Legal eagles featured in Penny Seats staging of 'What Corbin Knew'

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

The Penny Seats Theatre Company - with several members of the legal community in its troupe - will perform Jeffrey Hatcher's comedy, "What Corbin Knew," 7 p.m. on February 28 and 29, March 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, and 14, at Performance Network's Second Stage, 120 East Huron Street in Ann Arbor.

Wayne Law grad Matt Cameron, vice president of the Penny Seats and an attorney with Morganroth and Morganroth in Birmingham, stars as Richard Corbin, a designer/consultant who invites two couples to a luxury skybox he helped to design. The couples are oil and water, loathing one another on sight; things escalate, and by the end of Act One, one of them meets a violent end. The play then doubles back to show everything that Corbin--and the audience--missed.

"He's the type of guy who wants everyone to get along and have a good time," Cameron says. "He tries to maintain some civility between two diametrically opposed personalities. He thinks he knows more than he does, but it's what he doesn't know that causes his relationships to crumble."

Cameron enjoys the creative outlet of acting.

"The Penny Seats has given me the opportunity to participate in some great theatre without sacrificing any of my career aspirations," he says. "I believe acting and litigating require many of the same skills--and I firmly believe my training in the theatre arts will serve me well in the courtroom."

The show's producer is Penny Seats' founder and president Lauren London, assistant general counsel at Robert Bosch LLC, in Farmington Hills. London says that being a lawyer--and especially a former litigator--has prepared her well.

"So much of producing is the ability to juggle many different activities all at once - to keep the actors and director happy, to interact with sponsors and donors, to sell tickets, to find crew, and to present our product to the outside world," she says. There's a whole lot of negotiation involved, and a drive to succeed. It can be taxing, but it's extremely rewarding.

"Law is very much the same balancing act. Of course, once all the prep work is done for the show, I get to relax and enjoy our finished product - a luxury we don't always get as lawyers."

The Penny Seats has always been a labor of love for London.

"It's a large time commitment, on stage and off, but I get the sense that we're really adding something to the mix here in Ann Arbor, and we all believe in what we're doing. That kind of striving, heart, and dedication by everyone in a company is rare, and I cherish it."

Other cast members are Rebecca Hardin, Melynee Saunders Warren, Russ Schwartz, and Roy Sexton, vice president, Marketing & Strategic Planning at Trott & Trott in Farmington Hills.

Sexton describes his character, Marshall Allard, as "somewhere between just about any Will Farrell character you've ever seen and Ted Knight from the old 'Mary Tyler Moore Show' with maybe just a pinch of Harvey Korman from 'The Carol Burnett Show.'

"He's a yuppie undergoing one doozy of a midlife crisis without the nuance or self-awareness to navigate those waters without leaving one disaster after another in his wake," Sexton says. "The challenge for me is playing him 'funny' yet 'relatable.' Through the course of the play, he careens from his suburbia-loving wife Margo who is understandably maddened by his reckless immaturity, to an NPR-listening, pretentious bohemian couple who find it impossible to relate to either Marshall or Margo, and vice versa. I think the audience will both identify with and be aghast at all four characters.

"It's been ages since I've done a contemporary piece like this, and to portray such an endearingly infuriating man-child is a delightful challenge."

Balancing a day job and theatrical pursuits isn't always easy, says Sexton, who holds a master's degree in theatre from Ohio State and an MBA from the University of Michigan and who has had leading roles in numerous plays and musicals across Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.

"A lot of hours and fun go into prepping these shows, and, the older I get, the more demands and the less time there seem to be," Sexton says. "I also think it can be tough to shift gears from focusing on work and all the details and follow-up to dropping all of that, just an hour or so later, to inhabit this 'other person' you are playing. You really have to compartmentalize and set the stresses of the day aside and try to clear your mind...sometimes easier said than done."

But Sexton finds performing to be therapeutic.

"It reminds me of the intrinsic comic nature of the universe and just about every situation and event in it," he says. "Playing a character as dysfunctional as Marshall makes you feel pretty good about yourself and keeps you grounded from getting too agitated about anything that happens in 'real life.' We're all clowns just stumbling through the circus of life, and that's what Marshall has taught me!"

The troupe is having fun in rehearsals, Sexton says.

"Our director Jacqui Robbins creates an open, creative, kinetic rehearsal environment. No idea is too wacky - or darn clever - to try, and it's such joy to share the space with smart, brainy, witty folks who aren't afraid to shed their professional demeanors for a while and just look and act silly. I'm having a ball!"

For tickets to "What Corbin Knew," call (734) 663-0681 or visit www.pennyseats.org.

Published: Thu, Feb 16, 2012

Comments

  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »