Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Year Full of Passion, Talent and Enchanted Evenings

Contributed by Jeff Thomakos, Artistic Director of Water Works Theatre

Well, another Water Works season is drawing to a close and I can hardly believe it. I knew it was going to be an odd year, when I met Ed, our executive director for coffee last fall and broke the bad news. The Purple Rose made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I wouldn’t be available this season to direct anything. Ed was amazingly understanding and off we went to prepare for the season.

First, there was our Winter Fundraiser. To celebrate our ten years as a company, we invited every single person who has ever been a part of our shows that we could get a hold of. We then did scenes from all ten of our shows with original cast members reprising their roles. It was wonderful, but…phew…it was a lot of work. I spent months tracking people down, leaving voicemails and emails, and convincing people to come perform for us for free in the middle of winter. The task was daunting, but somehow, it turned into an amazing, enchanting evening that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Meanwhile, I was also hiring our artistic team. Don Hunter, a key person for us for the last two years, was moving back to Indiana and I had to find a stage manager who could fill his rather imposing shoes. Fortunately for us, Emily Pierce came in for an interview and I was completely wowed. Add to that, the great Emily Bowyer as Stage Manager for Commedia King Arthur and a huge weight was lifted.

This year we were also lucky enough to bring in Barton Bund as a director. Our team knew that we wanted to do a comedy this year, but we weren’t really sure which one. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves and do something we had already done like Midsummer or Much Ado. Love’s Labours Lost and Merry Wives of Windsor were thrown around a lot, but nothing seemed quite right. Then in walks Bart who says he’s willing to direct anything we want, but was really passionate about Two Gentlemen of Verona and felt he had a winning concept for it. Since it is my feeling that it’s best when directors direct shows they are passionate about, the decision to do Two Gentlemen of Verona with Bart as director was a no-brainer for us. His passion for the material beams from the stage every night and as a result, everyone has caught a bit of it - the actors, the audience…even the dog.

Bart suggested we bring in the brilliant Monika Essen who last worked with Water Works in our critically-acclaimed co-production with Performance Network, Nine Parts of Desire. What’s more, he convinced us to bring her in not only as a set designer, but also as the costume designer as well. As a result, the artistic vision of the show was unified in an amazing way. Everything compliments each other, everything fits.

With Shannon Kennedy and Tom Niemkeiwicz as Production Manager and Master Carpenter respectively, our super, amazing production team was assembled. All that was left was the casting.

Those of you who have already seen the show know what a fantastic cast we have this year. It’s a great mix of familiar Water Works faces like Rusty Mewha and Sara Wolf Molnar and new faces like Tommy Simon and Kevin Young. Everyone in the cast is fantastic. I am quite jealous.

You have one more weekend to experience this unique event. One more weekend to sit under the stars and laugh, and hear poetry and watch talented people take interesting characters to amazing places. Please come, and then tell us about your experience. If you are like the 10,000 other people who have seen a Water Works show, then I think you will find it to be unforgettably wonderful.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Real Stars of Shakespeare in the Park in Royal Oak

Contributed by Ed Nahhat, Founder and Executive Director of Water Works Theatre

The 13 year-old boy selling popcorn in the park this year first learned stage sword fighting in KidsAct!; after which he was cast in our production of the “Scottish Play” in 2009, showing off his on-stage dying skills every night with professional actors. The girl who starred in Royal Oak High School’s musical last fall learned her first Shakespeare in the park with Water Works in 2004. The boys and girls who got cast in Gerard Butler’s upcoming movie Machine Gun Preacher are recent KidsAct! students, all of 10 and 12 years old, working with A-List talent on their first paid acting job.

For one local actress a small part with Water Works led to bigger roles and a highly sought place in a prestigious graduate theatre program. Another actress was so good in her first Water Works show that she won awards, catapulting her to roles in major films, including one with Robert DeNiro.

We know that Water Works doesn’t make people talented. But we work hard every year to offer talented people the opportunity to grow in their craft and career. We educate and empower artists (offstage and on) of any age. We also pay all of our artists, hiring local actors, designers, directors, graphic artists, and other vendors and suppliers. We offer the only outdoor professional Shakespeare event in Michigan. And we’re really proud that we run the only public event in Royal Oak that does not cost the local taxpayer a dime.

In fact, Water Works pays the city to use the park, and we pay for everything else that goes into a professional outdoor theatre event, from microphones to insurance to port-johns. Certainly we could not make it without our generous donors, neighborhood advertisers and ticket buyers. And we need more help in that department.

But the real stars of Shakespeare in the park in Royal Oak are:

our volunteers.

It’s not easy to explain why some people volunteer their time, or how one manages to recruit such wondrous people. But when it’s real, it’s just like finding gold in the ground. Water Works saves thousands of dollars in business expenses every year relying upon the generous and professional help of volunteers, from signage to bookkeeping, from house management to social networking, from manual labor to audio supplies, from legal advice to student interns. Personally, I think that even our “paid” people are so underpaid that they end up volunteering a lot of time too.

Everyone who donates their time, their talent, their insight and creative contribution to such an effort is a special kind of local hero to me. So this year, we decided to honor six of our Ten Year volunteers with Water Works’ “Best Friends Award” (custom made by local artists Edward Marsh and Nina Barlow). The honorees are: Tony and Jan Schmitt, Lisa and Duane Kimmel, Holly and Bryan Conroy and Sam and Mary Nahhat. But we have many other volunteers who are just as valuable to us, people who have given their time and talent in past years, or are stepping up today.

I can’t name them all here, but I know their names by heart. And if you come see our show, you’ll meet them, our real stars, one by one. And they’ll be smiling.

Come see us, and join in the fun.

In the photograph: A few of our "Best Friends" - Water Works 2010 honorees Lisa and Duane Kimmel with State Representative Marie Donigan and Water Works founder Ed Nahhat.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sign Language Interpreting for the Theatre

Contributed by Jamie Fidler, TerpTheatre Team Member
Two Gentlemen of Verona Understudy/Theatre Liaison

Shakespeare. The open air. Groovy 60’s fun! This experience of collaborating with Water Works Theatre has been enjoyable for all of us at TerpTheatre. As the understudy for our performing interpreters (Dan McDougall & Shelly Tocco) I’ve been able to watch the entire production come to fruition - despite spotty rain, pesky bugs, and complex Shakespearean language. The cast and crew have been a real pleasure to work. Dan and Shelly have stretched their brains trying to be creative with the language and also with the actors. I look forward to the performances when the Deaf and hearing audiences alike will be able to finally see the actors and interpreters color a new world of Shakespeare that, I’m sure, will be a good time had by all!

The July 25th and August 6th performances of The Two Gentlemen of Verona will be interpreted by TerpTheatre. Visit to order tickets.

To learn more about what we do, visit

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Magic of Starr Jaycee Park

Contributed by Scott Myers, WWT Director of Public Relations

This weekend I sat in Starr Jaycee Park and watched something magical happen.

I've seen it nine times now and every time I am amazed at what happens when the cast of Water Works' annual Shakespeare In The Park in Royal Oak transitions from rehearsals off site to the first rehearsal on the stage in the park.

The truth is that it's always a bit of a mess. At the first park rehearsal no one knows exactly how they're going to get to and from the stage, what the sound is going to be like, where the lights are going to hit, where the audience will sit and if a frisbee will land on the stage from the park's disc golf course.

And yet it's at this moment that the magic of doing theatre outdoors under the stars begins to happen.

This weekend the woods started to come to life again. The bottoms of the leaves were illuminated by the stage lights, the sounds of footsteps began echoing through the branches and the laughter of the cast & crew filled the air. Sitting there in the park watching it take place, I couldn't help but envy the adventure of which this cast and crew were about to embark.

Over the next few days paths will begin to emerge from the grass around the theatre, the imprints of the cast making their way to and from the stage. They will find stories that aren't written, experiences the audience will watch before and after each character appears. A commaradarie will overcome the staff as together they bring a new shape, form, and energy to a work of art hundreds of years old, pulled into living color before our eyes, wrapping around the audience from the bleachers to the blankets down front.

The light will dance across the stage, the laughter, songs, and dancing will fill the air, the smells of popcorn and bug spray will waft through the park, and then three weeks later,only the paths will remain until the leaves begin to fall like Shakespeare's words falling back into place on his old pages.

History is made in Royal Oak, one Summer at a time.

It really is quite magical.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Enjoying the Rehearsals

Contributed by Sara Wolf, playing the role of Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona

I am loving the rehearsal process. It is equal parts creativity and mischief and I love that A LOT. I'm enjoying the scene work, the way we are playing with the script, and discovering Julia. I enjoy IMMENSELY the people I work with, and I like being a part of this team. Did I mention there is a dog? There is a dog which is a major bonus. I think this show is going to have a lot to offer everyone- I'm so looking forward to playing for them. Dancing, acting, playing, DOG; this is great!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Director's View

By Barton Bund, Water Works Theatre 2010 Director of The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Working on The Two Gentlemen of Verona is like discovering a new play by your favorite writer. The guy is brilliant, we all know this, and we know some of his plays so well that we have a hard time seeing new productions. We compare it with others we have seen, or as actors, we tend to judge productions based on the different choices we would have made. At least I do.

This is different, because there isn’t some incredibly well-known legendary production starring John Gielgud. Even though I am sure he played all the roles in this show at various points in his life. We get to go in fresh. With young actors. We have so little frame of reference, so little historical whatnot to cling to, that we get to create a whole new world for ourselves.

Our Verona is a small town, a provincial dead end. Moving to Milan means stepping into the world of art, culture, fashion, and women. Very desirable for a young man with nothing to lose. We have set our production in the mid-1960s, a time of change. Think about maybe a few years after Mad Men, but just slightly before the Summer of Love. A world on the brink of change. And I don’t just mean the fashions. The politics, and the politics between men and women, were in flux. A perfect fit for Two Gentlemen.

These women are independent. They travel alone, they choose their mates, they run the entire cycle of life. And by cross-gender casting the role of the Duke, and playing her as a very hip, progressive modern gal, we have established a wonderful dynamic. This is the sexual revolution. But boys mature slower than girls. Men still struggle with women’s lib, just as much now as ever before.

The play is as good as Twelfth Night or Much Ado About Nothing. It gets done a lot less often, and it’s because it’s deceptive and complex. It’s like a screwball comedy with all the slapstick and sex jokes, but with a brain. Think of The 40 Year-Old Virgin. A guy comedy on the surface, with all the Animal House/Trading Places/Soul Man kind of low humor. And now imagine it written by the guy who wrote Antony and Cleopatra. What you get is a comedy with a capital C, but you also get some complicated insights into the nature of love, and why love is so darned complicated.

When two people fall in love, they are tossing a boulder into a still pond. The ripples are felt everywhere. All the odds are stacked against them. It is possible that the real love story here is between our two gentlemen. They try to remain friends, but when they fall in love with two terrific women, they act like fools. They make all the wrong choices, and plunge everyone into peril.

I love the play, and I’m so glad to have young actors with me who are willing to try anything. We have to get pretty silly in order to get a very serious point across. And what is our point? By the end, I’m not really sure. We get our hearts broken, but we had fun, didn’t we? As Marvin Gaye wisely said, “That’s the way love is, baby. Sho nuff how it is.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Professional Stage Training for the Student Actor

Water Works Theatre Company Presents
The Water Works Academy:
Professional Stage Training for the Student Actor

This one week intensive for high school and pre-college students uses a "summer stock" company approach, giving young actors the chance to create their own play! Our working professionals will guide students as they embark together writing, directing, stage managing, designing and performing a one-of-a-kind piece of theatrical magic on our outdoor Shakespeare stage in Starr Jaycee Park here in Royal Oak Michigan!

If you are ready to take your talents to the next level and have fun doing it, register now at

Water Works Academy
Professional Stage Training
for the Student Actor
Entering Grades 9-12th
July 26th - July 30th, 2010
9:00am - 3:00pm
Starr Jaycee Park
Royal Oak, Michigan
Registration $175 Per Student

Limited to 30 Students

Do You Know A Student Actor?
Please share the information our workshop information.
Thank you for your support!

Celebrating our 10th Season!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Audition Dates for Shakespeare in the Park in Royal Oak 2010

Water Works Theatre Company
Auditions for Shakespeare in the Park in Royal Oak 2010

Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare
Directed by Barton Bund
The Commedia Tales of King Arthur by Lane Riosley
Directed by Frannie Shepherd-Bates

Friday, April 16 & Tuesday, April 20
Time slots are available between 6:15 p.m. and 10pm
St. John's Episcopal Church
Southeast corner of Woodward Avenue and 11 Mile Road in Royal Oak.
There is a large parking lot to the east of the building off of 11 Mile.
Actors will enter the church near the garage building at the south end of parking lot.


Actors who want to reserve a time slot for General Auditions should request their preferred time via email to:, or voice message to: (248) 399-3727.

Actors please prepare a classical comedic monologue no longer than two minutes in length. Thirty seconds of additional time will be allotted for those who wish to play an instrument and/or sing.

All roles are open to Equity and Non-Equity actors
Equity members will be engaged by approved Special Appearance Agreement.
All non-Equity actors will be paid a small stipend.

Two Gentlemen of Verona will be performed in Royal Oak’s Starr Jaycee Park Thursdays through Sundays from July 22 – August 8, 2010. The Commedia Tales of King Arthur will be performed Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 7pm and weekend mornings at 11am from July 27 – August 8, 2010 with possible travel shows the weekend of August 20th.

About Water Works Theatre Company

Since 2001 Water Works has presented Shakespeare in the Park in Royal Oak and other award-winning productions. Water Works enhances the quality of life in the community by offering Michigan’s only outdoor professional Shakespeare event, close to home in Royal Oak’s Starr Jaycee Park. Water Works’ mission is to provide a place to call home for local professional actors, designers, directors, teachers and other artists in a dynamic collaboration with skilled professional volunteers and other community supporters. Learn more at