Williamston Theatre hopes to draw new audiences

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The four cast members of the Williamston Theatre’s production of Sirens stand in front of the ticket office. On the left is Mark Schenfisch followed by John Seibert, Terry Heck and Katie Noyes

By Jacob Allen
The Williamston Post

The Williamston Theatre’s production of Sirens began March 26 and will run through April 26. The play is written by Deborah Laufer and is directed by Tony Caselli. Sirens is a collaboration with the Michigan State University Department of Theatre and has two students in the cast.

The theater is located in downtown Williamston and was founded in 2005 by John Lepard, Christine Purchis, Emily Sutton-Smith and Tony Caselli. According to Caselli, who has been directing plays for 19 years, the theater is a not-for-profit organization. All the actors are paid. Half of the theater’s budget comes from ticket sales, acting classes and concessions, while the other half comes from grants, donations and sponsorships. The theater produces about seven plays a year.

Sirens is about a couple who have been married for 20 years, are having a difficult time in their marriage and have seen some of the passion turn into a relaxed comfort. The husband is trying to find his passion for his wife and his enthusiasm as an artist on their silver wedding anniversary. They embark on a cruise in the Mediterranean for the occasion. The production involves a cast of four actors and a crew of two backstage members, six designers, one stage manager and the director.

The theater’s website summarizes the play as such, “out of a contemporary love story that grapples with the terrors of middle age, and the torture of creative failure, comes a mystical expedition to find home.” Director Caselli has a different take on what the play is all about.

“The play is about really being able to fall in love with your life over and over again and a reminder of how important that is,” said Caselli. “Anybody from age 15 and up is going to love this play.

“There is stuff in there for everybody, especially for people who are in a relationship or have been in relationships. People who like comedy, or sweet stories and fans of Greek mythology will love this play.”

Lepard said the theater has built up a consistent audience of about 1,500 people that come to every show. He also said the theater is always trying to pull in newer and younger audiences. This show should be a good opportunity for just that with two Michigan State University students cast as lead roles.

“I was absolutely thrilled when I found out I got the part,” said Katie Noyes. Noyes is a 21-year-old theater major at Michigan State University. She has been acting since age 6 and plays the parts of the travel agent Leah, the siren and the waitress.“I was a little shocked because there were so many talented girls in the department that called back for the role, so there was a lot of competition for it.”

Fellow Michigan State University theater major Mark Schenfisch, 21, was also cast in the play. Schenfisch has been acting since age eight and plays the role of Richard Miller. He noted that being cast in this production was a big step forward for the student actors to become professional actors. It gave the pair their equity membership candidacy cards, which is the first step in joining the acting union.

Sirens also features a husband and wife duo cast as husband and wife. The part of Sam is played by John Seibert who is married to Rose. Rose is played by Seibert’s real wife, Terry Heck.

“We have been married even longer than the people in the show, so we were excited to be able to work together,” Heck said. “I think the fact that these guys have been able to create a theater in this community is amazing. It is a very important hub of art.”

For more information on show times, acting classes and future performances visit the Williamston Theatre’s website.

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