Ixion and Peppermint Creek plot their comebacks

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After limited and mostly virtual theater productions became all the rage due to pandemic restrictions, two Lansing companies are looking forward to reopening the stages come autumn. 

“Every actor and director I’ve talked to is just really eager to be working on a show again,” Peppermint Creek Theatre Co. artistic director Chad Swan-Badgero said. “The drought of theater has left everyone in the industry thirsting for getting back into the theater. The audiences have told us they are really anxious to be attending live performances again.”

Peppermint Creek planned to offer “Fun Home,” written by local playwright Lisa Kron, just when the COVID shutdowns happened across Michigan. The musical is now scheduled for June 2022. “Fun Home” was nominated for 15 Tony Awards in 2015 and won five. Its songs earned a Grammy nomination for “Best Musical Theatre Album” in 2016.

The rest of Peppermint Creek’s upcoming shows will be new programming. 

“Currently, we’re creating an original experience for the start of the season,” Swan-Badgero said. “‘Opening Up: A Community Returns to the World’ will ask the community to send us personal stories related to a time in their life when they’ve had to open up in some way.”

Swan-Badgero is excited about what stories will be recounted and how they might relate to dealing with COVID. The letters will include an artifact. “I’m thrilled about how unique and sort of analog this experience will be,” he said.

In November, Peppermint Creek partners with the Fowlerville, Eaton Rapids and Downtown Lansing libraries for a play “book club.” Between December and April, three separate production — with details still being worked on — will be staged.

“For the fall, we’ll be careful to keep people distanced from each other,” Swan-Badgero said.  In the spring, Peppermint Creek hopes to return to the Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lansing.

Jeff Croff is the artistic director of Lansing’s Ixion Ensemble Theatre. “All of us have been thrilled to collaborating and playing together again – no matter what the constraints. We are aiming for a three-show season this year,” he said. “Our goal is to present ‘Skeleton Crew’ in the October to November time slot, though we are still finalizing dates and performance venue,” Croff said.

“Skeleton Crew” is the production Ixion was prepared to open when the COVID shutdowns occurred. Detroit’s Dominique Morisseau wrote the play.  The play is part of her trilogy called “The Detroit Projects.”

Croff will direct “Skeleton Crew.” It’s the scheduled show he’s most thrilled about.   

“‘Skeleton Crew’ is a wonderful chance to celebrate a Michigan writer, the city of Detroit and our local talent,” he said.

Being performed in a socially distanced outdoor setting salvaged two other shows of Ixion’s last season. Ixion was the only local company that managed that. 

“We’ve been fortunate in being able to find ways to perform during the pandemic,” Croff said.

“Begets: Fall of a High School Ronin,” by Brooklyn-based writer Qui Nguyen, will be Ixion’s second show for the 2021-’22 season. “I’m always excited about doing another Qui Nguyen script,” Croff said. Ixion presented Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters” at the Robin Theatre in 2015. “They always challenge us technically and by scope to invent solutions for our oft limited space constraints,” he added.

For five years, Ixion solicited writers to submit original scripts to vie for its finale show. This year’s theme is “Let’s Eat.” The collection of short plays about food or our relationship with it can come from all over the world.

Ixion plans to follow expert guidelines for safety precautions. “Possible additional shutdowns would be frustrating,” Croff said.

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