Downriver Actors Guild announces new location

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The Downriver Actors Guild unveiled extensive renovation plans Dec. 11 for a building acquired at Biddle and Superior in Wyandotte to house a new theater for DAG. Artistic director Deborah Aue said the group plans to hold a May 15 ribbon cutting, with Harold Jurkiewicz and John Sartor directing a June 6 opening of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

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By SUE SUCHYTA
A building at Biddle and Superior in Wyandotte, the former Robert Hall Menswear, will undergo extensive renovation for a projected May 15 ribbon cutting as the new theater for the Downriver Actors Guild.

DAG Artistic Director Deborah Aue of Taylor unveiled a floor plan, interior lobby and exterior building renderings made by architect and member Leo Babcock of Saline at a holiday membership gathering Wednesday.

Babcock was on hand with DAG President Joel Bias and other board members to answer questions from the membership.

The owners of the building that housed DAG’s Out of the Box Theater, 1165 Ford Ave. in Wyandotte, for the past three years are selling.

Aue said the newly acquired building, bought on a land contract from Joseph S. Daly of Daly Merritt Inc., has a balloon note due in about 10 years.

Neighboring church lots at First Congregational Church of Wyandotte and St. Patrick Church, both on Superior Boulevard, provide parking through special arrangement for rehearsals and performances.

Babcock said DAG plans to triple public restroom capacity in the new facility, and have separate restrooms for the cast and crew. A large side room will serve as curtained dressing rooms, a green room (where actors wait before going on stage) and rehearsal space.

Aue said one of the downsides of the new arrangement is that costumes and props will have to be stored off-site, with sets constructed off-site as well. Bias said in three years DAG hopes to add on to the back of the building, when it can afford to, for costume storage and set construction. Meanwhile the group is seeking free or low cost storage for costumes and props.

Aue said the Out of the Box Theater name belongs to the current building’s owners and DAG will not use it at the new site.

“Naming rights are up for grabs. So if you know anybody with $100,000, tell them to talk to us and we’ll name the building after them. I drive a hard bargain.”

A lobby mosaic representing different stage elements, commissioned through an Ann Arbor artist, provides artistic recognition for capital campaign contributions received by April 2014. Adjacent plaques will list the names of the capital campaign donors.

Pledge cards are available at Out of the Box Theater, and 2013 tax credit letters are on-site.

DAG Vice President Rich Marengere said Wyandotte Mayor Joseph Peterson has been a supportive, driving force and wants to keep the group in the city.

Bias said the building is a shell — having been vacant for a while — and the group may be acting as their own general contractor, and will be rebuilding it from the ground up. He said they will install everything new, including a roof, electrical, plumbing and a heat, ventilation and air conditioning system.

Bias said they need volunteers with skilled trade experience and general laborers as well.

The house will have 192 fixed seats, with room for five wheelchair patrons. Out of the Box Theater has 133 fixed seats without adding additional seating on the sides of the stadium seating at floor level.

The seating, slated for installation on stadium risers, is from the Players Guild of Dearborn, which originally acquired the seating from the Ford Rotunda. PGD recently upgraded the seating in its auditorium.

Aue said the May 15 ribbon-cutting is planned, with “Jesus Christ Superstar,” directed by Harold Jurkiewicz and John Sartor, running weekends June 6 to 15, with the option of a third weekend.

While construction occurs in the new facility, an interactive dinner theater show, “The Awesome 80s Prom,” directed by Denny Conners, will run weekends March 14 to 21 at Biddle Hall, 3239 Biddle in Wyandotte.

Audition dates for the shows have not been set. Watch the theater’s website, www.downriveractorsguild.net or its Facebook page for updates.

Aue said she was excited and scared by DAG’s new challenge, yet sad because of the tremendous amount of work the group has invested in improving Out of the Box Theater.

She spoke of moving testimonials offered earlier in the evening from a teen with autism and cerebral palsy, and from a veteran with post-traumatic stress syndrome, who credit involvement with DAG with improving the quality of their lives.

“I know in my heart that this program is a good program,” Aue said. “Even if we help just one child, one adult with each show, we are making it a better place for everybody. We want to have fun. We want everyone to feel like it is home.”

Aue said she hopes the group never gets too big or businesslike that it loses that quality.

HILBERRY LAUNCHES NEW YEAR WITH ‘GROSS INDECENCY’
Moisés Kaufman’s, “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” opens Jan. 10 at Wayne State University’s graduate level Hilberry Theatre, where it runs through March 22 in rotating repertory.

Tickets range from $12 to $30, and are available from the Hilberry box office at 313-577-2972, or online at wsushows.com and www.theatre.wayne.edu.

Set in 1895 London, the fast-paced, historically accurate, documentary-style piece of theater reveals the destructive power of hate and prejudice.

The courtroom drama draws from actual court records, diaries and news sources to show how homophobia cut short the career of Oscar Wilde.

The 2 p.m. Jan. 15 performance features a post-show talkback with John Corvini, WSU Philosophy Department chairman, and the 8 p.m. Jan.16 performance has a pre-show discussion.

‘WAR HORSE,’ BROADWAY IN DETROIT TO HONOR VETERANS, OFFER DISCOUNTS
Veterans and military families will receive honors and discounts at the Dec. 18 performance of the five-time Tony Award-winning “War Horse” at the Fisher Theater, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

Heroes Night on Dec. 18 features a pre-show presentation of the colors followed by the singing of the national anthem.

Detroit Mounted Police will be at the Fisher Building’s Second Avenue entrance to greet guests as well.

Heroes Night occurs in cooperation with the Arsenal of Democracy Chapter of the Association of United States Army.

U.S. and Canadian veterans can save up to $35 per ticket on the Dec. 18 performance U.S. military and veterans should use the code USVET, and Canadian military and veterans should use the code CAVET when purchasing Dec. 18 tickets online through www.ticketmaster.com, from Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 or through the Fisher Theater box office.

The show, which runs Dec. 17 to Jan. 5, offers discounts on other select dates as well. Use the code HERO to save $10 per ticket on select dates, and a $10 donation to AUSA is available as well. Eligible times and dates are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 27, and Jan. 2 and 3; 6:30 p.m. Dec. 22, 31 and Jan. 5; 2 p.m. Jan. 21 and 28; and 1 p.m. Jan. 2 and 4.

For more information, go to www.broadwayindetroit.com.

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