre, the state of our public school system, or arts-infused education, I would STILL consider this an amazing performance.  The ease with which Morgan flows from character to character to character - all of varying ages and ethnicities - is completely unbelievable and absolutely worth the price of admission.

I'm pretty excited about the design elements of this production, too - especially the set!  Here's the rendering that Scenic Designer Adam Crinson provided us with at the last production meeting:

Pretty cool, right?  I think it'll look FANTASTIC in our space!  In other news, we got the season brochure out at the end of last week, so, if you're on our mailing list, you should be receiving it soon!  (And if you're not on our mailing list but would like to be, send an email to mmcmahon@matrixtheatre.org letting Molly know that you'd like to join it!)  In it, you'll see some information about our new Season Ticket program we're offering, so if the season selections interest you, give us a call and we'll set you up with a great discount for tickets to all of the shows.   I also picked up the No Child... postcards this morning, so check your mailboxes for those at the beginning of next week - we'll be dropping them off all around town, too, so keep your eyes peeled!  We're getting down to crunch time on sponsorship and ad sales, too - if you or anyone you know is interested is purchasing an ad (at drop-dead-AWESOME rates!!!), you can contact Molly McMahon at 313-967-0999, ext. 7 for information.  Trust me - it is definitely #worthit.  And just in case you thought we weren't working hard enough around here, I just flagged about a dozen plays to read for next season's selection process.  It never ends around here, and I LOVE IT.  Have a great day, everybody!  ~ Megan 



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Time is FLYING!

Hey, everybody!

Can  you believe we're more than halfway through AUGUST?!?! How is that even possible?!  The school year is getting started, which means the Matrix Mainstage Season is gearing up for production, too!  We've been working hard around the office, and CAN'T WAIT for you to see what we have in store for you this year!

If you want a sneak peek, come check out our Matrix Mainstage Season Preview Party this Sunday, August 25th from 2-4pm - it's a garden party in the Matrix Greenspace, right next door to the theater!  We'll have some light appetizers and desserts and we found some recipes for refreshing beverages that sound DELICIOUS! As for the preview part of the party, we'll be showcasing short scenes from each of the three mainstage season productions: No Child..., Visiting Mr. Green, and Collected Stories.  We'll also have ticket blitz opportunities, where you can purchase single tickets or season subscriptions at fantastic discounted rates.  And the best part?  Admission to the Preview Party is FREE!  (We simply ask that you call our box office at 313-967-0599 or email mmcmahon@matrixtheatre.org to let us know you're coming so that we know how many people to plan for.  Easy, right?  Right!)  If you can't make it to the preview party but would like to purchase single tickets ahead of time (we think it might be a good idea), click here for a calendar of performances.  Or, if you want to take advantage of our first-time-ever-offered season ticket plan, call us at the box office number above!

As far as everything else goes, the marketing team has been working on ad sales and sponsorships quite a bit over the last few weeks, and we are pleased to announce that we already have two "Ensemble Member" sponsorships for the production season!  Thanks so much to The Brennan Group and Green Dot Stables for supporting and believing in us - we won't let you down!  If you or someone you know might be interested in purchasing an ad (at an extremely affordable rate) or sponsoring our production season (again, very affordable), let us know!  Contact Molly McMahon at 313-967-0999, ext. 7 for info.  She'll send you a super-fun packet of materials and information for your perusal.  (Megan had a lot of fun learning some graphic design programs this summer and is very pleased with how all of the materials turned out, so the more, the merrier!)

The brochures are in and will be mailed out by the end of this week, so check your mailbox for it next week - and, if you're not on our mailing list but would like to receive snail mail announcements or email updates from us, click here and join in on the fun!  But for now, we're off to seal some envelopes.  Wooo, glue sticks!

Have a great day, everybody - we hope to see you on Sunday!




Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summertime!

The summer here at Matrix may have a dark stage, but there is a lot going on upstairs! Here at Matrix, we use the summer for planning and organizing the wonderful upcoming season. Prepping the season includes planning out and putting on fun events to keep Matrix alive in the city.

This past weekend, Matrix Theatre Company came together with the UAW and the NAACP in the city to commemorate the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech that he practiced right here in Detroit. The march down Woodward Avenue, from Forest down to Hart Plaza, featured the Matrix Theatre Company’s giant puppet versions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., A. Phillip Randolph, and Dr. Ralph Bunche. The march was a huge success due to the great efforts of Maryann Angelini and Mary Naoum, and we want to thank everyone who came out and supported this momentous anniversary. Here’s a couple of pictures from the event!

Here's Matrix Theatre's giant hero puppet Ralph Bunche with Matrix Board Presiden Sue Sattler, IHM (right), long-time Matrix supporter Mary Beth Seymour (left), and our fabulous puppet walkers!
A. Phillilp Randolph marches behind the UAW group, Women Creating Caring Communities, with open arms.
Pretty cool, right?

One of the things we do during the summer months is our Summer Creativity Camps! Kids (ages 8-18) can join the Matrix School of Theatre for a couple of weeks over the summer as we begin our second year of the Detroit Dreaming Initiative and focus on “Building the City” through performance, playwriting, and puppetry. In these fun and engaging summer intensives, youth and teens will work with professional artists and use the great art of theatre to explore the community and their place in shaping its’ future. Check out our website for dates, times, and more information!

Adding to all the excitement around here, we have a new intern! Jennifer came to us from Troy, MI and will be helping Megan throughout the summer with media, marketing, and whatever else she can get her hands on. She’s very excited to be working with the amazing staff at Matrix and looks forward to a fun and educational summer!  Thanks for being here, Jenn!


Looking for some fun trivia?  Today in history, acclaimed poet, short story writer, novelist, dramatist, and lyricist Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in 1872 in Dayton, Ohio. Go ahead, go quiz somebody.

Okay, off to work on that season brochure!  

Friday, June 21, 2013

BIG events, BIG changes

Happy Friday, everybody!

When last we met, we were gearing up for the Cabaret, featuring Kate Brennan, Harvey Reed, and Paul Keller, and WOW was it a great night!

The whole staff came together and helped make the night a wonderful success, and we heard nothing but compliments from the attendees!  (And, rumor has it, the food was even. better. than last year!)

Now that we're over that major hump, though, we have two HUGE - or should I say "giant" - things going on this weekend!  First, have you heard about the march down Woodward Avenue commemorating MLK's 1963 march and rally?  He practiced his famous "I Have a Dream" speech right here in Detroit - 50 years ago (!!!), and tomorrow morning, the NAACP, the UAW, and the city of Detroit will come together to remember Dr. King and his message as they march down Woodward Avenue from Forest down to Hart Plaza.  And who better to lead that march than Matrix Theatre Company's giant puppet versions of Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Phillip Randolph, and Dr. Ralph Bunche?!  That's right, look for our giant heroes tomorrow, marching side-by-side with thousands of people in support of our freedoms!  It's a free event, so come check it out!

The other truly giant piece of importance happening tomorrow is that our Executive Director and Co-Founder, Shaun Nethercott, is leaving her post as ED and traveling cross-country with her husband (Co-Founder Wes Nethercott)!  The pair will be on the road early tomorrow afternoon and will make their way to Portland, Oregon to begin their travels (on BICYCLES!!!) all the way to Portland, Maine.  (I know, right?!)  When they get back - in early January - Shaun will return to Matrix at the CEO, which means there's a bit of a ripple effect here in the office:  I (Megan Buckley-Ball) am being promoted to Artistic Director, Andrea Scobie, though keeping the same title of Director of Education, will take on some added responsibilities within her School of Theatre domain, and Jake Hooker, the newest addition to the staff, will make the move from Operations Manager to Director of Operations.  Though we've played around with a couple of nicknames for this shared leadership plan, nothing has really stuck... yet.  (Though "the triad" was dangerously close.)

Sooooo.... like the subject of today's blog states, there's a whole lot of BIG stuff going on right now at Matrix.  Onward we go!

Happy 1st day of summer!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sometimes it rains....

What a beautifully rainy day!  I hope none of you got caught in this downpour, but I know that all of plants that were put in or cut back last week during the Neighborhood Beautification Day effort appreciate the nice long drink!

We're inching forward on work for next season, but now that the Dreaming at Daybreak: A Matrix Morning at Marygrove event is behind us and Frog Belly Rat Bone has closed, we only have one more big event before we go dark for the summer!
This is an event that we're super excited about, and all of the proceeds go toward the 2013-2014 production season!  Cool, right?  PLUS, it's a really great night of music and laughs and food and drink and FUN!!!

This is the second time we've done an event like this, and believe me when I say that it was a BLAST last year!  (And the food this year is going to be even BETTER!)

Once we get past this cabaret event, things really slow down in the office for the production side of the company.  School of Theatre summer camps start up the week after the 4th of July, so the education department is busy-busy prepping for all those kids to head our way, but the production office will get a little quiet.  Some great news, though, is that we'll have a volunteer intern hopping on board to help us out with planning for next season as of MONDAY!  We're so excited to welcome Jennifer to the team!

Oh, boy... now to swim home for the day.... 

Have a great one, everybody!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The work is never done!

Whew!  Now that the 2013-2014 season has been selected, we can sit back and relax, right?

WRONG!

There's so much to do! We took a tiny bit of time today to strengthen our social media presence and visibility, which are just big words that mean we made an Instagram page AND a Google+ page!  Fun!  We'll be using these sites along with our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest pages to let people know what we're up to.  And don't you worry - even though we're getting close to being dark at the theatre (lingo for not having any shows going on), we'll still be updating all of these sites quite a bit over the next few months.  So hop on at the ground floor, everybody, and start following us TODAY!  =)

And, in case you need to feel a little bit better about yourself, head on over to our Instagram page and check out what it took to pick our three selections for next season.  Yowza!  That was a WHOLE LOT of reading, folks!

Now that the season is set, we're focusing on getting directors, stage managers, designers, and actors in place for the productions.  While this, in and of itself, is no small feat, the Detroit area mass general auditions are coming up unbelievably fast, which puts a tough deadline on us for finding those directors!  We're not too worried, though - if you saw our facebook post today, you saw that we only need to fill one more director slot.  (PS, anybody that might be interested, email your directing resume to mbuckley@matrixtheatre.org)

We know that the upcoming season is going to entail an enormous amount of work on our part, but all we have to say to that is:

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!  

We got this.  And you're going to love it!