On with the show: Attorney provides behind-the-scenes support for 'Ernie'

By Jeanine Matlow

Legal News

When columnist and sportswriter Mitch Albom decided to write a play paying tribute to the legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, he needed a number of experienced hands to help pull it off.

Enter Ed Nahhat.

As an attorney, Nahhat could offer any necessary legal assistance. As a professional actor and the founder of a theatrical company in Royal Oak, he could also bring production expertise.

Uniquely qualified, Nahhat merged his theatrical and legal background to serve as producer and legal counsel for the new play "Ernie," which opened last Thursday at the City Theatre in Detroit.

"Mitch Albom is one of those rare people who can wear many hats: a sports writer and columnist, a best-selling author, a radio and TV host, songwriter, screenwriter and playwright," Nahhat says. "To have worked with him at this level has been an extraordinary experience."

Will David Young, who plays the role of Ernie Harwell, has known Nahhat for years. The two performed together at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea.

"I have an enormous amount of respect for Ed," says the Milford-based actor who appreciates Nahhat's meticulous attention to detail. "He's the closest thing to a manager I've ever had. He holds your hand the entire way. Ed deserves recognition for everything he does."

Nahhat's acting career actually traces back to baseball.

When he didn't make the high school baseball team, he joined the drama club and discovered he had a knack for acting.

"I could memorize the entire script without trying. I really enjoyed the rush of pressure to hold the attention of a live audience. Those experiences encouraged in me the ability to think fast on my feet, to improvise, and [gave me] the confidence to effectively express emotion, to persuade, to debate," Nahhat says.

The Royal Oak resident went on to study theater at Wayne State University.

"After college, I pursued a gypsy career as a professional actor, playwright and event producer while I put myself through law school," says Nahhat, who graduated from Wayne State University Law School and now specializes in business law, real estate, litigation and entertainment law with Caputo Brosnan PC in Warren.

But his passion for theater never waned.

"Ever since college, I wanted to start a theatre company that would somehow make a positive difference in the world. But there were very few professional theaters in Michigan in those days and the one we had in Royal Oak closed down right after I graduated," he says.

Though his professional adventures took many twists and turns, he eventually started his own non-profit professional theater company. After a decade of practicing law, Nahhat became a volunteer founder and executive director of Water Works Theatre Company, named after a park near his Royal Oak home.

"I knew I could enhance the quality of life in my community by offering a Stratford-quality event close to home, as well as provide career opportunities to emerging artists and jobs for established professional artists right here in Michigan," Nahhat says. "After our first season was so well received, I decided to embark right away on another goal: to teach Shakespeare performance skills to children in a fun outdoor summer setting."

Nahhat says he believes that having a high-quality professional theater and Shakespeare in a community is the measure of its cultural profile; it's a worldwide standard.

"I wanted to help put Royal Oak firmly on the cultural map," he says. "The combination of two different educational degrees and two careers, as well as my experiences as a lawyer enabled me to contribute to the quality of life in my community in a unique way."

"Ernie" show tickets ($20 and $25) may be purchased at OlympiaEntertainment.com, the Fox Theatre and Joe Louis Arena box offices. To charge tickets by phone, call 1-800-745-3000. For additional information, call (313) 471-6611.

Published: Mon, May 2, 2011