Summer Fun in the Sun with Thaddeus and ‘Tila

The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance is pleased to present its annual season of Summer Children’s Theatre, this year featuring a performance of Thaddeus and ‘Tila  (A Crane and Frog Tale), winner of the 2004 Macy’s New Play Prize for Young Audiences.

Thaddeus is a frog who dreams of flying. One day, ‘Tila, a teenage crane with poor eyesight, crashes into Thaddeus’ pond and a friendship quickly blossoms when he saves her life. When they find out bulldozers are on the way to clear the swamp and make way for a housing subdivision, Thaddeus and ‘Tila must overcome the bullying of fellow swamp creatures, Mos and Sala, as well as their own personal obstacles to save themselves and their fellow swamp residents. Don’t miss out on the excitement!

2015 Summer Show

Bonnie Holmes as ‘Tila (top left), Maria Simpkins as Birdie (top right), and Tayler Jones as Thaddeus (down front)

The production plays at the Hilberry Theatre June 18 – 20 and June 25 – 27 at 10:30 a.m. as well as June 20 and June 27 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 for children (up to age 12) and $8 for adults. They may be purchased by calling 313-577-2972, visiting, or visiting the Wayne State University Box Office located at 4743 Cass Ave. on the corner of Hancock St.

“My vision of the play is ‘Flying to a world of possibilities,’” says director Billicia Hines. “Even though he was bullied over it, Thaddeus held strong to his dream of flying. I hope the children of Detroit will be inspired to fly to their own world of possibilities. You may be surrounded by bad circumstances, but that should not deter you from staying positive and going after your dreams.”

Thaddeus and ‘Tila also tours Detroit Public Schools free-of-charge during the months of May and June, reaching over 5,000 students at 21 schools. This tour is part of an ongoing commitment to educational arts outreach by the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance.

The Cast (In Alphabetical Order)
Bonnie Holmes (‘Tila), Jada Johnson (Mos), Tayler Jones (Thaddeus), Michaella Mallet (Sala), Maria Simpkins (Birdie)

The Production Team
Billicia Charnelle Hines (Director), Stephanie Baugher (Scenic Designer), Anne Suchyta (Costume Designer), Mike Hallberg (Lighting Designer), Derek Graham (Sound Designer), Lyndee Hallahan (Stage Manager), Brian Dambacher (Technical Director), Jason Goldman (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 dance, theatre, and performance studies.  It provides a wide variety 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, 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.

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
June 18 – June 27
Thursday, June 18            10:30 a.m.
Friday, June 19                 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, June 20             10:30 a.m. & 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, June 25            10:30 a.m.
Friday, June 26                 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, June 27             10:30 a.m. & 2:00 p.m.


Stage Door Series, an evening for Young Professionals, debuts at the Hilberry Theatre April 18

DETROIT – The Hilberry Theatre Company is launching a program for the young professional Detroit community. The Stage Door Series is an exciting new opportunity for arts-lovers in their 20s and 30s to enjoy an evening of theatre followed by a trip to one of many great Midtown watering holes where they will mingle with the Hilberry company members along with other young professionals.


The program will kick-off at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 18th with The 39 Steps, a hilarious spoof of the 1935 Hitchcock thriller that blends frenzied performances and wildly inventive stagecraft with spies, murder, and some good old-fashioned romance!  A two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner, The 39 Steps is a serious-spy-story-turned-madcap-comedy, full of biting wit, hilarious character changes, and allusions to, and puns on, other classic Hitchcock stories.

Following the show, members of the Hilberry cast and crew will be at Tony V’s Tavern located a few blocks North of the theatre at 5756 Cass Ave., to meet and mingle with other Detroiters, promising a great night for all.

The Hilberry Theatre, part of Wayne State University, is a graduate theatre program employing more than 35 theatre professionals under the age of 35. Located in the heart of Midtown, the Hilberry Company already enjoys the nightlife of Detroit, and now they want to include you!

The Stage Door Series will continue into the Hilberry’s 2015–16 season with a schedule of six memorable shows and six lively restaurants. The 2015–16 season includes titles such as the uproarious One Man Two Guvnors and the lavish The Great Gatsby, so the Stage Door Series is guaranteed to be a fun time with good people and great conversation.

To purchase tickets, call (313) 577-2972 or visit the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street. Subscriptions to the 2015–16 Stage Door Series are on sale now. Subscribers are an integral part of the Hilberry community and enjoy discounted prices, priority seating, exchange privileges, lost ticket insurance, free coffee, and a free subscription to the theatre’s newsletter.

About the Hilberry Theatre Company

The Hilberry Theatre hosts a professional theatre company that is staffed by graduate students in Wayne State University’s Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance and runs on a rotating repertory schedule.  Each academic year, 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.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 31,000 students.

Seeing ‘Detroit’ by Lisa D’Amour was selected as the #1 Thing To Do in Detroit!

‘Detroit’ by Lisa D’Amour was recently selected as the #1  Thing To Do in Detroit by Crain’s Detroit Business. This show only has three performances left, so don’t miss your chance! Join us March 28, April 4, or April 5 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available online or at the Hilberry Theatre Box Office.

Check out the full list!

For more info, check out the Facebook Event.


'Detroit' at the Hilberry Theatre

1. Lisa D’Amour’s “Detroit” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and is at Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre for only a couple more weeks, so don’t miss your opportunity to see the story of a fledgling suburban friendship.

Special Talkback Performance of ‘Detroit’ this Saturday!

GRDC logo

Tom Goddeeris, Executive Director of Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, will be hosting a discussion following the March 23, 2013 8:00 p.m. performance of Detroit at the Hilberry Theatre.

GRDC is a non-profit, community based organization dedicated to preserving and revitalizing the Grandmont Rosedale communities of northwest Detroit. They organize a wide range of community improvement programs designed to help the community prosper as a place to live, work, and play. GRDC takes a comprehensive approach to community revitalization, with programs designed to renovate vacant homes, assist local homeowners and businesses, beautify our community and keep our neighborhoods safe and vibrant.

Also during this special performance, the Hilberry lobby will be host to Reveal Your Detroit, a unique community photography project that was inspired by the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Detroit Revealed: Photographs 2000-2010. The display features a digital compilation of submissions, including those from The Detroit Free Press Detroit Self-Portrait project, the DIA’s Flickr pool, and from over 50 Detroit-based community organizations and groups. Reveal Your Detroit showcases a broad cross-section of images – from the gritty to the sublime – of Detroit’s rich diversity and unique character.

Check out GRDC on Facebook!

Lisa D’Amour’s ‘Detroit’ reopens tonight at 8:00 p.m

Detroit by Lisa D’Amour is back on stage this weekend, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m.! Following Saturday night’s performance, Susan Mosey, President of Midtown Detroit, Inc., will host a special talkback for audience members. We hope to see you there! You can check out Midtown Detroit, Inc. on Facebook Here: The Official Midtown Detroit – University Cultural Center Association, or visit their website.

Mark you calendars because there are only six performances left before Detroit closes Friday, April 5. Check out production photos form Detroit or join the Facebook event!

Left to right: Mary (Venessa Sawson), Ben (Joe Plambeck), Kenny (David Sterritt), and Sharon (Danielle Cochrane).Photo: Felix Li

Left to right: Mary (Venessa Sawson), Ben (Joe Plambeck), Kenny (David Sterritt), and Sharon (Danielle Cochrane).
Photo: Felix Li

Remaining Performances:

Thursday 8 p.m.         Mar. 28, Apr. 4
Friday 8 p.m.              Mar. 1, Apr. 5
Saturday 8 p.m.          Mar. 2, 23

An interview with Joe Plambeck – Ringwald co-founder, new Hilberry student

Interviewed by Patty Nolan of the Examiner, February 7, 2013

Click HERE to read the interview on the Examiner’s website.

Ben (Joe Plambeck)Photo Credit: Felix Lee

Ben (Joe Plambeck)
Photo Credit: Felix Lee

Joe Plambeck is a busy guy. A working actor and co-founder of The Ringwald Theatre in Ferndale, Joe is also its acting media director and routinely takes on directing, lighting and design duties. So we were surprised and delighted when, this fall, he walked out on stage as a member of the WSU Hilberry Theatre company – the nation’s first and only graduate repertory theatre company.

We had to know more. Why did Joe tackle this challenging Master of Fine Arts program? What about his role at The Ringwald? Andwhere does he get his energy?

Inquiring theatre fans want to know. And despite a crazy schedule, Joe Plambeck made time to answer all our questions.

Q: What made you decide to pursue anMFA at the Hilberry?

JOE: I have a good friend, Vanessa Sawson, in the Hilberry program. Over the first two years she was in the department, she told me all about what she was doing and I really found the idea of going into a graduate program very exciting. I have been sharpening my acting and directing skills while being a part of The Ringwald, but I knew that there were further elements which I could be improving on at such a level that the Hilberry provides. I especially wanted to explore classical theatre and theatrical styles (Chekov, Misner, etc.). Essentially, I want to be the absolute best that I can be, and I felt that joining a graduate department would be a wonderful way to excel (and the fact that WSU is right down the street is a definite plus). I definitely talked about my journey with my husband, Joe Bailey, and also with the rest of the Ringwald company. Everyone was extremely enthusiastic and excited about the opportunities that I would have by being a part of the Hilberry. I think that everyone understands that by my further education, my work at the Ringwald would improve and strengthen (and ideally, so would our audiences).

Q. The Hilberry’s MFA program is very exclusive. What did you have to do to join the company?

JOE: In order to be a part of the Hilberry, I had to audition. The company auditions all over the nation at different conventions, but I was able to audition here in Detroit. I turned in a headshot and resume and performed a couple of monologues. After my audition, the panel of staff and instructors interviewed me for about a half hour asking about my goals and intentions with joining the program. After my initial audition/interview, I was asked to attend a callback where we underwent a series of voice and movement exercises to gauge our experience and to see how adaptable we were. Then it was a waiting game until all of the auditions were over and the department had decided on who to accept into the program.

Q. What’s it like working in repertory and appearing in or rehearsing multiple shows at one time?

JOE: It is extremely exciting to be in a repertory program. Because of our crazy schedule at The Ringwald, I am accustomed to doing one show right on top of another. However, at The Hilberry we are rehearsing up to two shows at once and sometimes performing up to three in one week. It is an almost surreal experience to walk onto the Hilberry stage less than 24 hours after doing one show to find the set for another all up and ready to go. I find it very thrilling as an actor to fluctuate between roles with such a quick turn-around. It keeps me on my toes and allows me to really experience different styles and characters in a quickly moving and changing environment.

Q. As a “first year” at the Hilberry, you already have a lot of experience. What’s it like being a student again?

JOE: Being a student again is very cool. I feel that, with a bit more than a decade in between my scholarly experiences, I have found a greater appreciation for all aspects of theatre. From respecting the crew and stage managers, to simply picking up after myself when a rehearsal is over, these “life lessons” have shown to make me a much more versatile and compatible performer. Working with the rest of the company is awesome. There are people from all over the nation with varying levels of experience and it makes for a thrilling ride. Some folks are just out of undergrad programs while others have been out in the world working for a few years. One over the other can mean nothing or it can mean everything…it really just depends on the person, I suppose. I really do thrive on working in an ensemble and find coming together and growing closer throughout the experience to be one of the things that I am valuing most.

Q. How would you compare your experiences at The Hilberry and at The Ringwald?

JOE: One of the biggest differences is that I am only an actor at the Hilberry. At the Ringwald I wear so many hats, from social media to sound and lighting design to directing, and it is wonderful to just focus on the craft of acting. Of course, by becoming a better actor I feel my directorial instincts improving and expanding. Another drastic change is the performance space, itself. The Ringwald is a tiny storefront space with a dozen or so lighting instruments and a capacity of 100 audience members. The Hilberry holds over 400, has well over 100 lighting instruments, and the stage feels cavernous compared to the Ringwald’s smaller space. I haven’t thought of either place as “better” or “worse,” but simply different and awesome each in their own respect.

Q. How are you juggling your WSU classes and performance schedule with your responsibilities at The Ringwald?

JOE: Luckily, I have found that what I hoped I would be able to do and what I have actually been able to do are one and the same thing. When I started at the Hilberry, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to perform or direct any shows while I was in class, but I hoped that I would still be able to handle the media aspect of my job (social media, poster design, press releases and photos, etc.). I have even found time to do some of my design work there, both lighting and sound, as I can work on some of those elements while hanging out backstage while not onstage or class. While sometimes I find I have little time to breathe, I am currently able to handle both of my jobs without one suffering because of the other. I think it really is all about time management. I really am addicted to my calendar on my phone, it’s what keeps me in line and organized so that I am able to handle all of my tasks appropriately.

Q. For you, is this about actually having the MFA, or is it about the journey?

JOE: Truly, yes, it is about the journey and growing and improving as an actor. I hope that some amazing opportunities come from my being at the Hilberry and I will continue to look for every chance that comes my way. I am really loving the life of a working, paid actor and would love to continue such a life once I leave the Hilberry!

You can catch Joe Plambeck this weekend at The Hilberry in “Goodnight Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet).” In March, The Hilberry brings back the dark comedy “Detroit,” in which Joe has a featured role.

Thanks Joe, and break a leg!

REVIEW: ‘Detroit’ not the Detroit I know

Reviewed by Robert Delaney, Detroit New Monitor

Click HERE to read the review on the Encore Michigan’s website.

Left to right: Mary (Venessa Sawson), Ben (Joe Plambeck), Kenny (David Sterritt), and Sharon (Danielle Cochrane).Photo: Felix Li

Left to right: Mary (Venessa Sawson), Ben (Joe Plambeck), Kenny (David Sterritt), and Sharon (Danielle Cochrane).
Photo: Felix Li

A middle class husband and wife find their life changing in unexpected ways after they reach out to the new couple that moves in next door in Lisa D’Amour’s “Detroit,” which joined this season’s production at Wayne State’s Hilberry Theatre last month.

But don’t let the title mislead you into thinking this play has, well, anything to do with Detroit. While D’Amour did title it “Detroit,” it was apparently almost as an afterthought. Her indication of the setting was originally in a “first ring suburb” outside any mid-sized American city, according to the Hilberry’s press release. The Hilberry has changed this to: “The first ring of residential homes on the outskirts of downtown Detroit.”

D’Amour herself has said about her choice of calling it “Detroit”: “Something about the way the name of tha city vibrates in the American imagination – that name evokes the kind of iconic anxiety around the crumbling American dream.”

First, I always thought we were a “big” city, not a “mid-sized” one. But be that as it may, I think a play entitled “Detroit” should actually have something to say about Detroit.

Back when I was a kid, I remember that Detroit was all but ignored on national television programs, and in the few cases when something was supposed to be taking place in Detroit, it was usually just shot on the studio’s back lot on a set that didn’t look anything like Detroit.

That was a half-century ago, but I remember thinking it was pretty crummy to treat the fifth-largest city in the country that way. We may no longer have that ranking, but Detroit is a real place that has its own character – and Detroit’s story deserves to be told.

One would think scenic designer Pegi Marshall Amundsen, at least, would have tried to make the set look Detroit-ish. I suppose she may have thought she was doing that by including the old Michigan Central Depot in the distant background, but what about making the two houses look something like the houses typical of some neighborhood – in the first ring of residential homes on the outskirts of downtown Detroit”?

As to the plot, which sounds awfully reminiscent of Thomas Berger’s 1980 novel, “Neighbors,” which was made into a 1981 movie with John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, I again fail to see much connection with Detroit.

None of this criticism, however, is meant to detract from the performance of the play. Director Lavinia Hart works with a fine group of grad-student actors in presenting the story.

Joe Plambeck and Venessa Sawson are Ben and Mary, the middle class couple. David Sterritt and Danielle Cochrane are Kenny and Sharon, the ever-stranger couple that moves in next door.

As the reckless wildness of Kenny and Sharon is released, Ben and Mary gradually succumb to the temptation to give in to their wilder urges. This doesn’t end well, and Edmund Alyn Jones comes in late in the play, as Frank, to deal with some of the consequences.

Amazingly, “Detroit” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, but then, I’m guessing the Pulitzer folks don’t know much about my city either.

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

Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, Feb. 7, 2013