PHOTOS: DIANNE CAROLL BURDICK The party kicked into full swing quickly as the corporate sponsors gathered to celebrate the start of ArtPrize’s seventh year (#ArtPrize7). The HUB facility was a beehive of activity with music, laughter, and of course… ART! The evening was generously sponsored by Adtegrity and Comerica Bank.
From the parklet out front of the building that was installed in just four days to the “Double Crown” winner of both critic and viewer’s choice, Intersections, in its new semi-permanent home (actually a steel replica of the original, but who cares it’s still amazing/awe inspiring #steelcase) one thing is clear- the art is back in town!
Director Bruce Tinker said it best when he remarked that “’Civic’ is our middle name so being part of the community is very important to the Grand Rapids Civic Theater (“#GRCT”)”. While the #GRCT is kicking off its 90th season, there is nothing antiquated about how they seek to synergize with other downtown Grand Rapids businesses. The #GRCT is finding new ways to deepen community partnership and uses art as a reflection of life to address issues that are relevant to us today. Leading off the #GRCT 90th season is a supercharged classic – The Great Gatsby!
Act One – The Great Gatsby:
This adaptation of The Great Gatsby (“#GRCTGatsby”) was specifically chosen to start the #GRCT’s 90th season because it is a “September Story” that combines the fleeting feeling of a summer flying by and the bittersweet feeling of summer coming to an end. Director Bruce Tinker(“Tinker”) explained that the story follows the summer arc and shows how the Roaring 20’s were a time of turmoil contrasted by extravagant decadence. Daisy observes that she always waits for the longest day of the year and then somehow misses it! #GRCTGatsby is truly “breakneck speed,” running only 82 minutes. This version is also the only stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel authorized by the Fitzgerald Estate. Although there were others, including a movie some may have seen, Simon Levy’s script reads true to the book in a way that has the dialogue coming right off the pages.
#GRCTGatsby is a favorite story among many, there is a reason it is a classic – the costumes, the music, the story . . . what’s not to love about extravagance, scandal, and wild parties? When speaking with the actors prior to opening night, we were excited to hear that many of the actors involved auditioned for this play because they loved the story so much. Brain Peerbolt, the actor play Jay Gatsby, hopes that the lines from the page will echo in the minds of the audience, much like they did for him when he first read the novel.
Two of the ten actors involved are new to the #GRCT, so there is some new blood in with the seasoned veterans. We had the privilege to talk with three of the main actors – Nick (David Cobb), Daisy (Audrey Filson), and Gatsby (Brian Peerbolt) – prior to the opening night (September 11, 2015). They all enjoyed taking on the characters but shared that they met challenges along that they used to give their characters depth . . . each character struggles with a different sort of moral ambiguity, so the “bad guy” is not easily discernable as you learn more about their motivations and see them try to live their lives. Filson and Peerbolt have become such a part of their characters that they’ve begun seeing some of their characters’ traits extending into their everyday lives. Filson observed that she is much more animated, and Peerbolt has adopted the “Gatsby ‘Yes’” as part of his common tongue!
After visiting with some of the actors we were invited to take a look at the stage and the set designs that were out . . . just when we thought we couldn’t get any more excited, one look at the #GRCTGatsby stage left us giddy to see it live. The crown jewel is a replica of a 1920s era Mercedes that they found online – and get this, it works… and you can buy it after the #GRCTGatsby run! There are three other major location sets, and three secondary sets; he commented that there are pieces and fragments of the scenery, much like the lives of the characters are fragmented. Tinker went on to say that because of how many scene changes there are the play is more like a musical than your run of the mill production.
Act Two – Volunteers:
When you think about “Community Theater” and “volunteers” most of us think first about the actors, as hundreds of hours of their time provide the community with a fantastic evening of entertainment. However, did you know that nearly EVERYTHING related to a show at the #GRCT is made possible through volunteer hours? There are volunteers to help with building the stage scenery, the props, costumes etc. It truly takes a village to make it all possible!
One of the most beautiful examples I saw of this was in the creation of the costumes for all of the actors. The amazing Costumer, Bob Fowle, had no small task before him making costumes for all of the actors; Daisy alone has seven costumes! Now I just want to take a moment to let that sink in… that’s a costume change almost every 10 minutes. If you know anything about women’s clothing in the 1920s, you know that flapper dresses were covered in beads and sequins; Bob has around TWENTY regular volunteers he calls on to help him make sure the actor’s look perfect on stage . . . including sewing on all of those beads and sequins!
Act Three – Partnerships:
Embracing and embodying the “community” spirit, the #GRCT is partnering with multiple community organizations throughout the 2015/2016 season. Through these partnerships the #GRCT is able to promote resources within the Grand Rapids community and in turn, those organizations are able to promote the arts through unconventional avenues.
Tis the season for anniversaries, and the Mental Health Foundation (“MHF”) is celebrating its 25th year simultaneously with #GRCT 90th season. The MHF is working in conjunction with the #GRCT to promote the theater and raise awareness of mental illness in everyday life. The Great Gatsby has undertones of mental illness throughout; the MHF is going to use this play to teach through its trademarked “be nice” (Notice Invite Challenge Empower) curriculum geared at teaching bully and suicide prevention programs.
While you’re in the 1920’s mood, you can follow up your visit to the #GRCT with a swing through the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM). What can be more exciting than gangsters and the roaring ‘20s?! Starting September 26th, the GRPM will have a prohibition themed exhibit, which came to them through the National Constitution Center. The exhibit uses the prohibition era to demonstrate how an amendment is made to our constitution . . . if you know anything about history, you know that trying to prohibit alcohol in the country did not go over well! The GRPM will have volunteers in 1920s costume interacting with theater attendees at the #GRCT before certain shows; the GRPM is also doing a social media campaign and giving away free tickets – so be sure to LIKE them on Facebook, for a chance to win: facebook.com/GRMuseum.
With the 2015/2016 #GRCT season line-up this community is in for months of excitement! What I think is more impressive, however, is how our Grand Rapids community (and those surrounding) get the benefit of having an organization as specials as the #GRCT, impacting each of our lives in ways we likely do not even notice. I strongly urge each reader to check out the line-up at www.grct.org and treat your family, your friends, and yourself to a show, and become a part of this exceptional community!
On Monday, June 22nd, SF joined a reception at City Flats Ballroom welcoming the new Grand Rapids law firm, Talcott Franklin P.C., formed by the recent acquisition of the Law Office of Jordan C. Hoyer, PLLC. Talcott Franklin P.C. is a national law firm, based in Dallas, Texas and its Grand Rapids office is the firm’s first expansion into Michigan.
Talcott Franklin P.C. is a national law firm known for its innovative strategies taking on the money center banks over the sophisticated investment vehicles that caused the financial crisis.
Attorney Talcott Franklin, author of the two leading treatises on financial crisis legislation and litigation, was interviewed during the reception by Attorney Curt Benson, co-host of the WOOD Radio program “The Lawyers” on 106.9 FM. The segment will be aired on “The Lawyers” on Sunday, June 28.
According to Talcott Franklin, “Despite the beginnings of economic recovery and the rebounding housing market, the deep-rooted structural failures of our mortgage system remain, and the potential looms for an even more cataclysmic financial crisis. We are tracking the warning signs of the next financial crisis.” Franklin’s comments offered specific insights to the connection of West Michigan to the national and international mortgage and investment markets.
Talcott Franklin P.C. is a national law firm known for its innovative strategies, which have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal business section, Bloomberg, Reuters, and MSNBC. The firm specializes in deciphering and explaining complex transactions and has litigated some of the most high profile cases stemming from the financial crisis.
The firm has a unique business model, eschewing the traditional practice of relying on new law school graduates in favor of hiring seasoned attorneys who typically have worked in house or in government before joining the firm. Because the majority of the firm’s attorneys have been consumers of legal services, they understand that law is a service-oriented profession.
The Talcott Franklin P.C. Michigan office includes: Jordan C. Hoyer, Curt Benson and Derek Witte.
Founder’s Fest is anything but “just another beer festival.” While this was my first time attending the event, it certainly was not my first time enjoying Founder’s Brewing Co. brews and bands – Founder’s Fest was the culmination of everything good in the Founder’s world. One of the highlights of the festival for me was seeing the diverse cross-section of attendees. I lived in Colorado for about five years and that is a place that takes music festivals pretty seriously. Founder’s Fest felt like I was at a music festival back in the mountains; bringing together people from all walks of life, spanning the generations, they have created a community with a sense of consciousness for serving a greater good.
It seems like everyone in Grand Rapids was at the festival! I ran into so many friends, and saw people of all ages and professions enjoying great music and awesome beers together. I made a point of speaking with some of the other festival goers and met a couple guys that had come from Asheville, North Carolina to attend the event – a father-in-law and son-in-law. Even while extolling the virtues of their runner up “beer city” they clearly enjoyed coming to Grand Rapids and had great respect for the crafting done in West Michigan. After grabbing beers we enjoyed what shade we could find and the antics of performers strolling through the crowd; everywhere you looked there was something to see! There were also the more “mature” audience members that had brought their own chairs and set up near the back of the crowd, allowing for the 20-somethings to push towards the front to catch their favorite bands up-close.
Speaking of the bands, another impressive aspect is that you rarely had to endure downtime without live music playing. There were two stages set up in close proximity to each other, and as one band was finishing up a set on one stage, the next band was warming up on the other. The variety of music was clearly aimed at providing something for everyone, and they succeeded. I heard everything from the FBC All-Stars covering Rage Againstthe Machine and Pink Floyd, to Elephant Revival which included a woman playing the washboard and a saw. Rounding it out was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the end of the night, the weather managed to hold so none of the acts were rained out (although the rain might have been nice, it was a concrete jungle out there). But hey, at least when it’s warm outside the beer tastes even more refreshing!
The beer . . . oh, the beer! If you’re not a beer drinker, you could still attend this festival and have a great time listening to the music alone… But let’s not kid ourselves – the beer is definitely the highlight! Prior to attending i saw online that people had problems thinking they would spend all night waiting in line and paying $10 for a beer they could get any other time for $4. That was not the case on either account. The most I paid for a beer was $6 and the longest I waited in line was about 20 minutes – and that was for a KBS! We were standing in line for specialty beers (which was a separate line from the “regular” Founder’s beers), I was planning to have a CBS but the keg ran out about five people before us. We were lucky enough (IMHO) to get some of the fresh KBS that was tapped to replace the CBS! The traditional Founder’s beers were the same price as what you could get in the tap room – $4 – $6 each – and I never waited in line for more than 5 – 10 minutes for one of those. If you were at any other festival, you would likely be paying $7+ for a Bud Light; to anyone who was complaining about having to spend money on both a ticket and beer, you obviously do not go to many music festivals.
Overall, this festival was run very well and the layout provided for a great flow. When we first walked up there was a line to get in – however, they had about six lines and they had an assembly line-like set up so they were able to move people through quickly. There was a good sized ticket booth and beer tent right at the entrance, then another around the corner – both had lines that that went quickly and kept people moving. The whole area was set up in an “L” shape, and the bands were in the corner – this meant you could be almost anywhere and have a view of the stage and hear the bands . . . and with a beer tent at each end, you didn’t have to wander far for refreshments either. My one complaint would be that all of the port-a-johns were at one end – while this may have been good to concentrate the smell and all that, it would have been nice to have a small row near the entrance/exit.
I did not eat at the festival, but I did note that there were food booths. I saw that Slows BBQ was there and I saw people walking around with Gyros. The vendors that really impressed me were the ones selling “stuff.” The festival focused on having local entrepreneurs – there were no booths selling carnival-type-flashy-thingy-loud-hats-and-stupid-shirts; there were booths with beautiful locally made items. You could get clothing, but it was sustainable/recycled and made by a small business, there were wood working pieces, leather items, paintings, and there were not so many that you felt like you were at a craft show. It was just right in the variety, originality, and quantity.
I will be back at this festival again! It was a great time, I saw people I knew from all parts of my life, made some new friends, had some excellent beers and listened to some fantastic music. The festival was well run and set up, I didn’t spend the entire time waiting in line, and didn’t spend any more on drinks than I would’ve in a normal night out at Founder’s. It was a great event and a great way to celebrate this awesome Beer City USA town that we are lucky enough to live in!
Last Saturday, Stellafly hit Live Coverage, UICA‘s largest fundraiser of the year. Live Coverage presented some of the regions most talented artists creating live on site, performances by AOK and We Draw Together, and a terrace dance party thanks to Silent Disco.
Each year Live Coverage celebrates UICA’s role as a leader and supporter of contemporary arts, and features dozens of artists creating works for sale in both live and silent auctions. The event is the organizations’ centerpiece fundraising event. Each artist donates 70% of art sales to UICA, and 100% of all other proceeds go toward the programs and exhibitions of UICA year-round. Guests also had the opportunity to bid on completed art pieces, all while getting to know the artists behind the work, and enjoying food, drink, and entertainment. This year’s event brought in 350 attendees.
SF had a unique opportunity to sit chat with a couple of the participants, to learn more about their lives as working artists and the pieces they were creating for this year’s Live Coverage.
Michael Peoples, a conceptual artist who creates text-based work, likes playing with material like lemon juice and beer to write secret messages in his pieces. Michael finds Grand Rapids to be an art-focused community and it is because of this support that he got back to working on his art again. He had stopped showing his work in the early 90s but 5 years ago, starting with ArtPrize, he re-entered the scene. He loves Live Coverage because it brings all the artists together and you have the opportunity to meet people you haven’t met before.
Loralee Grace created a small watercolor and gouache painting for the event, a mountainous landscape with patterns hovering in the sky. She creates oil paintings as well, but decided on a gouache and watercolor piece for the event. It’s a faster working process and she was able to progress the piece from an earlier stage live at the event.
Her inspiration for her piece came from recent travels to Wadi Rum, Jordan. Loralee’s husband is a filmmaker and photographer, the photo reference for this piece is a photo-stitch he made while we were walking through Wadi Rum desert one day. The patterns in the painting are local to Wadi Rum and represent otherworldly and spiritual forces which she feels are all around us.
She has been an artist since she was a child. She believes all children are artists, but she never stopped creating. She knew she would be some sort of artist when she grew up. She is a 2010 graduate of Kendall College and has been growing her art career since.
“The art scene in Grand Rapids is vibrant, I thoroughly enjoy how many artists are busy creating in this little city! I only wish there were more, reliable art collectors,” she said.
Loralee decided to participate in Live Coverage for a variety of reasons, primarily the exposure, but also the energy. She spends most of her days alone in her painting studio, so she enjoys the energy at the event with many so artists creating live, and art lovers swarming around.
PARTICIPATING ARTISTS Lisa Ambrose Cindi Ford Kelly Allen Ann Cole Deborah Mankoff Jeff Kraus Stephanie Wooster Rachael Van Dyke Rick Beerhorst Garrett Brooks Michael Peoples Monica Lloyd Meridith Ridl Nicholas Szymanski Missy Marrow Dianne Carroll Burdick Michele Bosak Jamie Miller Meghan Shimek Daniel Elisevich Darryl Love Lisa Walcott Chris Gray Ryan Wyrick Bob Marsh Alynn Guerra Brett Haberkorn & Robyn Kane Loralee Grace Matthew Schenk Damian Goidich Rosemary Mifsud Sarah Knill Trevor Stone & Natalie Berry (We Draw Together) Dana Freeman Bill Hosterman Jacob Zars Steven Vinson Mandy Cano Sheryl Budnik Tommy Allen Elizabeth Hawkins Casey Huizenga Catherine Richards & Anh Tran Matt Ruiter Steven Rainey Maggie Bandstra AOK Silent Disco Channing & Quinn Marissa Voytenko Toni Michael Miller
BY LAURA BERGELLS
PHOTOS: BRYAN ESLER, JEREMY KUHN, DIANE CARROLL BURDICK
How will 15 teams of talented Michigan college students solve one of the state’s most pressing educational challenges? That was the question at the heart of THE Project.
The West Michigan chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI) hosted its annual Inter-Collegiate Competition at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville on Monday, April 13, 2015. This year’s event was dubbed THE Project — The Higher Education Project. Student teams from 11 Michigan colleges presented proposals and plans to improve the affordability of higher education in Michigan. Area hiring managers and PMI members attended two public components of the day-long event: 1) a reverse job fair featuring student project managers and 2) an evening networking/dinner program announcing the $5,000 winner of the competition. The evening program also included a keynote address by Michigan Lieutenant Governor, Brian Calley.
Project management skills are critical for organizations, explained Andrew Gill, head of Software Application Engineering at Dematic North America in Grand Rapids.
“Dematic is a global company. We essentially live or die on project management. Everything that we do regarding how we deliver our systems to our customers — it’s all in project form. Without project managers and the art and science of project management, we really don’t survive as a business.”
THE Project showcased the importance of project management and PMI to the West Michigan business community.
“PMI supports the project management profession,” said Gill. “That’s hugely important to us. We put a lot of credence in that Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. We require all of our project managers to attain that certification. It obviously makes sense to support an organization locally that supports our project managers.”
The competition also serves to introduce a younger generation to project management as a viable career track. In his introductory address, Brian Krajewski, the Director of Enterprise Portfolio Management at Spectrum Health, said that WMPMI has developed a great learning opportunity that allows collegiate students to engage their right and left brains while developing “shovel ready” projects that will address “real opportunities” in our state. Krajewski explained that Spectrum Health chose to be THE Project sponsor to “…create a pipeline of talent streaming into our organization. We need to expose students early in their careers to the opportunities in healthcare, in technology, in project management and in West Michigan.”
PMI member Brian Gleason, Campus Director at University of Phoenix, has played a key role in recruiting mentors for the annual competition. He sees THE Project as a way to give students needed experience and mentorship with project management.
“There is no younger generation of PMPs,” said Gleason. “If a company wants a project manager, they either go out and get an existing project manager or they don’t have one. There is no grooming of younger people to get into project management. PMI and THE Project helps fill that gap.”
Students and mentors take months to prepare for the grueling competition. Many sign up as early as September to form teams. On the day of the event, each team presented to a panel of Michigan business leaders for judgement. The first place team won $5,000, second place $3,000, third place $2,000, and fourth place $1,000.
Event coordinator Jeff Kissinger, Senior Project Manager at Grand Rapids Community College, noted that the experience of the competition remains the biggest reward for the students. Students who have this competition on their resume, he said, demonstrate that they have powerful project management and team experience.
“It’s a lot of work for students,” Kissinger said. “I have so much respect for them, because they really work to get this done and done right. The (PMI) panelists are very picky. They are following the rule book to the T. They really make the students work. And the mentors? They go out of their way to help the students.”
That’s why West Michigan companies looking for high caliber recent grads that have exposure to project management methodologies eagerly attended the reverse career fair. Over 80 students who participated in THE Project sat in booths and interviewed with hiring managers and recruiters.
“This is not only a group of high caliber students, but they’ve had at least four months of exposure to what project management is all about,” said Gleason. “They’ve put together a portfolio of work, essentially. That’s a unique thing for a recent grad.”
And as an IT recruiter mentioned about her experience with the reverse career fair: “It’s nice to be on the other side of the table for a change.”
Beyond the excitement of a high-stakes competition and the reverse career fair, the theme of THE Project offered a strong draw for the business community.
“Last year, the theme of the competition was all about supporting the veterans,” said Andrew Gill. “That resonated very strongly with Dematic. This year, it’s all about improving higher education. Keeping our talent in Michigan. That resonates with us as well. It’s not just the chapter, it’s also the business problems that students are trying to solve as part of the competition.
The future of project management as a career track is bright. THE Project brings awareness of project management and PMI to both students and the West Michigan business community.
Shortly after Strickland gave his now-famous TED talk, Grand Rapids leaders, including Jim Hackett of Steelcase and Doug DeVos of Amway, made their way to Pittsburgh to learn and take notes from the success of MBC. A part of Strickland’s vision for MBC was to see organizations with a similar model be created all over the world. In 2005, WMCAT became one of the first replication site for the MBC model in the country.
“When business leaders in the Grand Rapids community open WMCAT, they wanted to address was unemployment and high school graduation,” says Amy Knape, Development & Communications Manager with WMCAT. “What WMCAT really does is to provide a cultural of opportunity for people to make economic and social progress in their lives.”
One way WMCAT accomplishes this mission is through its Adult Career Training program. The program works with under- and/or un-employed adults in Kent County. All the adults/students are on public assistance when they enter the program because it a tuition-free program. This very different than labeling it a ‘free program.’
“We make this distinction because our students invest an incredible amount of time and energy in the programs,” says Knape.
Adult students may choose between medical coding, medical billing, or pharmacy technician as their focus through the career program.
“These are careers we chose because they’re careers that require a certification, but not necessarily a Bachelor’s degree; they’re careers that are growing and expanding in West Michigan because of our medical community; and they’re careers that provide living wages and, quite often, health benefits,” says Knape.
The students enroll a 9-month program, from September through June, and meet four days a week. During a student’s time with WMCAT’s career training program, students experience care and support for potential barriers beyond the classroom.
“Since we’re working with an economically vulnerable population, we’ve learned over the years that there several barriers that can become crisis that can take people off the track,” says Knape. “If we can address these barriers, like housing, transportation, childcare, before they become a crisis, then we can continue to empower and motivate these adult students to continue on.”
Another way WMCAT is impacting the community is through its teen program. Through a partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools, WMCAT’s school year program serves nearly 144 teen students from all the area high schools. The students are transported to WMCAT twice a week and are assigned a team to work with throughout the academic year. The students are challenged to use the design thinking process of using art and design to address a social issue that they’ve chosen. Students may use mediums like photography, illustration, audio/video production, video game design, fashion, or street art. Some of the social issues addressed include: violence in the media, bullying, and discrimination.
“The part of the school year, these students are working together to decide which social issue they would like to address,” says Knape. “From then on, the students work with community partners, like the Be Nice campaign, Dwelling Place, Grand Rapids Community Media Center, to serve as experts with a certain social issue and help guide the students through communication that issue through art.”
Unlike the adult program, the teen program at WMCAT is less concerned with training the students and more concerned with providing a healthy, engaging outlet to talk about important issues.
“The arts really give these students a vehicle to talk about the hard issues,” says Knape. “They do anything from designing a video game that addresses a topic, doing a creative photo essay, or create street art.”
In addition to being a creative space for Kent County’s young minds to play, WMCAT also hosts college tours/field trips and post-secondary education preparation. Representatives from Grand Rapids Community College, Ferris State University, and Grand Valley State University come to WMCAT to assist teen students and their families with college readiness, from filing out FAFSA to signing up for classes.
“One thing that we’ve found is that our kids love being here. It’s a great, inspiring space; it’s their space,” says Knape. “So if we can bring more opportunities to them here at WMCAT, we think we can have more success.”
WMCAT staff members and resources join forces to ignite the success of WMCAT’s adult and teen programs through mentorship, community support, and freedom of space. Through a partnership with the YMCA, every night, dinner is served for the teens at WMCAT.
“We serve the food on real plates, with real silverware,” says Knape. “It’s about building that sense of community; that feeling of ‘this is your place, too.’”
What started in 2005 as a way to help lift individuals out of poverty is now a force to be reckoned with the Grand Rapids community. By offering educational tools, those struggling can participate. By offering creative mediums, social issues are given communicated through a new voice. By offering freedom of space, anyone who walks through the rooms and doors of WMCAT can a part of the conversation and a part of the community.
DisArt Festival closed its 15-day run with DisStories, an event designed to celebrate the mind, body, and soul of individuals who experience a disability. The evening opened with Emcee Ted Jauw, asking the question, “What if our idea of the way things are were just based on who we are and where we are, and less about what we are?”
Pianist Paul Skripnik then filled the theatre’s house with the booming harmonies of his piece, “Brain Storm,” inspired by his disability with seizures. The acts to follow included spoken word, interpretative dances and songs. Each performance told the story of disability in a way that was unique to the performer.
Poet Meghan McGladdery shared words from her pieces, ‘Outlaws of Danger Town’ and ‘Road Map.’ Singers Katie Mitchell and Kari Reed used the medium of song to show prejudice the door as they shocked and awed audience members with their talent. The Living Lights Dance Company from Arts in Motion brought the magic of a summer thunderstorm to the stage, as dancers brushed across the stage in their thematic costumes.
While performers expressed themselves on stage, a projector screen showed inspirational quotes and thoughts in the background like, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”
DisStories closed the evening with “This Land,” inviting audience members to sing along and participate in the hand motions. As children and adults moved their arms to the lyrics, smiles could be seen from the front row to those standing in the back. DisArt Festival director, Dr. Christopher Smit, then thanked the guests, sponsors and volunteers for their support for the festival.
“[DisArt] did not happen in New York, or Chicago, or San Francisco, or anywhere else. It happened here. In Grand Rapids, Michigan,” said Smit. “Everyone deserves a place at the table in Grand Rapids. We started that conversation with DisArt, and we will continue that conversation throughout the year.”
Remember when the worst things in life were having a bedtime and eating brussels sprouts for dinner? Or how about when getting a kiss immediately required you to get your cootie shot? The things that seem so trivial to us now were once significant occurrences, which would make or break our day. Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’sAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dayopened to the public on Thursday, April 23, bringing the book’s pages to the animated stage.
The story takes place over the course of one day in the life of a middle-class boy, Alexander, with a mother, father, and two older brothers. Alexander wakes up one morning, only to trip and stumble into bad luck by finding the gum he went to sleep with in his mouth ended up in his vibrant red hair.
“I have a feeling this is going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” he says annoyed. He then begins to share his dreams for a world where kids ruled; a world where “every movie would be rated G,” and “ice cream with hot fudge and nuts would be a vegetable.” Alexander then hears a call out from his mother to hustle up and get ready for school.
The story then takes us to Alexander’s classroom, sparking nostalgia in audience members as each young student shares his/her homework assignment. Each of the students sings a song, from family to middle school crushes. Laughter broke out as Alexander’s classmate, Paul, sings about his love for Lizzie Pitofsky, and his hope that his efforts of “washing his socks” and “stop throwing rocks” will get her to like him. This scene tugs at the heartstrings, reminding us how simple love was and how terrible, horrible, no good, very bad it was to sit in those straight back wooden desks.
As the show progress, we continue to watch Alexander drag his feet through his dentist appointment with his brothers to after-school shopping with his mother. While Alexander’s bad luck may seem silly in the eyes of adult audiences members, it serves as a gentle reminder that all will be well in the end.
The show begins to close with a touching scene with Alexander and his mother, both sitting side-by-side on the edge of his bed. Exasperated, Alexander shares with her how no good and very bad his day has been. He sighs and rests his head on her shoulder, as she reminds him no matter what, she always wish him “the sweetest of nights and the finest of days.” The remaining cast members join Alexander and his mother on stage, their voices filling the theatre house with that hope for a better tomorrow.
Associate Director & Education Director, Penelope Notter, directed the show. After 28 seasons of direction with Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, Notter is stepping down and retiring.
“I began directing with Civic Theatre with The Little Mermaid,” says Notter. “And it only seems fitting to close out my career with another children’s show.”