Theatre Company Says Goodbye to Longtime Director

Avondale Theatre Company Says Goodbye to Longtime Teacher, Mentor, and Theater Director

The Avondale Theatre Company, Avondale High School’s award-winning drama troupe, is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the retirement of its longtime teacher and director Edmond Guay by bringing hundreds of past, present, and future onstage and backstage thespians together for one huge night of musical theatre magic this Saturday, June 24 with a special presentation of Children of Eden at the Avondale Performing Arts Center at 7:35 p.m.

“The idea of bringing everyone ‘home’ so to speak started about five years, when I knew the end of my Avondale career was in sight,” explains Guay who is retiring from Avondale after thirty years of teaching theatre, speech and English, and directing and producing over 150 productions. “But I had no idea what this project would do. I am flabbergasted by the outreach to my “kids” – the rehearsals have been emotional and exciting. And the magic that’s happening cross-generationally is nothing short of mind-numbing.”

Children of Eden Cast and Crew working on the set June 2017

Children of Eden Cast and Crew working on the set June 2017

Children of Eden, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (the creator of Wicked, Godspell, Pippin and many Disney musicals), takes the book of Genesis, infuses it with gospel, pop, and ballad-type music to weave the tale of a lonely man who creates a world and tries to make it perfect, only to have his children upend the process time and time again. Act One follows the creation of the world, the Garden of Eden, and the fall of Adam and Eve. Act Two focuses on Noah and The Flood. All in all, it’s a poignant tale of fatherhood, childhood, risk-taking, disobedience, trust, and ultimately, love.

“This has always been one of my favorite shows,” outlines Guay, “and it was a huge hit when we were the first company to mount it in 1999. Back then the students asked me to perform onstage with them. It was a huge risk and very tiring since not only was I directing, producing, and overseeing all the musical and technical elements – I also had to memorize a two hour show, do makeup, and keep my voice primed to sing as well. Well, this time it’s a bit different. I’m still playing Father, but I have an amazing co-producer and music director, Sameer Barua (class of 2001) who has embraced the coordination of this highly complex project.”

What makes Children of Eden more challenge than previous productions is that due to scheduling issues, and rules about being on campus after retirement, the entire production must be mounted in ten days, complete with staging and music rehearsals, set building, costume coordination, and all the other elements that make up a large-scale theatrical production.

“Our oldest company members (other than me) date back to the class of 1988, my first group of kids. And we even have a one-year old in the show – he would be the class of 2034. Each facet of the production has an alumnus and a present-day student coordinating together with a mix of old timers, high schoolers, and even middle and elementary school kids working as a cohesive group.  To see it, it truly is magic.”

Guay will portray the God character of Father. Adam is Scott Cox (class of 2001), Eve is Bethany Guay (2009), Young Cain and Young Abel are played by the brother/sister team of Logan (2022) and Kaelyn Nardie (2026), with Brad Larsen (2011) and Antonio Vettraino (2017) playing the sons at an older age. The Snake, which gets a “Chicago”-inspired dance number, is played by the team of Andy Smith (1991), Wendy Lowry (1991), Renee Garg (1991), Jacob Robertson (2012), Suzanne Wdowik (2014), and Megan Dwelle (2021).  Noah is played by Adam Grey (2003), Noah’s wife by Jasmine Buckley (2013), with Jeff LaMothe (2005), Lance Jones (2001) and Danny Barr (2018) portraying their sons, and Kryssy Becker (2007), Emily Gustafson (1999), and Brianna Miller (2015) playing their wives. 

The ensemble is populated by another 60+ students ranging from the Class of 1991 to 2022. The show even boasts a children’s ensemble, ranging in age from three to 10, playing the animals. All in all, the cast numbers over 80. And it all has to be staged, rehearsed and prepped in one week for one night only.

Behind the scenes, the span of generations is just as impressive. In addition to Sameer Barua, the co-producer and music director, the staff includes Rebecca Smith (2000) as Stage Manager and Choreographer. Brooklynn Allen (2018) and Alex Holt (2018) as Assistant Stage Managers, Tess Chargo (2018) as student director. Tony Burean (1991) serves as the set construction chief and general production designer.  His co-chiefs include Rachel Bruhn (2013), Brian Ingersoll (1994), Mike Danz (2008), Sam Hill (2018), and Sophie Conant (2018). Also leading the various charges backstage are Elizabeth Becker (1980) and Quincy Hamer (2019) with costumes, Misty Welter (1994) with scenic painting, Dave Foster (1993) and Josh Miller (2017) with lighting, and Adam Campagna (2013) with sound.  To walk into the scene shop or backstage during the loud and highly energized work calls, one would see a collection of painters, riggers, and carpenters spanning from the class of 1989 to elementary school kids as young as Kindergarten.

The onetime performance of Children of Eden on Saturday, June 24th, is already sold out. It hits the stage at the The Avondale Performing Arts Center, located in Avondale High School, 2800 Waukegan in Auburn Hills.  

To add excitement to the overall evening, on stage during the finale, Guay will “pass his keys” to his successor, ATC alumnus Michael Sheldon who comes back to Avondale after 20+ years of professional stage and company management, college teaching and national production tours.

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