August 24, 2010
Troupe's shows 'like karaoke, only with theater'

By Frank Konkel

In ‘My Beautiful Bride’, volunteer Mike Peraino, enjoys the moment when Danielle informs him why she’s a half hour late. “I’m kind of a big girl, if you hadn’t noticed, and shopping for a dress my size usually means waiting for the staff to make a few alterations.” Danielle played by MCT’s Michael Lee.

The Mixed Company Troupe of Hamburg Township does more than perform single-act plays in front of audiences. The new troupe calls for audience members at its shows to participate as guest actors.

Hamburg Township resident and former performing-arts teacher Sasha d'Or started the troupe in April after coming up with the idea in February. The cast — four actors, two sound experts, a producer and d'Or, the director — performed recently at the Portage Yacht Club, catching the eyes of several caterers in the southeastern Michigan area and booking several more shows.

"We have a lot of fun with each play; it's totally unique, compared to most plays," said d'Or, who has penned films, short stories and novels for 25 years. "It's fun for our actors and especially fun for the audience."

The troupe screens audience members during ticket purchases, and then draws at random to determine which lucky audience member will be brought up on stage to perform with the troupe. That person is given a few days' notice and some simple tips from d'Or.

Audience members are always paired with at least one trained actor during each performance. The troupe typically performs three one-act plays for each show. All plays are unrelated, and range from romantic comedies to murder mysteries.
During the performance, the audience member wears a hearing piece and other hidden electronic equipment, from which he or she is fed lines and vocal inflections from d'Or.

"Their lines are predetermined, but their acting is on the spot," d'Or said. "The plays are completely written, so it's not really improv because they aren't making up lines. Think of it like karaoke, only with theater."

Marie Jones, an actress for the troupe, said the troupe is something that "hasn't been done before." A former secretary for Ann Arbor Public Schools, Jones met d'Or while he was teaching performing arts for the same district. After retiring, Jones began working with a theater company, pursuing her interests in theater that dated back to her time at Eastern Michigan University in the 1960s. D'Or approached her this year, first for advice on various aspects of production and then asking her to perform.

"My first reaction was that I was just really excited about it," Jones said. "It's such a positive environment when you're interacting with a volunteer from the audience. Here they have this opportunity because they have the anchor who has experience in this, and they have their friends in the crowd cheering them on."

D'Or said the troupe is looking to perform at venues in the area. He has written six 20-minute acts with several more on the way. He said the troupe can put shows together very quickly.

To learn more about the Mixed Company Troupe,

visit the group's Web site at www.mixedcompanytroupe.com.

Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Frank Konkel at (517) 552-2835 or at fkonkel@gannett.com.