Bah Humbug! One-man show of ‘A Christmas Carol’ returns to Howmet Playhouse

Local actor and Muskegon Community College professor Tom Harryman will perform a one-man rendition of "A Christmas Carol" at the Howmet Playhouse on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014. (MLive.com file)

Local actor and Muskegon Community College professor Tom Harryman will perform a one-man rendition of “A Christmas Carol” at the Howmet Playhouse on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014. (MLive.com file)

By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

WHITEHALL, MI — As an instructor of theater at Muskegon Community College, Tom Harryman knows his way around a stage.

One of his signature performances will be coming to the Howmet Playhouse for a 3 p.m. show Sunday, Dec. 7. Adapting Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” into a one-man show, Harryman will tell the story of Ebenezer Scrooge through a new narrative.

“It’s a challenge doing what is essentially a 70-minute presentation,” Harryman said. “It’s certainly a well-known story. The first time I did ‘A Christmas Carol’ was in 2006 or 2007. It’s been very popular around the area.”

The MCC faculty member has taken his one-man show out of the box and dusted it off every few years. Two years ago Harryman performed at the Howmet, in Big Rapids and later in Grand Haven.

This year he is expected to perform at the Howmet on Dec. 7 and the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 19 and Dec. 20.

“I’ve been in theater pretty much all of my life and the preparation is just getting the story down in my head,” Harryman said. “I like solo performance work. I’ve done a couple of shows that way. Plus, I love the story.”

One of the main things that come into play for choosing to do “A Christmas Carol” for Harryman is how spooky it can be, as well as its abundance of great characters.

With no costume or set changes, Harryman finds a way to take on more than one persona through the narrative.

“You come to hear a story and use your imagination,” he said. “It’s a little more direct contact with the audience.”

Beth Beaman, director for the Howmet, said she first began talking with Harryman about coming back for another show a couple months back.

Beaman first saw the college educator perform his one-man show at the Frauenthal, where he chose another production that combined several pieces of work from Edgar Allen Poe.

“It was amazing to watch him perform and see that after a short amount of time it was Edgar Allen Poe on that stage,” Beaman said.

Harryman said he gets requests for his shows all the time. However, it’s his love of the craft that keeps him coming back to the stage.

“I think that a lot of the themes that are addressed in ‘A Christmas Carol’ are probably as relevant today as they were when Dickens wrote them in terms of helping people, in terms of how we treat one another.”

Harbor Light Credit Union is sponsoring the event as tickets are being sold at $10 for adults and $5 for students. Attendees can get tickets at Whitehall City Hall or at the door. For more information regarding the show or tickets, visit the Howmet’s website at http://www.howmetplayhouse.org.

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 1, 2014)

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Howmet Playhouse to showcase different version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’

By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

WHITEHALL, MI — Strong and empowered female protagonists have been a favorite of Cindy Beth Davis-Dykema for quite some time.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon will play at the Howmet Playhouse as part of the Summer Fine Arts Festival. (Madelyn Hastings | MLive.com)

East of the Sun and West of the Moon will play at the Howmet Playhouse as part of the Summer Fine Arts Festival. (Madelyn Hastings | MLive.com)

As part of the eighth annual Summer Fine Arts Festival, Davis-Dykema will be directing “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” from July 24-26 at the Howmet Playhouse, located on 304 S. Mears Ave.

The production is a version of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which revolves around a man who has been bewitched by his evil stepmother, and a woman who makes a trek in search of him. Davis-Dykema said she was interested in the play based on how strong the lead female character was.

“This year our female cast had a good opportunity to be the ones who were doing the rescuing,” Davis-Dykema said. “All cultures have different versions to the story — the difference is that the male is the one that needs saving.”

RELATED: Fine Arts Festival to showcase several theatrical performances at Howmet Playhouse

With a cast of 10- to 18-year-olds, Davis-Dykema said they added a few roles to accompany the 38 who were cast for a part.

“We always like to do that with the younger students,” Davis-Dykema said. “It encourages them to come back again. It also gives them the experience of watching the older students.”

Having known a few of the cast members for a few years now, Davis-Dykema has enjoyed the casting aspect of productions.

“When I go into the auditions, I’m always surprised,” Davis-Dykema said. “Someone will pop into my mind, but it is really rare they get that role because so many surprise me with what fits them.”

East of the Sun and West of the Moon was a welcomed selection among the actors and actresses, as it revolves around a lot of musical queues.

There are a few more twists to it than what these actors are used to, as the stepmother is a little bit more of an evil villain. Davis-Dykema said the girl who will be playing the stepmother just relishes the villain’s role in character development.

“It really is both an adventure, but also a romance,” Davis-Dykema said. “There is a modern dance piece in it as well. I’m always surprised that even our younger audience comes and sits well for this. I think it is good for all ages and all families.”

Prices for East of the Sun and West of the Moon for all showings are $12 for adults and $8 for children.

Those interested can order online or pick up tickets at the playhouse’s box office, which will be open July 7-Aug. 22 from 1-5 p.m.

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 22, 2014)

Fine Arts Festival to showcase several theatrical performances at Howmet Playhouse

The exterior of the Howmet Playhouse in White Lake. (Madelyn Hastings | Photographer)

The exterior of the Howmet Playhouse in White Lake. (Madelyn Hastings | Photographer)

By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

WHITEHALL, MI — Fans of Shakespeare can rejoice as live theatrical performances come to the Howmet Playhouse.

July 10 through Aug. 23, various acting troupes will be performing at the playhouse, located on 304 S. Mears Ave., for the eighth annual Summer Fine Arts Festival.

Beth Beaman, director of the playhouse, said the summer will be filled with theater performing arts as eight different shows come to Whitehall.

The schedule will include Motherhood Out Loud, the Central Michigan University Touring Company, The Mousetrap and East of the Sun, West of the Moon, who will perform over the course of three days in their own separate week.

The festival itself has been going on for years, but in 2006 – when the city of Whitehall took ownership of running the playhouse – it evolved from bringing in summer stock professional actors to including more community members in the company of actors.

Among some of the other acting troupes will be local performers and actors who have come from different places across the country. They are all paid actors, Beaman said, with the exception for East of the Sun, which is a White Lake theater play that is featuring 40 students in the show.

“There are some new actors that are coming to the stage this year,” Beaman said. “We’ve got a girl who is a college student from Texas and she is coming up here to be in ‘The Mousetrap.’ It’s a nice group of people that come together, where the result turns out to be a really great show that community members love to support.”

Other than Texas, they have had people come from California, New York and Chicago to take part in the theatrical extravaganza.

In the months leading up to the Summer Fine Arts Festival, actors have to audition for their directors, who held two days worth of auditions back in April. Directors have different ideas of how they want to run it, so they find different ways when it comes to auditions.

“One of our directors wanted everybody to do a one-minute monologue,” Beaman said. “She wanted a one-minute serious monologue and then a one-minute monologue that was comedic.”

Overall, the festival saw 35 people show up for auditions, making it difficult for directors to choose their cast. Some were unable to get a role in any of the productions, Beaman said.

Prices for shows are $18 for adults and $14 for students, except for ‘East of the Sun,’ for which adults are charged $12 and children are charged $8.

Those interested can order online or pick up tickets at the playhouse’s box office, which will be open from July 7-Aug. 22 from 1-5 p.m.

“It’s a new thing for us, usually people always had to go to city hall to buy their tickets because the playhouse is owned by the city,” Beaman said, “but now they will be able to get their tickets at the box office.”

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on June 29, 2014)

Acclaimed pianist Bob Milne to perform at the Howmet Playhouse

Bob Milne, a renowned ragtime pianist, is set to perform at the Howmet Playhouse on Saturday, June 21 at 7 p.m. (Sammy Jo Hester | MLive.com)

Bob Milne, a renowned ragtime pianist, is set to perform at the Howmet Playhouse on Saturday, June 21 at 7 p.m. (Sammy Jo Hester | MLive.com)

By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

WHITEHALL, MI — Bob Milne was born with an apparent gift.

Through an intuitive ability to hear an instrument and play it, Milne knew how to play the piano before he even touched it.

Now, the talented ragtime pianist will play at the Howmet Playhouse in Whitehall at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 21.

Beth Beaman, managing director for the playhouse, said she first heard about Milne through a few members of the White Lake area who made requests to watch him play. Then she watched a few videos of him on YouTube and was blown away.

“Some of the things he does with the piano are something a human being shouldn’t be able to do,” Beaman said. “He’s played at a lot of places around the country and around the world. People really love him.”

Milne has been a piano player since he was young, when he taught himself a new way of playing the piano after his first few attempts resulted in sore arms and fingers.

In an interview with Jennifer Cutting at the Library of Congress, Milne described the technique he learned came from watching someone play billiards and how effortless they made it look.

“Ten years ago a group of doctors studied me for about a month to find out why I didn’t have carpel tunnel (syndrome),” Milne said. “I told them I will not ever do anything that hurts my hands.”

In order to get in touch with the lauded pianist, Beaman went online and found his phone number on his website.

“I thought I was going to end up talking to a booking agent and it turned out I called him directly,” Beaman said. “He tours all around the country and world playing piano. He considers himself more of a saloon piano player than a pianist.”

Milne will be traveling to Whitehall in his motor home with his wife the day before the performance, Beaman said. The two are so low maintenance that they will likely park out back at Beaman’s house before moving on to their next location.

“I think it’s going to be a really fun evening,” Beaman said. “We like to offer a variety of entertainment opportunities for people with differing interests. This certainly is something very different.”

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on June 17, 2014)

Taste of White Lake to provide food, drinks and live music

By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

WHITEHALL, MI – The sixth annual Taste of White Lake will take place on June 5 at the Howmet Playhouse from 5-8 p.m.

The Michigan-themed street fair will provide food, beverages and a live performance by the Gladhatter Jazz Quartet.

Beth Beaman, the manager at the Howmet Playhouse, said there will be 15 vendors from the White Lake area who will have samples of food and drinks.

“They bring their own food which is included in the cost for tickets,” she said. “We will also have a gentleman who makes and sells his own mead and other types of Michigan beer.”

Tickets cost $15 in advance and $20 at the gate, however, the price only covers food and admission. Beverages are sold separately.

The event was started six years ago and later supported by the HarborLight Credit Union to help raise funds for the Playhouse.

“The proceeds go toward the marketing budget for the Playhouse, which is owned by the city,” Beaman said. “However, they don’t receive any tax dollars, so they get it from donations and ticket sales.”

Last year the event brought in between $5,000-7,000 for the Playhouse, Beaman said. Each year the turnout has increased steadily, with 320 attendees showing up for last year’s Taste of White Lake.

“They close off the street and the tent is set up in the parking lot,” Beaman said. “The tent is set up on our front porch and we will be offering tours of the Playhouse.”

Leslie Salter, director of business development for the HarborLight Credit Union, was present at the first Taste of White Lake and has been involved throughout its changes.

“It started out in the Playhouse because Helen Fink and Mary Payne, along with a group of individuals, wanted to get it going,” Salter said. “It just kind of evolved from there, then it was along the side of the building and now it’s in the parking lot.”

After they held the first three-hour event, the HarborLight Credit Union stepped in and said they would take care of it and keep it going.

Since then, the attendance has increased a little bit each year as Beaman and Salter expect an even higher turnout this year.

“People should come because it brings people in the White Lake area together,” Beaman said. “It’s a way for us to get away from the screens and really connect with our neighbors.”

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 27, 2014)