I try never to presume on friendship. I don’t spam friends every time I have a new book out, or when I’m involved in a particularly good play (though ‘Dry Land’ at Rivendell is very good). Truth be told, I’m pretty bad at this self-promotion thing. I hate marketing myself.
For my wife Janice, though, I will move heaven and earth.
As most of you know, I met Janice on the stage of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, playing Petruchio to her Kate in The Taming Of The Shrew. It has set the tone for our lives. We were matched up as Oberon and Titania, Beatrice and Benedick, and Macbeth and his Lady before we realized there might be something behind all this chemistry.
Janice is brilliant, far smarter than I. So when John Neville-Andrews stepped down as the Artistic Director of the MSF and asked if I would be interested in the job, I told him the person he wanted was Jan. The Board agreed, and in the last five years she’s built Michigan’s official Shakespeare Festival into an artistic powerhouse, winning a raft of awards and earning praise like this:
“There is no excuse for not seeing what remains the area’s best and most consistent staging of history's greatest playwright.” – Detroit Free Press
“The Michigan Shakespeare Festival seems to be going from strength to strength, at last becoming the summer destination event it was surely meant to be.” – Detroit New Monitor
“I walked out with the realization that I may never again see this play done so well.” – Lansing State Journal
“A tremendously talented ensemble has performed a simple, yet marvelous trick. By simply letting Shakespeare speak through them, letting his words pour over an audience like summer honey, every line and character is as enchanting as they were 400 years ago. The playwright's legacy is secured by those who perform him so well.” – Encore Michigan
“This is as good a production of “Hamlet” as we’ve seen, and we’ve seen a few.” – Detroit Examiner
“The Michigan Shakespeare Festival continues to attract and keep a core of talented performers and design staff, which contributes to the constant refining of the ensemble work as evidenced by this outstanding production.” – MLive
MSF now boasts the support of such famous names as Dame Judi Dench, Stacy Keach, Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting, Julianna Margulies, and Harry Lennix. We call them our Festival Champions. The state tourism board loves us, bestowing the Pure Michigan designation and using us liberally in their state advertising.
One thing I’m particularly proud of: when Jan took over, the first thing she did was create a high school tour. The MSF now performs Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth to nearly 10,000 high school students each year all over Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Fully one third of those kids have never seen a live play before.
Thing is, I guarantee you’ve never heard any of this. The MSF is the state’s best-kept secret.
I’m asking you to remedy that.
This year we can turn the corner in visibility and attendance. We need to raise some dough to do it, but I’m hoping to do it with a little help from my friends.
Here’s a little-known fact: Jan is always donating what she can to theatres. It’s never a large amount - $25 here, $50 there. But she deems it vital to support the arts. Because art is what keeps life worth living.
Be like Jan. Show her your support. Pay it forward. Join the ranks of our champions, and help us with an eye towards long-term sustainability. You know how hard it is right now in the arts, and in Michigan. We all need to stand together, and the arts can use all the friends we can get.
I’d also like you to join us at the Festival this summer for our 22nd Mainstage Season: As You Like It, Richard II, and the Michigan-premiere of The Killer Angels, Karen Tarjan’s adaptation of Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the Battle of Gettysburg. I’ve seen the cast, and they’re incredible. Our designers are world-class, our composer is astonishing, and the directors are the best I’ve ever worked with. It would be a true delight to have you there.
Meanwhile, there are some links below. $10 will go a long way. Think of it as buying Jan a drink. And if you come out this summer, I’ll buy you one in return.