The view from backstage 

Like the main characters in the play, the new management of Meadow Brook Theatre has plans of its own. The story began last year when the board of trustees approached a member of the Nederlander family, hoping to save the theater from bankruptcy. This galvanized the theatrical community. Faced with the prospect of the biggest regional theater in Michigan becoming a roadhouse for out-of-town productions, theater folk fought to keep the venue in the hands of a producing company.

The new company at Meadow Brook is committed to maintaining the theater’s role as the bread and butter of working actors and designers from all over Michigan.

According to managing director John M. Manfredi, the new management is less rigid and more “familyesque.” It appeals to volunteers, aggressively courts donors and judiciously cuts corners. Manfredi and artistic director David Regal characterize themselves as no-nonsense, jeans and shirtsleeves types, happy to pick up a broom or unload a truck.

They even lowered their ticket prices 20 percent across the board, a surprising move given the worsening crisis in arts funding. Manfredi admits it’s a gamble, but insists, “We wanted to make it more accessible to young people. They’re going to be our audience for the next 20 or 30 years.”

Given the hasty incorporation, the theater missed much of last year’s vital corporate philanthropy, but they’re ending this season in the black.

Since the company is now renting the venue from the university, Manfredi and co. will have to do some hard-driving fundraising, using special events to woo sponsors and donors. On Saturday, Feb. 28, they will host their First Annual Black-Tie Fundraising Gala and Silent Auction, featuring a keynote speech from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. The event begins at 7 p.m. Call 248-370-4991 for more information.

Michael Jackman is a copy editor and writer for Metro Times. E-mail him at mjackman@metrotimes.com.

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