Student and teacher return to the stage in Hilberry’s ‘August: Osage County’



APRIL 15, 2014

Left to right - James R. Kuhl, Bevin Bell-Hall, Lavinia Hart

Left to right – James R. Kuhl, Bevin Bell-Hall, Lavinia Hart

Returning home, an idea at the heart of countless great dramas over the years, gets fresh layers of meaning in Hilberry Theatre’s season-closing production of “August: Osage County,” Tracy Letts’ Tony Award-winning dysfunctional-family drama.

In the large-cast play, running April 18-May 10 on the campus of Wayne State University in Midtown Detroit, members of the Weston clan — including three grown sisters and their poisonous mother — reunite at their rambling Oklahoma homestead following the disappearance of their patriarch. Tempers flare, sparks fly, pills are popped, liquor flows and profanity reigns.

The production itself represents two significant, if less turbulent, homecomings.


Experience the dysfunction of “August: Osage County” at the Hilberry Theatre!

August Osage County - Hilberry (4)DETROIT – The 2008 Tony Award winner for Best Play August: Osage County, by Tracy Letts, closes the Hilberry Theatre’s 51st season in Midtown Detroit. Playing April 18 through May 10, 2014, this Pulitzer Prize-winning play arrives at the Hilberry Theatre fresh off the critically-acclaimed movie adaptation in theatres nationwide. Tickets for August: Osage County range from $10 – $30 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2972, online at, or by visiting the box office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street.

Left to right - James R. Kuhl, Bevin Bell-Hall, Lavinia Hart

Left to right – James R. Kuhl, Bevin Bell-Hall, Lavinia Hart

August: Osage County is set on the plains of modern day, middle-class Oklahoma. Each member of the Weston family is intelligent and sensitive with an uncanny ability of making the others absolutely miserable. When the patriarch of the household, Beverly, mysteriously vanishes, the Weston clan gathers together to simultaneously support and attack one another. His body is found five days later in the lake; his death is deemed a suicide. Violet, the drug-addicted matriarch, her three daughters, and their families try, unsuccessfully, to work out their problems from the time they arrive, through his funeral, and on into the next day. Darkly comic and bitingly witty, August: Osage County explores painful issues all American families have to face, and then some.

Left to right - Lavinia Hart, Annie Keris

Left to right – Lavinia Hart, Annie Keris

Lavinia Hart, Head of the MFA Acting Program at Wayne State University, will play the role of Violet, the drug-addled family matriarch. Hart was the Artistic Director of the Attic Theatre in Detroit for 19 years where she acted, directed, and produced more than 100 professional productions. She is a winner of the Detroit Free Press Lee Hills Award, and has been named Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News Magazine.

Director James R. Kuhl returns home to the Hilberry Theatre where he earned his MFA in acting. Kuhl is the Artistic Director for the Tipping Point Theatre and has worked as an actor with the Purple Rose Theatre Company, Williamston Theatre, The Michigan Shakespeare Festival, Boarshead Theatre, Icarus Falling, Spotlight Theatre, Croswell Opera House, Magenta Giraffe, and the Summer Studio Theatre in Illinois.

This production contains harsh language and portrays adult/mature themes.

August Osage County - Hilberry (2)

Left to right – James R. Kuhl, Annie Keris, Lavinia Hart, Bevin Bell-Hall

Cast (in alphabetical order):

Alec Barbour (Beverly Weston), Megan Barbour (Karen Weston), Bevin Bell-Hall (Mattie Fae Aiken), Miles Boucher (Bill Fordham), Danielle Cochrane (Barbara Fordham), Brandon Grantz (Steve Heidebrecht), Lavinia Hart (Violet Weston), Annie Keris (Ivy Weston), Egla Kishta (Jean Fordham), Sarah Hawkins Moan (Johnna Monevata), Topher Alan Payne (Sheriff Deon Gilbeau), Brandy Joe Plambeck (Charlie Aiken), David Sterritt (Little Charles Aiken).

Production Team:

James R. Kuhl (Director), Sarah Drum (Stage Manager), Lyndee Hallahan (Asst. Stage Manager), Leazah Behrens (Scenic Design), Clare Hungate-Hawk (Costume Designer), Heather DeFauw (Lighting Design), Leah McCall (Sound Designer), Brian Dambacher (Technical Director), Mike Sabourin (Properties Master), Michael “Mick” Keathley (Master Electrician), Maxwell Bolton (Publicist).


About the Hilberry Theatre Company

Wayne State University’s Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance serves students as a nexus of performance, production, and research in the fields of theatre and dance. It provides a wide choice of degree programs that allow students the flexibility to study these disciplines broadly or to concentrate more specifically in performance, design, or management. The Hilberry Theatre hosts a professional theatre company that is staffed by graduate students and runs on a rotating repertory schedule.  Each academic year, about forty graduate students receive assistantships to work for the Hilberry Theatre and study for advanced degrees. The company performs and produces an annual season of six plays, including high school matinees for nearly 6,000 students. For box office hours and information on performances, tickets, group discounts, and corporate packages, visit the theatre’s website at Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students.

Calendar Information:

Wednesday 2 p.m.      April 23 (Postshow Talkback)
Thursday 8 p.m.           April 24 (Preshow Discussion), May 1, May 8

Friday 8 p.m.                April 18 (Opening Night), April 25, May 2, May 9
Saturday 2 p.m.           April 19, May 3
Saturday 8 p.m.           April 19, April 26, May 3, May 10

You’re Invited the the Hilberry Theatre Open House and Subscriber Party – March 30 at 1:00 p.m.

Sub Party Invite


Join us Sunday, March 30 at 1:00 p.m. for the annual Hilberry Open House and Subscriber Party
Activities begin at 1:00 p.m.
A short performance will begins at 3:00 p.m. 

  • Meet the Hilberry Company
  • Exciting announcements about the 2014-15 Season and beyond!
  • Performance from graduating actors and the Bonstelle Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls
  • Fun games and activities
  • An insider’s tour of the Hilberry
  • A chance to win great prizes
  • Light refreshments
  • FREE!
RSVP by calling 313-577-2972 or emailing

Examiner Review: ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ shines on at the Hilberry Theatre

Moon Over Buffaloby Patty Nolan
February 22, 2014

In “Moon Over Buffalo,” award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig delivers a script that crackles with the electric banter of a George S. Kaufman classic and convulses audiences with the primal appeal of the internet’s most popular cat memes.

For the Hilberry Theatre’s opening night, we were sitting next to a couple of WSU students and in front of two senior citizens, and it’s hard to say who laughed loudest or longest. Directed by WSU professor Dr. Blair Anderson, this production of “Moon Over Buffalo” amplifies the clever banter with a classic combination of sight gags, physical humor, silly props, and classic double-takes – employed by this young Hilberry cast with the flawless timing of Broadway veterans.

In fact, this Ludwig script originally saw light as the vehicle for one of Broadway’s best; “Moon Over Buffalo” brought Carol Burnett back to the Great White Way in 1995. And it doesn’t hurt that this is “Green Room comedy” at its most frantic – a play about people in the business of putting on a play, as viewed from behind the curtain.

Set in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1953, we discover a famous but fading theatre couple, George (Brent Griffith) and Charlotte Hay (Bevin Bell-Hall), as they struggle to reignite their careers, their marriage and their passion for the stage. Ludwig’s script includes references to real celebrities of the day – Ronald Coleman, Greer Garson, Frank Capra and others – who are crowding the spotlight that the Hay’s are so desperate to squeeze into. The only thing they need is a lucky break – and the right people to see the right performance of the shows their small repertory company has been touring.

Helping out by making costumes, coffee, and an occasional on-stage appearance, is Charlotte’s mother Ethel (Megan Barbour). Ethel seems to be the only unflappable one in the Hay’s company, most likely because she is stone deaf and blissfully unaware of the histrionics happening all about her. Of course, her deafness isn’t always a blessing. When she’s asked to pour out a bottle of whiskey and brew some fresh coffee, she thinks she’s been asked to pour the whiskey into the Irish coffee. The results are anything but sobering.

Complicating life in the Hay’s theatre company is the fact that their only daughter Rosalind (Danielle Cochrane) has left the theatre and her actor boyfriend Paul (Miles Boucher) to pursue a “normal” life. In fact, Rosalind has brought her new fiancé, Howard (Brandon Grantz), to the theatre to introduce him to her parents. Rosalind’s timing isn’t great. The day she arrives, Charlotte has resolved to leave George and run off with lawyer-to-the-stars Richard (Brandy Joe Plambeck) because she’s discovered that George has been dallying with the company’s ingénue, Eileen (Sarah Hawkins Moan). And when star-struck Howard wanders backstage, Charlotte thinks he is Frank Capra and George thinks he’s an assassin. Some in the company think they’re performing “Cyrano” for the matinee, and some think they’re doing Noel Coward’s “Private Lives.” And everyone thinks they are the only sane person in the room.

This is a funny, funny play. Best of all, in this flawless Hilberry production, director Anderson treats the material like a good wine – he give it room to breathe. The cast has some funny stage business, and many of the show’s best moments happen between the scripted lines.

Bevin Bell-Hall, as Charlotte Hay, is an unstoppable force, with seemingly telekinetic powers to thrill and threaten the men around her with just a look. She is wonderfully paired with Brent Griffith, who gives us an urbane, ego-centric yet somehow endearing hack who has blurred the lines between life in front of and behind the red velvet curtain.

Indeed, for the Hays Company and for anyone caught in their orbit, there is no “off stage.” And for anyone who loves theatre, or simply loves to laugh, “Moon Over Buffalo” is just the thing. If you are lucky enough to be a Hilberry season ticket holder, you’ll love seeing the actors you loved from such plays as “Macbeth” and “Othello” flex their comic muscle. Indeed, even the audience will burn calories by non-stop aerobic laughing.

The Hilberry production team supporting Blair Anderson includes: Courtney Rasor (Stage Manager), Sarah Drum (Asst. Stage Manager), Max Amitin (Scenic Design), John D. Woodland (Costume Designer), Leah McCall (Lighting Designer), Brian Dambacher (Technical Director), Michael “Mick” Keathley, II (Sound Designer), Tonae Mitsuhashi (Properties Master), Heather DeFauw (Master Electrician), Kevin Replinger (Publicity Manager).

”Moon Over Buffalo” runs in rep through April 5; check the theatre calendar for exact dates and times. Tickets range from $12–$30 and are available online, by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at 313- 577-2972313- 577-2972, or by visiting the box office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street in Detroit.

New Monitor Review: Hilarious Farce at Hilberry

MOON 8Hilarious farce at Hilberry

By Robert Delaney

Posted: Feb. 27, 2014 at 9:52 a.m.

The failing fortunes of a husband-and-wife acting team has brought them and their small troupe to Buffalo, N.Y., in 1953, when an unexpected chance to revive their fading careers presents itself, in Ken Ludwig’s riotously funny “Moon Over Buffalo,” now at the Hilberry Theatre on the Wayne State University campus.

True to the tradition of the stage farce, the show is full of secret relationships, mistaken identities, and doors – through which people keep entering and exiting at the most inopportune moments.

First produced in 1995, this hilarious farce served as the vehicle for Carol Burnett’s triumphant return to Broadway after several decades’ absence.

This production directed by Blair Anderson pays homage to that aspect of the play in the delightful performance of Bevin Bell-Hall as Charlotte Hay – which evokes reminiscences of the great comedienne.

We find Charlotte and George Hay (Brent Griffith) and their company drawing only modest audiences to their performances of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” and Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” during their current national tour’s stop in Buffalo.

The money’s running out; their daughter, Rosalind (Danielle Cochrane), has left the company to lead a “normal” life and marry a local Buffalo TV weatherman (Brandon Grantz); Charlotte’s nearly deaf mother, Ethel (Megan Barbour), is increasingly annoying; and something’s wrong with Eileen (Sarah Hawkins Moan), an actress in the small company.

The situation is further complicated by Paul (Miles Boucher), who doubles as an actor and the company’s business manager, and Richard (Brandy Joe Plambeck), the Hays’ high-powered show business attorney in headier times, who now wants Charlotte to dump George and run away with him.

This is a funny, funny show; one that is sure to delight those who go see it. Scenic designer Max Amitin has provided a set that is perfect for this sort of play, and John D. Woodland has done a splendid job of costuming the show. My only problem is with Griffith’s portrayal of George: He needs to be more actor-ly, if you know what I mean (think John Barrymore in “On the Twentieth Century”).

It was, of course, a major thrust of theater training for the past hundred years or so to promote a more natural style of acting, purging the art of the stentorian tones and exaggerated vocal and physical flourishes of the past. But in portraying an actor in the 1950s, who has spent most of his life on the stage – and is sufficiently vain to get called a “ham” even by those in his own company – surely some of those old faults should figure in. To play George as naturally as Griffith does strikes me as somewhat unnatural.


SHOW DETAILS: “Moon Over Buffalo” continues through April 5 at the Hilberry Theatre, at Cass and West Hancock on the WSU campus in Detroit’s Midtown area. For performance and ticket information, call 313-577-2972 or go to

The Hilberry Theatre Announces its 2014-15 Season

BTL Full PageDETROIT – On Friday, February 21, following the opening of Ken Ludwig’s show-biz comedy, Moon Over Buffalo, the Hilberry Theatre Company announced its 2014-15 Season, the 52nd for the cornerstone institution in Midtown Detroit.

From Shakespeare’s perfect love story Romeo and Juliet to Congreve’s drole wit in The Way of the World to An Enemy of the People, Ibsen’s masterpiece reimagined by Arthur Miller, the Hilberry continues its trademark commitment to exhibiting the classics.

The Hilberry Company also offers three of the best comic romps written in the last half century: the 2008 Tony-winning revision of the classic French farce Boeing-Boeing, the dazzlingly wordplay of David Ives in All in the Timing, and The 39 Steps, a celebrated spoof of Hitchcock’s film classic of the same title. Together, these have a combined 19 Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations and 5 wins.

Season tickets are on sale now! To subscribe, call (313) 577-2972 or visit the Wayne State University Theatre and Dance Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

Subscribers are an integral part of the Hilberry community and they enjoy up to 35% off single ticket prices, priority seating, exchange privileges, lost ticket insurance, free coffee, a complimentary subscription to our newsletter, and an invitation to the annual Subscriber Party and Open House, which will take place on March 30, 2014.


Boeing Boeing
By Marc Camoletti
September 19 – October 4, 2014
Translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans
French bachelor Bernard lives a happy, structured life according to strict airline timetables – the American stewardess for breakfast, the Italian one for lunch, and the German for dinner!  The 2008 revised translation won 2 Tony Awards.

Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
October 24 – December 13, 2014
Shakespeare’s riveting romantic tragedy tells the tale of star-crossed lovers and the life of hatred and violence between their feuding families.  One of the best loved and most performed of Shakespeare’s work, the Hilberry has scheduled 10 morning matinees intended for area school groups.

All in the Timing
By David Ives
November 21, 2014 – January 31, 2015
Six hilarious one-acts from renowned playwright David Ives. From chimpanzees composing the complete works of William Shakespeare to the complexities facing minimalist composer Philip Glass while buying a loaf of bread, it’s non-stop madness! Winner of the 1993-1994 Outer Critics Award for “Best Playwriting”.

The Way of the World
By William Congreve
January 16 – March 7, 2015
Marriages of convenience and inconvenient marriages are propelled along on a wave of spectacular wit in Congreve’s mockery of upper-class foibles. This Restoration comedy is a Hilberry premiere.

An Enemy of the People
By Arthur Miller, adapted from Henrik Ibsen’s play
February 20 – March 28, 2015
Two brothers’ dispute over safety and civic duty divide their town. Who will gain the support of the public and who will become an Enemy of the People?

The 39 Steps
Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan from the movie of Alfred Hitchcock
April 10 – 25, 2015
This hilarious spoof of the 1935 Hitchcock thriller will have you laughing from start to finish. The Drama Desk and Olivier Award-winner blends frenzied performances and wildly inventive stagecraft with spies, murder, and some good old-fashioned romance!



The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at the Bonstelle Theatre

Also announced on Friday are the titles offered by the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at the historic Bonstelle Theatre. The Bonstelle Theatre 2014-15 Season has a wide variety of entertaining performances, including classic comedy and drama, fantastic dance performances, and a hilarious musical.

++Currently available to Hilberry subscribers only, Bonstelle Theatre packages will go on sale March 20.

All’s Well That Ends Well
By William Shakespeare
When Helena sets her sights on Bertram – an uninterested nobleman, out of her league – she does whatever it takes to forge the perfect match.

Peter Pan
By J.M. Barrie, adapted by Janet Allard
Peter Pan, the boy who doesn’t grow up, enchants the Darling children, who fly away with him to Neverland and explore a land of lost boys, imagination, and dreams! A perfect family outing!

December Dance Concert
A showcase of dance works created by guest artists, recent works by Wayne State University dance faculty, and student dances.

By August Wilson
This Tony Award-winning classic follows an African American father and son as they struggle through unfulfilled hopes and shattered dreams during the American civil-rights era.

Spring Dance Concert
A dynamic evening, highlighting WSU’s talented dancers in innovative performances choreographed by widely-recognized guest artists, faculty members, and students.

Urinetown: The Musical
Music by Mark Hollmann. Lyrics by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis. Book by Greg Kotis
In this Tony Award-winning satirical musical, a long drought has caused an epic water shortage, making free toilets a thing of the past, and wreaking havoc on the bladders of the poor. 

Meet the Cast: Paul Singer

3-Paul EDITEDPaul Singer joyfully returns to the company that fostered his career after making his stage debut as John in Peter Pan at the ripe young age of four. Paul costars alongside George and Charlotte Hay, his beloved mentors and friends in both Private Lives and Cyrano de Bergerac (Victor and le Bret respectively). Past stage credits include: Othello understudy/Roderigo in Othello; Hamlet understudy/Laertes in Hamlet; and Benedick understudy/Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing.