New play debuts at Tin Shop FridayPublished 10:04pm Tuesday, July 9, 2013
BUCHANAN — Nobody outside of his cast has seen “Diary of a Dead Guy” to know that despite its title, Robert Foster created a musical.
Foster, a Southwestern Michigan College student from St. Joseph, draws on real-life events — his mother’s bout with cancer, a house fire and his own bipolar disorder.
“It started with me trying to raise awareness of bipolar disorder,” Foster said. “It eventually turned into what my life would have been like had it been worse. The moral even changed. There are so many people out there in pain and hurting, whether it’s their own fault or not, we need to step up and help them and be better humans.”
Foster is starting his third year at the two-year community college because “I’m loading as many core academics on my plate that will transfer as possible. I chose SMC because I heard it had an amazing music program — and, so far, I haven’t been disappointed. I would love to be a teacher. Directing this show has been the most stressful and wonderfully aggravating experience of my entire life. I’ve loved every minute, even when it’s been hard. This is all new. I’ve never directed or written a show before. It’s a dream come true. It took six months to finish the first draft. I’ve written music for a long time.”
SMC is the common denominator in his Cass-Berrien counties cast as they relate Jerry’s death through a series of flashbacks from entries read by homicide investigators Kirsten Novak, of Dowagiac, (Groshot) and Alex Ehlert, of Three Oaks, (Det. Thom).
Ben Thieme tackles the most enigmatic character, Nick. Thieme, who came to Vandalia from Sturgis, wears a black leather jacket and chuckles menacingly from beneath a hat that looks borrowed from Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. He was recruited for the creepiness he exuded as the carnivorous plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Jordan York, who will be a senior at Buchanan High School, is Jerry’s best friend, John.
Chloe Chambers, of Grand Rapids, plays Jerry’s mother; graphic designer David Danzy, a 2012 Cassopolis graduate who never acted before, is Jerry’s father.
For Dakota Dobberstein, of Eau Claire, Jerry is the first lead role for the vocal performance major who appeared in Paul Mow’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
“It’s kind of exciting,” said Dobberstein, who expects to transfer to Western Michigan University to become a music therapist.
Danzy said he finally decided to try acting because his father participated in theater.
“I love it and would like to do more,” Danzy said.
After SMC, he wants to transfer “somewhere warm,” be it the University of Southern California or Miami, to continue studying art.
York plays John this weekend; next weekend, former Las Vegas resident Stanley Meredith, of Niles, juggles that part and Nick.
“I’ve been in shows here the past five or six years,” since seventh grade in Neil Simon’s “Fools,” York said. Jordan wants to major in musical theater at nearby Lake Michigan College, then Columbia College Chicago.
“We know Jerry’s dead, but we don’t why or how,” York said. “As cops read from Jerry’s diary, we see what he went through up until his death. It has comic relief like all dramas, but ,at the end of the day, it’s a tragedy.”
Chambers lives on-campus at SMC and is interested in pursuing musical theater, transferring to another school next year.
Novak has been involved on both sides of the curtain and sang in choir at Union High, from which she graduated in 2012. She appeared in “Bye Bye Birdy,” “Grease,” “The Good Doctor” and “Sound of Music,” and, at Beckwith Theatre, backstage for “A Bad Year for Tomatoes” and “Playing Doctor,” assisting director Jack Gannon.
Novak wants to attend WMU for stage management, but ultimately intends to become a medical doctor.
Ehlert, who graduated from River Valley High School, is studying English as a second language to become a missionary. He chose SMC for its affordability.
Thieme “has been doing plays since I was a kid. I was in a group called Playmakers through sixth and seventh grade, then started doing musicals in high school. I’m studying music, but I’d like to be an actor. Being up onstage as somebody you’re not is a pretty good feeling. I was going to go to Glen Oaks, but I got a private tour of SMC and liked what I saw. That’s how I met David Carew, the choir director.”
Meredith works for Monday Alchemist Entertainment, a deejay and karaoke company in Stevensville and plays keyboard and sings for the rock band The Cult of Skaro, a Dr. Who reference. “I’ve done probably 40 shows — 10 or 12 of which were musicals,” he said while running lights. “Robert and I started college together as tenors in the choir. I acted here in ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ a few years back.”
In addition to Foster’s piano, Sarah (Riggs) Bussler contributes drums and trumpet and Travis Russell plays guitar.
Written, directed and accompanied by Robert Foster, “Diary of a Dead Guy” debuts Friday night at the 74-seat Tin Shop Theatre in Buchanan.
Tickets cost $5. There are six performances the second and third weekends of July, including Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
Call the box office at (269) 695-6464 to reserve a seat.
The theater was established in 1982 in a building constructed in 1866.
Dowagiac Daily News