Kearsley Park Players
Kearsley Park is a historic treasure in the heart of the City of Flint, Michigan. Established in 1917, it is one of the city’s oldest parks and has the distinction of having been developed by world-renowned landscape architect, Warren H. Manning through the patronage of automobile pioneer J. Dallas Dort. Unique in an urban setting, the park covers approximately 57 acres of rolling land with water and woodlands. It connects with the Flint Cultural Center, Mott Community College, the Flint Public Library, Flint Central High School and several neighborhoods. Since 2004, Kearsley Park has been home to the Kearsley Park Players, most noted for an annual production of a full production of one of William Shakespeare’s plays. 2004 " Midsummer Night’s Dream. 2005 " As You Like It. 2006 " Much Ado About Nothing. 2007 " Twelfth Night. 2008 " Taming of the Shrew. REVIEWS FROM ‘SHAKESPEARE IN KEARSLEY PARK’ THE FLINT JOURNAL – Sunday, June 19, 2005 Crowd warms up to Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ on a chilly night By Kathleen Kirby Kearsley Park Pavilion was lit with oil lamps and draped in velvets and satins Friday evening for the second-annual presentation of Shakespeare in the Park. This year’s production, "As You Like It," brought mirth, mix-ups and near mayhem to delight the opening-night audience, although it got a bit chilly in the outdoor pavilion. Produced this year by The Kearsley Park Project and Vertigo Productions with a grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation, every effort was made to immerse the audience in the Elizabethan England period that spawned the play. Renaissance festival characters in full regalia moved among the spectators, and a small city of colorful tents bloomed in the park for the weekend Gilkeyshire Renaissance Faire. Director Kay Kelly assembled a huge cast for this story of love and intrigue between warring royal brothers and their anti-war offspring. Players from teens to 70-somethings appeared to come from all over the area to this production. Most of the show fell on the able shoulders of Marie Glenn as Rosalind and Sue O’Lear as her cousin, Celia. They maintained a giddy, girlish enthusiasm throughout that seemed well suited to these two conspiring characters. As Orlando, Lee Adams also carried much of the plot as he pined and searched for the object of his love, Rosalind. The animosity between Orlando and his brother, Oliver, (D.J. Trela) made the plot boil with intrigue later on. A couple of smaller parts were handled especially well. Ted Valley brought real menace to the domineering Duke Frederick, while Michael Kelly’s Banished Duke had presence and pomp without the vitriol. Valley has the Shakespearean cadence so well in hand, he is able to deliver the bard’s lines so as to be instantly understood. Also, Erin Maya Darke brought exceptional clarity to the role of Phebe, a comically confused young woman in love with the wrong person. She evoked deserved applause after her first scene Friday. As her scorned lover, Silvius, Daniel Visser drew lots of laughter by layering on the angst and despair to the point of tears over Phebe’s rejection. The heart of this endeavor may be the venue, but Kay Kelly’s influence is everywhere: in the beautiful costume designs, the musicians gathered to play authentic music, details of the sparse set design, and most of all in the plotting behind the fluid movement of this large cast on the small, three-sided stage. Although Friday’s performance was long at close to three hours, it is an awesome thing to have this unique annual event added to the already long and growing list of live drama available in Flint. As the Elizabethans would say, "Huzzah!" *** THE FLINT JOURNAL Monday, June 19, 2006 ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ something worth seeing in park By Kathleen Kirby Heed the sound of the trumpet and hie ye to the park! Kearsley Park, that is. Yep, those Shakespeareans under the auspices of Vertigo Productions have once again taken hold of the pavilion to perform this year’s alfresco offering, "Much Ado About Nothing." Director Kay Kelly has assembled an impressive and diverse troupe of area talent to perform this semi-dark comedy. Indeed, "Much Ado" is about love, not war, although one group of fellows has just returned from a conflict. There are plenty of comic situations, but there is also a villainy that lurks, stirring anger and betrayal. Leonato (Michael Kelly), the governor in whose palace the play is set, has a lovely daughter, Hero (Tomoko Brookins) and an outspoken niece, Beatrice (Megan Donahue). Home from the war, his friend Don Pedro (Henri Wallace) arrives accompanied by young lords Claudio (Dan Visser) and Benedick (D.J.Trela). Claudio and Hero are instantly so attracted that a wedding is planned. Meanwhile, Benedick and Beatrice have established themselves as independent sorts, each with a quirky sense of humor and a determination never to marry anyone. All is not well, however, as the evil Don John (Don Hillaker), bastard brother to Don Pedro, is also in town with his henchmen Borachio (Ted Valley) and Conrade (Jesse Glenn). Just to be nasty, they spread an ugly rumor to disgrace Hero on her wedding day, which promptly causes her to "die" of shame and the plot to nicely thicken. Trela and Donahue anchor the comedy in this production as the two most amusing characters in the play. They are comfortable and silly as well as solidly grounded in their interpretation. Most emotive characterization was Kelly’s with his angst and grief over the public accusation of shame leveled at his daughter, while Hillaker’s oily evil plays well and believably, also. Comic relief in a comedy demands a special persona, so enter Constable Dogberry (Hank Reed) with his winsome smile and convoluted assessment of any situation. It’s all especially fun when this character catches the bad guys. Of course, all turns out well in the end, with not one but two weddings. While sets are of necessity sparse, Kay Kelly’s costumes are luxurious and authentic. Kearsley Park Pavilion itself lends atmosphere and originality to the production. With candles glowing on the heavy stone ledges and medieval banners hanging from the ceiling, the illusion of Leonato’s palace is not much of a stretch. *** THE FLINT JOURNAL – Monday, June 18, 2007 ‘Twelfth Night’ lights up night at park By Kathleen Kirby The trumpet sounded and the torches were lighted Friday evening as Kearsley Park’s lovely old pavilion hosted the opening performance of William Shakespeare’s grand comedy "Twelfth Night." It was a near-perfect night as both the ability of the troupe, and the weather conspired to make it so. As Renaissance comedies go, this is one of the most hilarious for all the confusion over identity and just who is in love with whom. The story begins with a pair of twins, Viola (played by Jenny Amble) and Sebastian (Greg Peasel), who’ve been shipwrecked and now assume the other has drowned. In order to survive and secure employment, Viola dresses as a man, changes her name to Cesario and goes to work as a page in the court of Duke Orsino (Tommy M. Snider). Her first duty sends her to the garden of the grieving Countess Olivia (Tomoko Miller) to profess Orsino’s love. Instead, Olive falls for the messenger whom she assumes is a young man. However, Olive has another suitor in the wings as Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Don Hillaker) also has his eye on the Countess and her considerable wealth and station. He is both encouraged and distracted, however, by Olivia’s wine-soaked uncle, Sir Toby Belch (Michael Kelly), who proposes Sir Andrew seek the hand of his niece, which could then afford Toby a well-heeled carousing chum. Access to Olivia is guarded by her steward, the dour Malvolio (D.J. Trela). Also sweet on his mistress, he falls easy prey to a riotous practical joke played on him by Belch, Aguecheek and Olivia’s servant Maria (Royaa N. Soltani). Finally, Viola’s brother Sebastian arrives on the scene saved by a pirate sea captain, Antonio (Marwan Prince), who is out of favor at Orsino’s court. Left on his own, Sebastian finds himself in Olivia’s garden and then, mistaken for his twin, quickly married to the lady. All of the confusion soon begins to unravel as brother and sister are united, lovers are paired and merriment ensues. Director Kay Kelly’s cast is consistent and talented in the staging by Vertigo Productions and the Kearsley Park Project. Miller is exceptionally well suited to the role and the interpretation. Amble does justice to the masquerade with just enough sweetness and swagger to be convincing. Michael Kelly, Trela and Hillaker are as comic a trio as we’ve seen lately, and Mark Ragnone handles the role of the court fool nicely. A large cast of extras and courtiers make up this lavishly garbed and impishly observant group. As the sun set Friday and the torches were lit, the full impact of this as a culturally significant event – Shakespeare in a Flint park – crept in to make the evening perfect. "Twelfth Night" continues at Kearsley Park with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10. Details: (810) 760-3735. *** To participate in this year?s production, contact Artistic Director Kay Kelly at (810) 845-4050.