‘The 39 Steps’ is must-see theatre for all who like to laugh

‘The 39 Steps’ at the Hilberry Theatre

Rating: 5 Stars

By Patty Nolan of The Examiner

The funniest play you are likely to see this spring traces its unlikely origins to the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The 39 Steps.” This Hilberry Theatre production – the season finale – should be mandatory viewing for anyone wishing to understand either the mechanics of comedy or the essentials of theatrical storytelling.

Michael Phillip Thomas and Brandy Joe Plambeck in 'The 39 Steps'

Michael Phillip Thomas and Brandy Joe Plambeck in ‘The 39 Steps’

Hitchcock based his thriller on a novel by John Buchan and reset it in pre-WWII Britain to leverage the imminent Nazi threat as a dramatic device. Playwright Patrick Barlow discovered comic alchemy by rendering the Hitchcock film, scene by scene, as a manic theatrical parody staring four hardworking actors. The hero is Richard Hannay, featuring Michael Manocchhio as the blasé Brit with a flair heroism and hilarious side patter with the audience. The Woman, played by Bevin Bell-Hall, is a brilliant send up of Hollywood’s best female stereotypes – the seductress, the innocent ingénue, and the good-hearted farm girl – in this case, one with a decidedly Scottish accent. All of the other roles are played by the two “Clowns” – Brandy Joe Plambeck and Michael Phillip Thomas – who flip characters, costumes and accents faster than IHOP pancakes, and with even similar variety. As the play reaches its climax and the chase sequences demand a larger cast of characters, Plambeck and Thomas are required to portray multiple roles within a single scene; the frantic costume changes and clever devices that make this possible give this farce its breathless charm.

Read the full review here: http://exm.nr/1J2snWj


“Inishmaan” props designer makes and tests eggs for smashing on actors

Two ways to blow an egg

Props Designer Rudy Schuepbach

Rudy Scheupbach is the props designer for the Hilberry production of The Cripple of Inishmaan. He was kind enough to give us an inside look into how he was addressing the production need of nearly a dozen eggs being broken onstage per performance. Early on in production meetings, the costume designer expressed concern about real eggs staining the costumes, so Rudy put on his thinking cap, and came up with the following solution.

There are two primary ways to empty an egg shell of its contents. One way is to punch a hole in one end (Rudy showed us how to do it with a common screw), then punch a hole in the other end. After making sure that the yolk is broken, one simply blows the egg through by blowing in one end, and pushing the egg out the other with controlled breath.

Another method (the Ukranian method) involves a contraption called a blas-fix that only requires one hole. Rudy also showed us how this one worked.  A diamond-shaped cutter is used to make one hole, and the contraption is used to push air into the egg, forcing the contents out of the same hole. It’s a bit messier, but it leaves you with one hole instead of two, which become important later on.

Both ways take you to the sink next, to clean yourself up, and to rinse out the egg. A little soap and hot water ensures that the eggs are safe for actors use.

Finally, Rudy showed us the solution that he mixed up to look like egg yolk (mostly no-tears baby shampoo), and he injects the solution in the egg with a large syringe. A little tape to make sure the contents are safe, and after a quick test – the eggs were ready to go…. Now…. Just another hundred more for the run of the show (not to mention rehearsals).

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Thanks Rudy!



Written by Alex Goodman, Photos and video by Rebecca M. Pierce

The Hilberry Gives Back

Judson Center’s Autism Connections Program is a guest of the Hilberry Theatre.

Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts is pleased to welcome the Judson Center’s Autism Connections Program to the opening performance of Robin Hood at the Hilberry Theatre on Tuesday, June 22, 2010.

Since 1924, the Judson Center has been a trusted non-profit community resource that creates solutions to improve the lives of individuals and families in southeast Michigan.   The Judson Center provides more than 360,000 personalized support services each year that emphasize community and promote individual’s and families’ ability to encourage personal growth and foster independence. These services include:  Adoption, Autism Connections , Community Living Support, Counseling , Family Preservation , Foster Care, and Respite Care.

Parents of newly diagnosed children often don’t know where to turn.  The Judson Center’s Autism Connections program gives parents the resources, education, awareness and support necessary to regain hope for their child’s future.

The Judson Center Autism Connections program offers a wide range of educational, therapeutic and support services designed to assist individuals with autism, their families, and their communities. Therapies and skills training promote independence and maximize potential for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.
The program has locations in Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw Counties.

Robin Hood at the Hilberry Theatre

Let merriment captivate your whole family this summer as the Hilberry presents the children’s play Robin Hood by Kathryn Shultz Miller. Director Jesse Merz says, “The audience can expect to be transported back to the Sherwood Forest in the 12th century and be dazzled by boisterous performances, swashbuckling battles and true love.”

Each summer the Hilberry Theatre presents a children’s classic to thousands of families. This year Robin Hood is proving to be the most popular of these classics yet, with two performances selling out over a month in advance! Contact the Hilberry box office for group information or to reserve your seat for this fun-filled event.

The production team includes Wayne State University Theatre graduate Adam Crinson (scenic designer), Department of Theatre faculty Fred Florkowski (technical director), Mary Leyendecker (costume designer), Mike Thomas (sound designer), and WSU Theatre graduate Eva Bushong (stage manager).

The cast includes Laura Heikkinen (Maid Marian), Justin Vanden Heuvel (Robin Hood), Joseph Hamid (Little John), Rob Pantano (Sheriff of Nottingham), Katie Lietz Flannery (Friar Tuck), Cal Schwartz (Prince John), Christopher L. Tucker (King Richard) and Dave Cowan (Guard).

Wilde Award Nominations for Hilberry Directors, Actors and Designers!

From Encore Michigan.com:

The nominations

Beginning mid-May 2009 and ending 12 months later, EncoreMichigan.com’s five theater critics crisscrossed Southeast and Mid-Michigan and reviewed another record-breaking 128 professional productions produced or presented by 33 theater companies. Editorial director Donald V. Calamia was joined by critics D. A. Blackburn, Martin F. Kohn, Jenn McKee and Bridgette M. Redman, each of whom was thrilled gas prices stayed below $3 a gallon as they traveled from Detroit to Lansing and numerous stops in between. No other publication in the state provided more comprehensive theater coverage.

The season, Calamia said, was one of the best in recent memory. “Every year the theaters step up and produce better work than the year before, and that’s especially true of the 2009-10 season. There were a lot of memorable shows – from the smallest houses to the largest. And they seem to have filled a lot more seats than what I’ve observed over the last couple of years.”

Because of the increased quality, Calamia continued, coming up with this year’s Wilde Awards nominees was tough. “Our list of potential nominees was quite long,” he explained. “But even with a few additional categories this year, a lot of noteworthy shows and performances didn’t make the final cut. But the list we DID come up with is a fine representative of the excellent work that theatergoers were treated to throughout the season.”

Categories announced this year increased from 18 to 23, Calamia noted. “Plus, we have a few specialty awards and a couple of surprise categories that won’t be announced until the night of The Wilde Awards ceremony.”

In total, 56 productions earned at least one nomination, as did 24 of the theaters reviewed.

Another Wilde Night

Winners of The 2010 Wilde Awards will be announced at a delightfully prestigious ceremony Sept. 1 at Detroit’s Gem Theatre. Complete details will be announced shortly. The annual event is sponsored by Pride Source Media Group and Encore Michigan LLC.

“It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for nine seasons now,” Calamia said. “And that we’re the last surviving media theater awards ceremony in Southeast Michigan. But we feel it’s important to honor the professional theater industry’s best productions, performances and designs – and we do so in a very unique and fun style. It’s an adult night out at the theater, and we think Oscar Wilde would highly approve of it! After all, it IS One Wilde Night!” ”

Click Here for the full article from EncoreMichigan.com.

Click Here for the Full List of Nominees

The Hilberry Company and it’s members were nominated for:

Best Comedy: The Servant of Two Masters, Hilberry Theatre, Lavinia Hart, director

Best Actor – Musical: Jordan Whalen, The Fantasticks, Hilberry Theatre

Best Actress – Comedy: Christina Flynn, The Servant of Two Masters, Hilberry Theatre

Best Support – Comedy: Justin Vanden Heuvel, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hilberry Theatre

Best Design – Costumes: John D. Woodland, The Seagull, Hilberry Theatre & John D. Woodland, Good, Hilberry Theatre

Best Design – Lights: Tim Sutton, The Seagull, Hilberry Theatre

and for our Co-Production with The Jet of Palmer Park:

Best Support – Drama: Connell Brown Jr., Palmer Park, The Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company & Hilberry Theatre

Good to grace the Hilberry stage this weekend!

You’ve wanted the preview, and now we are here to deliver!

Here are some of the moments from Wednesday’s dress rehearsal.

Are you ready? Click here for tickets!

95 Hancock, the trip continues!

And the trip to 95 Hancock continues! Really, the place is the gift that keeps on giving. Just when you think there couldn’t be anything greater, you come to the Fur, Boa and Children’s room storage.


[To be continued! (Still!) There is MORE!]