Double Feature and Dessert on February 3

Avondale Theatre Company offers Double Feature for Annual Dessert Theatre Presentation

The Avondale Theatre Company and its parent support group, the Avondale Drama Boosters, will offer its audience patrons a double-dip of theatrical opportunities with their annual Dessert Theatre extravaganza slated for Friday, February 3 beginning at 7:00 p.m.

This year, the ATC and Boosters will be present two one-act productions that span the range from slapstick comedy to searing drama with Silent Laughter and A Thousand Cranes. Silent Laughter by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Millmore is a fast-paced, highly energetic spoof and salute to the great silent film era slapstick comedies, told in three dimensions, complete with all the pratfalls, crazy characters and even a climactic pie fight. A Thousand Cranes by Kathryn Miller is the simple and poignant true story of Sadako, a young Japanese girl seeking joy and glory through her competitive running only to find herself suffering from the after effects of the atomic bomb that ended WWII.  The title refers to the eastern legend that if someone creates a thousand origami paper cranes, their wish will come true.

During rehearsal, Avondale High School students work on providing live music accompaniment using only their voices for their production of Silent Laughter

During rehearsal, Avondale High School students work on providing live music accompaniment using only their voices for their production of Silent Laughter

“This two-for-one opportunity is something we’ve never tried,” explains Edmond Guay, Avondale’s theatre teacher and director in his 30th and final year as the company’s leader. “The competition festival we participate in offers two different platforms for sharing performances by the students, one main stage and one studio production – this year, we opted to do both. It’s challenging, but tons of fun.  Lots of kids to pull two very, very different shows together, but it’s proving to be quite a motivator.”

Avondale’s comprehensive curricular theatre program complements the extensive co-curricular after school company – both groups are going all out for this twin bill adventure.  “Students of the Advanced Theatre Practice class are required to create a one-act play as one of their five projects throughout the year,” explains Guay. “Two of the seniors in this year’s class—Josh Miller and Nathan Clifton—volunteered to take on the double load of not just being on staff for the main stage show, but directing Cranes.  They are learning quickly what it means to wear many hats in a production.”

Leading the cast of Silent Laughter is junior Brendan Hart as Billy who is using every ounce of state-level gymnastics talent to create some of the most challenging physical comedy bits the company has ever attempted. Senior Meghan Gwilt plays Ruth, Billy’s plucky girlfriend while senior Antonio Vettraino gets to chew the scenery as the snide Lionel Drippinwithit who has his eyes on Ruth, but his claws out to destroy Billy. Freshman Gordy Gwilt gets to pratfall on a grand scale as Billy’s pal, the sad sack sidekick always in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Senior Jarrett Buikema gets to laugh it up as Brewster Thickwad, owner of the factory that Billy works at. Senior Annie Youngs plays Sarge, the cop who seems to be everywhere whenever one is needed.  Junior Daniel Barr gets the challenge of playing the archetypal villain Max The Thug, Lionel’s henchman.  Rounding out the cast are ensemble members senior Kat Medcoff, juniors Chloe Stark and Chris Larson, and freshman Zach Pedigo who play the other 16 characters in the 45 minute comedy.  Junior Tess Chargo serves as Laughter’s assistant director.

One of the more unique creative twists in this production will be the a cappella vocal orchestra led by senior Maggie Youngs and featuring juniors Lauren Andrus and Mackenzie Tillison, sophomore Shelby Porter, and freshmen McKayla Major, Rebecca Piepszak who provide the production’s live music accompaniment using only their voices in place of what would traditionally be a pipe organ.

On the studio end, senior directors Josh Miller and Nathan Clifton lead the small but talented cast of A Thousand Cranes.  Sophomore Bella Javier plays Sadako, the optimistic but doomed youthful runner. Juniors Rachel Jones and Nick Christy play Sadako’s strict but loving parents.  Freshman Jack Youngs portrays Kenji, Sadako’s inspiring trainer and friend. Sophomore Amarae’ Robinson plays the Grandmother, the spirit who prepares Sadako for her journey to the other side. Junior Elena Blatt and freshman Hannah Bahorski fill out the cast as the ensemble and portray multiple roles in the dynamic and touching show.  Junior Noah Swart serves as the production’s assistant director and percussion accompaniment. 

Not to be outdone by their onstage counterparts, the backstage crew, all of whom had to apply to be part of the select company, have the daunting task of creating two very different shows in completely different genres and styles, and then make the entire production able to travel easily and set up quickly. Leading the charge backstage are senior Josh Miller who double dips as the company’s stage manager, seniors Lila Letica and Lauren McGhee as producers, juniors Sophia Conant and Alex Holt as assistant stage managers, sophomore Rachel Pastori as the company’s festival coordinator, and seniors Nathan Clifton (lights), Geoffrey Steward (sound), Elena Semones (costumes), juniors Deven Queen (props), Jamie Erickson (scenic painting), and sophomore Ricky Hall (set construction) helm the individual crews.

The year’s MIFA company is also lucky to have some adult mentorship from ATC alumni Nick Matejzel and Alania Vettraino, as well as parents Julie Semones and Glenda Barr who assist Guay in company oversight.

The public will get its only chance to see both Silent Laughter and A Thousand Cranes at the ATC/Booster annual Dessert Theatre on Friday, February 3 with curtain at 7:00 p.m. This year marks the 28th year of this special evening held in the theatre and gathering spaces of the Avondale Performing Arts Center, located at 2800 Waukegan in Auburn Hills. The evening begins with Cranes, followed by Laughter, followed by a reception of gourmet desserts created by some of the area’s most prestigious bakeries and confectioners, along with an afterglow talk-back with the company. Tickets are limited and all seats are reserved. Admission is $15 and pre-purchase or reservations are highly encouraged. Tickets can be reserved by calling the ATC any time at 248-537-6210 or by visiting their website at and following the links to the online ticketing process. A limited number of general admission, show-only, balcony seats will go on sale at 6:00 p.m. on the night of the show for only $5.

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