Mixed Company Troupe staging unique show for charity
Published: Friday, May 13, 2011

Special to The Oakland Press

For a year now, the Mixed Company Troupe has been performing its offbeat plays to audiences all across Michigan, inviting volunteers from each crowd to partake in the events on stage.

The comedic shows come from the mind of Sasha d’Or, a retired performing arts teacher now devoting his time to writing and directing the Mixed Company Troupe plays. The idea was conceived after d’Or misread an article in the New York Times about another troupe.

“I was reading something that a troupe was doing in New York City and thought it was neat so I called up the director to talk and it ends up I totally misread the article,” d’Or said. “I was inspired by this misreading of the New York Times, so I started talking to professional actors about the project. There was a lot of enthusiasm and it all fell together.”

With a crew of talented actors and behind-the-scenes operators, d’Or is able to conduct a show that thrives on audience participation. For each show, an audience member is selected from the crowd and given a wireless earpiece that connects him or her to the voice of d’Or. From there, d’Or directs an intricate process that involves line repetition and taking orders.

“I’m in a soundproof booth transporting the volunteer one line at a time. Our professional actors join the volunteer at their table in the audience and the play begins,” d’Or said. “The volunteer has no idea what the play is about. If I push a button and the volunteer hears music, instead of repeating my words he or she must take directions. They get directions from me one step at a time and each play is different.”

Such random involvement from the crowd could suggest that the show is highly improvised, but this is certainly not the case. A highly structured script and fun rehearsals prepare actors to keep the show going if a volunteer isn’t working out.

“We hire professional actors with high caliber performance skills. You never know who your volunteers will be. Occasionally we get somebody who thinks they’re funnier than I am and try improving the lines,” d’Or said. “A lot of fun comes from the audience having fun watching their friends going through this unusual situation. Each show pivots around this eavesdropping on something going wrong at another table. We’re really having a blast with it.”

This Saturday, May 14, the Mixed Company Troupe is performing three plays to benefit the NOVA Foundation. NOVA is dedicated to providing services to individuals with differing abilities. This is the first time the troupe will be performing for charity as all proceeds go toward helping people with differing abilities to operate their own businesses and become employed.

The benefit will showcase three of the troupes’ many plays. “Brother Husband” is opening up the show followed by the play “Pass Me a Weapon, Please” and ending with “The Wrong Mark.”

The Mixed Company Troupe will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at Deer Lake Athletic Club, 6167 White Lake Road, Clarkston. Tickets are $35 and include the show and a buffet dinner. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. For more information or to reserve a seat, call NOVA at (248) 814-8549.