Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Planning to laugh

I love reviewing theater. A close second is spending the day in a room full of reviewers discussing theater and planning for a great summer of reviewing Michigan theater. And that's what I did today. Some of the reviewers for Encore Michigan -- Donald Calamia, John Quinn, Judith Cookis, Martin Kohn, Bridgette Redman, Jenn McKee and myself -- met at Michigan State University today to plan the summer ahead and discuss the annual Wilde Awards which will be presented in August for the best in professional theater all over Michigan. Encore Michigan covers great professional theater from Mason Street Warehouse in Saugatuck and Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company in Grand Rapids to the Fisher Theatre in Detroit and Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea and the Michigan Shakespeare Festival in Jackson. And lots of other professional theaters in between. If you haven't discovered Encore Michigan, check it out. It's one-stop shopping for Michigan theater.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Where have all the flowers gone?

His name was Andrew H. Tullock. He's a great great uncle, the baby brother of my great great grandfather Samuel who hid out in the Missouri woods rather than fight for the Union or the Rebels in a war he didn't believe in. But Andrew took up a gun. He fought for the South to try to keep those dang Yankees from invading the family farm in Missouri. He lost a leg in the war, and ended up living with my great grandpa Samuel for a few years, until he died in 1869 as a result of his wounds. He was 31. Never married or had any children. I found his grave stone a few years ago. The graveyard is in the middle of someone else's cow pasture now. The stone had fallen over and was buried, overgrown with grass. But I scraped away enough to read the name. So on Memorial Day I think of Andrew and all the soldiers who died in wars not of their making. And I think about that song, "Where have all the flowers gone?" about the futility of war. "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Share the fun

For more than a dozen years now I've been getting paid to have a good time in the theater. Last night I decided it was time to share the wealth -- not the pay which isn't that much honestly --but the wealth of laughter. I invited three local theater professionals -- Joe Dulin, Larry Young and Mary Beth Quillin -- to join me at a performance of "The Addams Family." and I think their reviews show a good time was had by all. The idea is to start a conversation about theater. It isn't about what I think. It's about sharing what you think. Theater is not a solo experience. Live theater is shared with the other members of the audience, and sharing our impressions is a way to add to the fun.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Smash Finale

So did you see it coming? Did you guess that Ellis spiked the smoothie with peanuts? And Karen would eventually calm down and claim the role we all knew she had to play as Marilyn Monroe? Somehow I knew all that would happen in tonight's season finale of  "Smash," but I didn't foresee that when Karen is singing the new finale song, Don't Forget Me, that Ivy would pull a real Marilyn memory with a handful of pills. Of course. It was perfect. Maybe you can't end a musical with a suicide (the great line from last week's episode) but you can certainly end the season of a hit television show with a suicide attempt. We only saw the pills. Will she take them? Will it be fatal? Tune in next year to find out.

The good news is Smash fans in West Michigan may not have to wait until fall to catch a glimpse of Megan Hilty who plays Ivy. She's planning a guest appearance in Saugatuck July 21 as part of a Broadway Breakthru workshop. Read all about it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cycle of life

Almost two months after we had to let Baby be put to sleep, we buried her ashes today next to a beautiful blooming azalea in the backyard of my son and daughter-in-law, Ryan and Angela Wallace. Baby was originally Angela's cat, so it seemed only fitting that her marked grave would be at their home. And it was appropriate too that our little ceremony followed a lovely Mother's Day dinner that Angela cooked for me and her mother, Pamela Barr. The wheel of life keeps turning. I spent the rest of the day planting flowers and vegetables and herbs. Life is so eager to grow, we only need to give it a chance. How blessed I am to have a healthy son, who married a beautiful, loving wife, who shared her adorable cat with me for eight years.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Having fun for a good cause

It might seem like Cystic Fibrosis is an odd topic for a blog called Laughing for a Living. But the family of 4-year-old Logan Tyler is having lots of fun raising money to defeat his disease. It was my privilege to share their story on the front page of today's Grand Rapids Press. Getting the word out is especially sweet because my son, Ryan Wallace, also has cystic fibrosis. He's 35, married, owns his own home and designs web sites. We thank the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and all the wonderful people who support it, for all the advancements that have lengthened his life and given him the hope of good days ahead. We cheered when they discovered the gene in 1989 and applaud every new discovery. It's like you don't really appreciate spring until you've had winter. And you don't know how wonderful life is until you've faced the possibility that it can be snatched away at any moment. Laughing is the perfect response when you're glad to be alive.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Birthday, Laurie!

Extra, Extra! Read all about it. "Newsies" received 8 Tony Award nominations this morning including Best Musical, Best Choreography, Best Director and Best Actor for Jeremy Jordan. What fun! It's even more fun because Grand Rapids native Laurie Veldheer is in the cast. AND today is Laurie's Birthday. My story in Sunday's Press predicted a good showing. Congratulations Newsies!