March 5 2009 12:00 AM

Family Theatre serves fantasy with history

Nestled between Holden-Reid and Dress Barn is a storefront with brightly colored paper taped to the windows. It’s easy to miss the building, with its paper in the windows instead of products or a brightly lit “Open” sign, like its neighbors in the Frandor Shopping Center.

But this isn’t a store; it’s the home of the Mid Michigan Family Theatre. Bill Gordon, who manages the theater and directs each production, transformed the inside of the space that used to house a Payless shoe store with the help of volunteers into a theater, complete with concession stand, lobby, greenrooms and stage. “If you have a little bit of imagination, you can divide a room up and make the audience think they’re in a theater,” he said. “That’s what we want.”

This week, they theater will ask audiences to use a little extra imagination when it opens its latest show, “Tales from the Brothers Grimm.” The play includes the Grimm fairy teals of “Hans in Luck,” “The Golden Goose,” “The Fisherman and His Wife,” “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” and “The Bremen Town Musicians.”

Actors in the show range in age from 6 to 50, with the majority of the cast being teenagers. Gordon said there are five families represented in this production, with multiple members involved. Half the cast is new to the theater.

The crew, which has been preparing for the last six weeks, has had a lot of help from volunteers. From costume donations to set building to ticket and concession sales, Gordon is thankful for all of the support. But no matter how much help he gets, Gordon said there are some technical challenges that come with staging a show that takes place in the fantasy realm. That’s where a healthy imagination comes into play. One of the stories, “The Fisherman and His Wife,” requires a lot of set changes. Instead of creating a new background for each scene, Gordon decided to use movable banners to illustrate a change of scenery with ease.

Gordon said he doesn’t see the small, unconventional space so much as presenting a challenge as an opportunity. With the flexibility of being able to rearrange seats and change the set-up of the space, he can fine-tune almost every aspect of a production until it’s to his liking.

In addition to dramatizing the five tales, Gordon said he tries to blend information with entertainment, “You get to learn about the brothers and see their stories acted out, so we have a dual focal point,” Gordon said.

The young and the talented

Is “American Idol” your competitive reality show of choice? Can’t wait for the next season of “So You Think You Can Dance” to get started? If so, you’re in luck, because the Ruhala Performing Arts Center is hosting its first ever Mid-Winter Talent Showcase for Young Performers singing and dance competition. There is no panel of judges, because the audience picks the winner. Special guests include MSU Impulse Dance team, Lansing Community College Salsa dance instructors, LA Cloggers and Your Mom Improv. Registration to compete is $15 and due by Friday, Feb. 27. The competition, which is split into three age groups for performers ages 5 through 18, takes place March 8, at the Ruhala Performing Arts Center, 1846 Haslett Road in East Lansing beginning at 1 p.m. For more information, call (517) 337-0464 or visit www.ruhalacenter.com.

‘Tales from the Brothers Grimm’

March 8 7 p.m. Friday & Saturday 2 p.m. & 4:30 p.m. Sunday Mid
Michigan Family Theatre, 440 Frandor Ave., Lansing $4/$6 www.freewebs.com/ midmichfamilytheatre