Mitch Albom’s ‘Ernie’ to debut in Detroit in 2011

By Sue Suchyta
Detroit’s City Theatre will host the world premiere of Mitch Albom’s “Ernie” in March. The new, original play, based on the life of the legendary voice of baseball Ernie Harwell, will debut in time for the new baseball season.

In Harwell’s final year, the famed broadcaster reportedly spoke several times with Albom about a play based on his life.

“Ernie’s story transcends sports,” Albom said. “It is a story of 20th century Americana, a tough upbringing through the Depression, a true love that lasted 70 years, a World War, a fascinating career, and of course, behind it all, baseball. Ernie is a rich and wonderful subject for the stage.”
 While writing “Ernie,” Albom thought about the City Theatre, where he had staged previous other shows, including “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel.”

Albom was intrigued with the theater’s proximity to Comerica Park, where Harwell had broadcast during his final years.

“The idea that people could see a play about a baseball icon, then walk across the street and see actual games on the same field where he called them – well, it just seemed fitting to Ernie’s story,” Albom said. “We are pleased that ‘Ernie’ will premiere at the City Theatre,” said Michael Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers and chairman of Ilitch Holdings Inc, which owns the theater. “Ernie meant so much to so many and he is synonymous with baseball, the Detroit Tigers and the state of Michigan. We know Mitch’s play will be a wonderful tribute.”

Albom knew Harwell for 25 years, and wrote regularly about the man’s unique hold on those who listened to him.

The two-man show will follow Harwell’s life and times, and will try to capture much of the homespun wisdom for which the Hall of Fame broadcaster became famous. It will also incorporate sound and footage from Harwell’s 60-plus year career in baseball.

A portion of all proceeds from the show will benefit charities that Harwell championed.

Plans call for the show to open in preview in late March, with a premiere April 8, the Tigers’ opening day in Detroit.

On Tigers game nights, the show may offer early performances that allow the theatergoer to see the play and still make the first pitch. 

The intimate City Theatre is inside Hockeytown Cafe, 2301 Woodward Ave. The 430-seat theater has the atmosphere of an off-Broadway theater in the heart of the Motor City. For more information, e-mail to

The Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, at 1515 Broadway in downtown Detroit, is in its second year of pursuing its mission to break down barriers, lessen apathy and shed light on how people relate to each other.

“The Agony and the Agony,” a comedy by Nicky Silver, which will run weekends Jan. 14 to Feb. 6, is their latest offering.

Directed by Lisa Melinn, this play looks at a familiar challenge: When one has been doing the same thing for a long time, and it’s no longer working, what else does one do?

Richard Aglow, a less-than-successful playwright, has just begun to write a play hoping to illuminate the issue through the character of Nathan Leopold Jr., an infamous teen who committed the “crime of the century” at the age of 17 and then vanished into obscurity.

Richard’s wife Lela, who married him knowing he was gay, has just met a Broadway producer who may resurrect her career.

However, Richard and Leyla’s plans both come skidding to a halt with the arrival of Lela’s lover, his pregnant girlfriend and Nathan Leopold, who does not think much of Richard’s play.

Playwright Nicky Silver provides cathartic laughter and self-recognition in a play rich in humor and familiarity.

The show will be performed at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with a 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday shows. Tickets (except for opening and closing performances) are $18 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. Pay-what-you-can tickets are available to all shows except closing night. Opening night tickets are discounted, while closing performances include a $5 surcharge for the on-site afterglow with the cast and crew.
For more information or to reserve tickets, call (313) 408-7269 or go to

The Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company also will offer January “Drop In and Pay What You Can” workshops. No reservations or commitments are required. The workshops offer drop-in actor workouts and a chance to network with local theater professionals.

Each three-hour workshop is designed for theater people with unpredictable schedules, rehearsals, callbacks and performances. The theater company urges actors to drop in, pay what they can at the door, and spend some time refining their craft. To help sustain the workshops, a $15 per class donation is encouraged.

A Monday three-part monologue coaching workshop will run from 7 to 10 p.m. Jan. 17, 24 and 31 at the theater.

The workshops will allow actors to practice their monologues in a safe, supportive environment.

Over the course of the three workshops actors can take an audition piece from a rough reading, through character development, and into to a polished and prepared audition piece.