Players Guild’s ‘Laugh Lines:’ a new wrinkle on a good cause

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

By Sue Suchyta
Songwriter and musical director Paul Bruce (at piano) rehearses the musical number, “Who Will Tell the Diva?” with the cast of “Laugh Lines.” The show, which runs 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Players Guild of Dearborn, is a fundraiser for Kevin Rider, a Players Guild member who was uninsured when recently diagnosed with lupus. The ensemble cast includes Marybeth Kinnell (left) of Dearborn Heights, Tiffany Mullins of Westland, Brian Townsend of Dearborn, Ron Williams of Redford, Sydnee Dombrowski of Dearborn and Ken Kilgore of Dearborn. Tickets are $10. For more information, call the Guild at (313) 377-0618 or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

The Players Guild of Dearborn will bring a smile to your face this weekend with “Laugh Lines,” a new wrinkle in fundraising for a friend in need.

The show, which has an 8 p.m. curtain Friday and Saturday, features an evening of music and monologues.

The proceeds will benefit Players Guild member Kevin Rider, who was recently diagnosed with lupus. He was without health insurance at the time of his diagnosis and is facing mounting medical bills. He also will contend with the upcoming expense of chemotherapy.

When Players Guild members — who had watched Rider deal with his unexplained yet exhausting symptoms in recent seasons — heard he was struggling to deal with overwhelming medical bills, they decided to draw on their theater prowess to help him deal with his debt.

The idea of mounting a show with original material had the added bonus of eliminating royalty costs.

When Brian Townsend — who directs “Laugh Lines” — held auditions for “Pass the Ducks,” an original sketch comedy he created and staged at the Guild as a capital building fundraiser several summers ago, the auditions created a show of their own.

“The whole thing kind of started from an audition process … for a summer show where we asked people to prepare monologues of a comedic nature,” Townsend said. “They came with these amazing monologues and I turned to (Guild president) Mike Moseley and said, ‘This would make a fantastic show,’ people just doing something comedic, one right after another.

“And so that was sort of the birth of the idea and when Kevin Rider’s situation came up (it was) the perfect opportunity to try this.”

Townsend has helped pull the monologue material together, and has directed and staged the scenes – what he refers to as “divvying up the goods.”

The 90-minute show, which runs without intermission, features original music by Paul Bruce in addition to the monologues written by Townsend, select cast members, and gleaned from other sources.

“Brian Townsend asked me if I would assist him with this,” said Bruce. “He came up with his brilliant monologues and his amazing comic book for this particular project and asked if I would provide the music. So I pulled out some music … that I have written and they worked perfectly.”

The songs Bruce chose for “Laugh Lines” came from shows he created and staged while living in New York City, and include selections from his cabaret shows, “Bachelors and Broads,” and “Flying Free,” and his musical, “Perfectly Normal Boy.”

Bruce says audiences can look forward to a laughter-filled evening.

“I have watched Brian’s (monologue) rehearsals… and the company of nine people who are up there are going to thrill you,” Bruce said. “They are absolutely hysterical; their comic timing is wonderful.”

Bruce added that some of the cast have written their own monologues.

“I know, for example, that Tiffany Mullins wrote one of the monologues that she’s doing,” Bruce said, “and it’s delightful.”

“There’s something that everybody does that I love,” Townsend added. “We’ve got everything from a Lothario with kind of a complex, and a mother who’s frustrated, to a girl who’s fighting for the rights of a prom.

“We have a couple of southern belles who tried to be beauty queens and didn’t quite make it, and we have a woman who has a spiritual connection with a crab,” Townsend said. “It’s just an amazing blend of all sorts of different stories and different characters from all walks of life.”

The show features the acting and singing talents of Guild members Sydnee Dombrowski of Dearborn, Alex Gojkov of Redford, Angela Keller-Pelc of Allen Park and Ken Kilgore of Dearborn.

Others in the entertaining ensemble include Marybeth Kinnell of Dearborn Heights, Tiffany Mullins of Westland, Brian Townsend of Dearborn, Ron Williams of Redford and Margaret Winowiecki of Dearborn.

“It’s a wonderful evening’s entertainment for a real bargain price,” Bruce said. “You definitely are getting your money’s worth out of this, and it’s because our overhead is low, because we built it ourselves … we wanted to have as much profit as possible out of this because every penny is going to go to our friend who really needs it.”

“They’re people with amazing senses of humor, amazing sense of timing, and very big hearts, too,” Townsend said, “to give the time that they have to this cause.”

Townsend added that it’s a rare treat to come together with fellow actors and to be able to focus on being simply entertaining.

He and Bruce are both gratified that while the benefit helps a Guild member in need it also give ticketholders an entertaining evening so that the crowd is actually getting something out of it.

“There are moments of just amazing laughter, and then there are those moments that just tug at your heartstrings a little bit,” Townsend said. “It’s a really good blending of different materials… It’s going to be so much fun. You will definitely leave with laugh lines!”

General admission tickets are $10, and will be available at the door.

There will be an afterglow after each performance.

The Guild theater is at 21730 Madison in Dearborn. For more information, call the Guild’s hotline at (313) 561-TKTS, or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

TEENS TAKE OVER THAILAND: HEIGHTS YOUTH CAST SHINES IN ‘KING AND I’
The sounds of Siam filled the air Thursday as the teen leads in the “Rising Star” cast of the Dearborn Heights Civic Theatre summer musical “The King and I” held their final dress rehearsal.

The summer show gave select teens a chance to work with adult mentors in dual cast lead roles.

Ben Timpf, a freshman at Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn, was cast as the King of Siam.

Home-schooled Olivia Butler, a 16-year-old from Wayne, is the dual cast teen who portrays Anna Leowens.

Marie Wolski, a Dearborn High School sophomore, will portray Lady Thiang, while Danielle Paul, a seventh grader at Canton Charter Academy of Plymouth, will play Tuptim.

Westley Montgomery, a sophomore at Dearborn High School, will play Lun Tha.

Olivia Butler is amazing as Anna, and is a double threat as she sings and dances throughout the show in a very demanding role, showing a maturity beyond her years.

Marie Wolski dances beautifully on point, and brings her own strong and believable interpretation to the role of Lady Thiang.

Timpf met the challenge of his first leading role as the King with the same determination that is driving him to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout. Family and friends appreciated the work it took to turn the polite, mild-mannered teen into a commanding and demanding chauvinistic despot.

Danielle Paul is delightful as Tuptim, and brings grace and strength to the role.

The teen leads will be featured in the 7:30 p.m. Friday performance at the Berwyn Center, 26155 Richardson in Dearborn Heights.

For more information, go to www.dhctstage.org or the group’s Facebook page.

The show, which opened July 30, will feature the adult leads during the remaining scheduled performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

(Contact Sue Suchyta at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)

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