The annual Howmet Playhouse Summer Theatre Festival here usually has some surprises. One of the biggest this summer is that the 2018 season will not be staged at the historic theater that bears its name.
Opened in 1916, the 102-year-old playhouse, 304 S. Mears, is undergoing a $3.7 million renovation. Work is still underway, and will not be completed in time for the playhouse to host this year’s summer season. Therefore the season, which will run July 12 through Aug. 18, will be mounted on the stage of Whitehall High School, 3100 White Lake Drive.
Moreover, the productions will not be presented in a traditional proscenium setting, a configuration in which the action is on stage and audiences are seated in the auditorium in front of the stage.
Instead, the six 2018 shows, each of which will have three performances, will be presented in a Black Box format: Audiences and performers both will be on the stage, with patrons seated on three sides of the acting area.
Seating capacity will vary from 150-160, according to Beth Beaman, managing director of the playhouse. Howmet Playhouse seats around 400.
Absent this summer will be Central Michigan University, whose summer theatre program traditionally plays one weekend at Howmet Playhouse. It’s only temporary.
“We were unable to book them this year, due to time constraints as well as our stage restrictions,” Beaman said. “We will welcome them back to the new theater in 2019.”
This summer’s season will be:
• July 12-14: “Mom’s Gift,” a comedy by Phil Olson.
• July 19-21: “Old Love,” a romantic comedy by Norm Foster.
• July 26-28: “Vintage Hitchcock: A Live Radio Play,” by Joe Landry, performed by the White Lake Youth Theatre.
• Aug. 2-4: “Yankee Tavern,” a dramatic thriller by Steven Dietz.
Aug. 9-11: “Every Brilliant Thing,” a drama/comedy by Duncan Macmillan, with Jonny Donahoe.
• Aug. 16-18: “Summer Shorts,” a series of short dramas and comedies by various authors.
“We read dozens of shows every year leading up to our selection,” Beaman said. “We chose these because they all had an element of humor, were ideal for staging in our Black Box setting, and had well-written scripts.”
All performances except one will begin at 7:30 p.m. A July 27 matinee of “Vintage Hitchcock: A Live Radio Play” will begin at 3 p.m. Directors for the season include Bryan Engler, Jason Bertoia, Adrianne Lewis, Debra Freeberg and Natalie Carmolli; and, for “Summer Shorts,” Erin Mickelson, Justin Sternburgh, Sarah Sternburgh and Diane Van Wesep.
The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs will be a sponsor for the entire season. Sponsors of individual productions are Julie Johnson for “Mom’s Gift,” Libby Keenan for “Old Love,” PNC Bank for the White Lake Youth Theatre show, Mike Keenan for “Yankee Tavern,” the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce for “Every Brilliant Thing” and Carmichael Heating & Air Conditioning for “Summer Shorts.”
Tickets and flex passes are on sale at Whitehall City Hall, by calling (231) 894-4048, and online at howmetplayhouse.org
Individual tickets are $21 for adults and $17 for students.
Two categories of Flex Passes, which can be used in any combination, are being sold. The Full Flex Pass, for 12 tickets, is $210. The Mini Flex Pass, for six tickets, is $105.
All seating is general admission.