March 10, 2023
North presents 'Lend Me a Tenor'
Hilarity ensues in farcical romp
Funny. Ridiculous. Hilarious. Hysterical. Absurd.
These are just a few of the adjectives the actors and director used to describe Grosse Pointe North’s spring play, “Lend Me a Tenor.”
“There are jokes in this for everybody,” said Gavin DeFillippo, who plays the world-famous tenor, Tito Merelli – a role that allows the senior, in his final show at North, to take center stage and be “big and loud and a bit flamboyant. It is opera after all.”
The play takes place in 1934 in a hotel suite in Cleveland, Ohio. There is great anticipation around Tito Merelli’s arrival and performance. While he does in fact make the trip from Italy, he falls sick, takes too many sleeping pills, and is assumed dead. Assistant producer Max, who has been entrusted to his care, must then impersonate Tito because, of course, the show must go on.
Unfortunately, Tito wakes up “so there are two different Titos running around and hilarity ensues,” said Ryan Lutz, who plays the role of Max.
“It’s such an awesome show and we have a great cast,” said Naima Wright, who plays opera diva Diana, whom she describes as “very flirtatious with a big personality.”
“We all know each other very well so we get along very well,” she said. “We build off each other. There’s so much happening all the time. There’s a lot to look at. You’re bound to laugh no matter how old you are.”
Freshman Lauren Kaled, in her first lead role at North, plays Maggie – “this ditsy girl who is head over heels” over Tito, she said. She is also the daughter of the owner of the opera company, Henry Saunders (played by Silas Wooten) and is Max’s girlfriend, which causes its own share of consternation.
“I’m still in shock that I got to play this character and I love her so much,” Lauren said. “I think she’ll stick with me for a very long time.”
Junior Marisa Licavoli plays Tito’s wife, Maria Merelli.
“I fight with my husband a lot,” Marisa said.
She recommends people come to the show because “it would be funny for anyone. There are so many laugh lines. The costumes and set are incredible, and you can tell it’s a high-quality performance. I think anyone would enjoy it.”
When Director Michael Gravame selected the play, he was concerned about some adult themes, but after he made it “Mr. G rated” – the students all call him Mr. G. – he felt more comfortable about the playful innuendoes.
He describes the play as a farce, defined in his letter in the program as “a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.”
Needless to say, this can be difficult to pull off, particularly because actors’ entrances on stage must be perfectly timed and the dialog is so fast-paced.
The key, Michael told the actors, is to “let the air out between the lines.”
To give them an example, he showed them clips from Abbott and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First” routine.
At times, the plot requires audience members to suspend disbelief. It also has some unexpected twists, including a surprise curtain call. (Spoiler alert: the actors recreate the entire play in 90 seconds. “You’re on the edge of your seat,” Michael said. “Can they pull it off?”)
Audience members must come see for themselves how the actors’ hard work has paid off. The cast of 12 -- which includes four understudies -- promises you won't be disappointed.
“It’s so absurd,” Michael said. “Just come to laugh.”
Performances are tonight at 7 p.m. (despite the snow day) and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Christian A. Fenton Performing Arts Center, 707 Vernier, Grosse Pointe Woods. Tickets are $15 for an adult, $10 for a senior citizen and $7 for a student/child and can be purchased at the door or online. Gold cards are accepted at the door.
Monteith gets into the spirit of reading
Clockwise from upper left: First grader Marissa Bruveris practices illustration techniques; children's author Lauren Radke reads to kindergarteners; first graders Andrew Klamo and Messiah Floyd work on drawing Radke's signature characters.
Local artist and children’s author Lauren Radke shared her love for illustration and writing with students at Monteith Elementary during library this week as part of National Reading Month. Her books “Always Be Nice!”, “Will You Be My Friend?” and “Dinner with the Queen” introduce Frog and his friends Mouse and Ladybug, colorful characters she created who share their messages of kindness, friendship and acceptance.
While Lauren has enjoyed drawing these amiable characters for years, her young grandchildren inspired her to turn their enduring messages into books. She shared these stories with the children while also teaching them techniques to bring her signature characters to life.
This author visit was one of many highlights of Monteith’s March is Reading Month Spirit Week. Monday was Reading Rainbow Day, in which each grade wore a different color to represent the rainbow.
Tuesday was Reading Takes You Places Day. Students dressed in their favorite college or high school gear or to represent the job they might want some day.
On Wednesday, the halls were filled with Disney, Star Wars and Marvel characters during Reading is Magical Day, and Thursday the school rocked out in costume during Readers are Rock Stars Day.
Reading is Cozy/Pajama Day is postponed until next Friday due to the snow day.
North violist selected for national youth orchestra
Grosse Pointe North junior Ben Graham was the only musician from Michigan selected for Carnegie Hall’s 2023 National Youth Orchestra. Now in its tenth season, this national program created by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute recognizes extraordinary musicians from across the country ages 16 to 19.
The 109 members of the 2023 orchestra hail from 31 U.S. states plus Puerto Rico and are recognized among the finest players in the country following a comprehensive and highly selective audition process.
Ben, a violist, will join these musicians and travel to New York in early July for an intensive two-week training residency at Purchase College, State University of New York. During this time, he will have the opportunity to work with principal players from some of the finest professional orchestras. Acclaimed conductor Sir Andrew Davis will lead NYO-USA at the orchestra’s annual Carnegie Hall concert on July 14.
South choirs excel in festival and competition
Under the direction of Vince Matia, and accompanied by Richard Wolf, Grosse Pointe South High School continued a long tradition of excellence this year at the Musical Theatre Solo & Ensemble Festival, an event sponsored by the Michigan School Vocal Music Association. Each performer is required to sing two classical songs for an MSVMA-certified adjudicator, who provides written and oral feedback on each performance, as well as giving a final rating for each event.
While festival events were originally scheduled for November, Michigan weather interrupted the schedule, prolonging the festival through February.
On November 12, Victoria McCabe received a 2nd division rating for her excellent performance, and Zoe Acker received a 1st division rating for her superior performance.
Mae Mathis Baliatico and Grace Euper performed their pieces in February, both receiving 1st division ratings for their superior performances.
Last weekend Grosse Pointe South Choirs traveled to Solon, Ohio for the Solon Show Choir Invitational. Under the direction of Vince Matia, Serendipity and the Pointe Singers put on fabulous performances and brought more awards home.
Individual awards were given to senior Hannah Gunnell and sophomore Alexander Cline, who were each named Best Performer in their respective shows. Senior Nolan Eszes took home the trophy for Best Overall Male Performer.
The Pointe Singers will travel to Nashville this weekend for the Heart of America Show Choir Competition.
Pierce Future City Team competes in DC
Posing behind their city during the national Future City competition are, from left, Rocky Bocci, Aria Burrascano and Leo Zellen.
Three representatives from Pierce Middle School’s 12-member Future City Team headed to Washington D.C. to bring their vision for a futuristic city to life in front of a panel of judges.
Created for middle schoolers in or out of the classroom, Future City combines the engineer design process with project management to imagine, research, design and build cities of the future.
“It’s 100 years in the future,” said eighth grader Leo Zellen, who represented the team in D.C. along with classmate Rocky Bocci and seventh grader Aria Burrascano. “You’re designing a city that is based around the issue of climate change. You can choose one part to focus on. We chose rising sea levels. We focused on solving that in our city 100 years in the future. You can take some creative liberties on things because you can say things happened, like volcanoes became inactive, islands formed, but you have to keep it relatively realistic.”
Features of the city include walkability and an accessible park in the center.
“We use fusion for power,” Aria said. “It combines two molecules and it makes helium and then we put it into our balloon canopy. The canopy covers animals that haven’t adapted to climate change yet and protects them from too much sunlight.”
The team also created two universities that play a major role in their city's sustainability. For example, the University of Weather Manipulation and Management gathered physicists, aerospace engineers and meteorologists to determine if there was a feasible way to control the weather, according to Leo.
One way to control the weather, according to Aria, is to move clouds with lasers from satellites.
“We move cumulus clouds from non-populous regions over the Pacific and concentrate them onto regions that are experiencing droughts or we can move clouds away from areas experiencing floods,” Leo explained.
Another area of focus was polarized ice caps.
“We filtered out the sunlight so they don’t melt and the water levels stay the same,” Aria said.
The program began in the fall when all team members met after school with their adviser, science teacher Carrie Morris, and volunteer mentor Michael O'Bryan, a retired engineer, to create innovative solutions to some of today’s most pressing sustainability problems.
For example, this year's challenge was to choose a climate change impact and design one innovative and futuristic climate change adaptation and one mitigation strategy to keep residents healthy and safe.
In addition to creating a model of the city, the students had to write an essay which described the city and ways it adapted to climate change. Seventh grader Ciara Nordstrom played a big role in writing this essay, which served as a guide as they built the model.
In January, the team competed in a regional competition sponsored by the Engineering Society of Detroit, placing second out of 19 teams across Michigan. This qualified them for the national competition in D.C. Feb. 18 to 22.
While all the team members played a role in their success, Carrie was particularly proud of how Aria, Leo and Rocky handled themselves in presenting their city and responding to questions from the judges.
Teams were ranked based on points earned for their essay, model, presentation and Q&A. Pierce ranked 30th out of 41 national-level teams, which Carrie considers a success, as their goal at the beginning of the season was to place in the top five of the regional competition. Competing against teams from all across the U.S. – and two from China – was a dream come true.
Invaluable to the experience were the skills and confidence they gained from presenting to professionals in a range of fields, from aerospace engineering and data analysis to real estate and hospitality. They also learned the science behind climate change, which Carrie credits to Mr. O'Bryan, who has served as team mentor since she started the club for fourth graders at Defer Elementary. Both Leo and Rocky were members of that inaugural team.
Finally, the students learned about perseverance. While they thought they had protected their model sufficiently when they packed it up to ship to DC, it arrived with considerable damage -- and little time remaining to make the critical repairs.
“These guys were amazing and they pulled it together,” Carrie said. “We had some help from a team from New York and they put it back together and it looked great. It was a great lesson in compassion and teamwork.”
2023 IDEA Week
Grosse Pointe North’s Diversity Club hosted its annual IDEA Week, a three-day series held after school for interested students and staff. The theme this year was diversity in art.
On Tuesday, Jason Gillespie, Director of Education Programs at the Detroit Institute of Arts, led a discussion to deepen participants’ awareness of power, representation and identity through a critical analysis of art in the DIA collection. Among the paintings the students examined was “White on White: Stone Mountain, 2019,” an oil on canvas by Tylonn J. Sawyer, a Detroit-based figurative artist and educator whose work centers around themes of individual and collective identity, race, history and pop culture.
The focus on Wednesday was film through the ages. Filmmaker Tinisha Brugnone shared her experience in the industry through a Q&A approach preceded by a short presentation by Diversity Club members on diversity in film.
North music teacher Ben Henri wrapped up the week on Thursday with a presentation on diversity in American pop music. He took students on a journey through time to explore the history of American pop music and its evolution from segregated to integrated. Beginning with Elvis Presley and ending with Eminem, Mr. Henri drew parallels between the two musicians and their influence on the music of their time.
Discussion on this presentation was followed by an open mic event to celebrate the diversity of talent among North’s students.
Communities United in Diversity
The next Communities United in Diversity meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, at Richard Elementary School, 176 McKinley, Grosse Pointe Farms.
The topic is Courageous Conversations, and the meeting will be led by Wayne RESA Climate, Culture and Equity consultants Lisa Kaiser and Dr. Terrance Scott.
Participants will explore tools from Glenn Singleton's and Curtis Linton's text Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. The group will examine why these conversations can be so challenging to have, and practice engaging in them in helpful and effective ways.