Purple Rose Theatre Company Gives Wings to Willow Run


A world premiere about the women behind local World War II efforts

From Katie Hubbard

The Purple Rose Theatre Company will conclude its stellar 2017-2018 season with Willow Run, an original play featuring the women behind local World War II efforts who became known as Rosie the Riveters. Tickets are on sale now.

Leading up to and during World War II, some 40,000 employees, mostly women, migrated from all over the country to turn out B-24 bombers at the rate of one every 55 minutes at the Willow Run Bomber Plant near Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Written by Ann Arbor-based playwright Jeff Duncan, Willow Run will bring the journey of four of those women to the stage. Together they encounter a multitude of challenges, learn to endure new sorrows, overcome deep-seated prejudices and forge new friendships.

Willow Run is the winner of the 2017 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award and will feature original music composed by Purple Rose founder Jeff Daniels, his son Ben, of the Ben Daniels Band, and Resident Artist, Brad Phillips.

“This play is one of the most exciting and creative projects to come our way,” says Artistic Director Guy Sanville. “Aside from the timeless heroism and story, it is stuffed with nostalgia from a time when we pulled together as a country and a people; a time when women answered the call to serve in unprecedented numbers.”

Duncan, a retired professor of English at Eastern Michigan University, is currently in residence at Ann Arbor’s Wild Swan Theatre, for which he has written over 20 works including Shipwrecked!, The Wind in the Willows, and The Wizard of Oz. He also previously wrote plays for the Performance Network, including The Insomniac, In the Image, and Persephone.

As part of his research for the play, Duncan and his wife, Barbara, interviewed eight original Rosies. “They told us how they and all the other women did jobs that men had always believed women could not do,” says Duncan, “making for a story about empowerment and a fascinating chapter in the ongoing struggle for women’s equality, as well as an important story about Michigan.”

Willow Run performances are from Thursday, June 14 through Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. Previews, with reduced-price tickets are available through Thursday, June 21. Opening night is Friday, June 22.

Directed by Guy Sanville, the cast features Resident Artists Michelle Mountain (Grass Lake), Rhiannon Ragland (Gregory), K. Edmonds (Detroit), Lauren Knox (Milan), Angela Kay Miller (Pinckney), Caitlin Cavannaugh (Chicago, IL), David Bendena (Chelsea), and Brad Phillips (Dexter). Set design is by Sarah Pearline, properties by Danna Segrest, costumes by Susanne Young, lighting by Noele Stollmack and sound by Tom Whalen. Thomas Macias is the stage manager.

The production sponsors are Chelsea State Bank, Phil and Kim Curtis Foundation, and Legacy Assisted Living. Underwriting support for the season comes from the Ford Motor Company Fund, The Hamp Family Fund, the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Shubert Foundation, and the Matilda R. Wilson Fund. The media sponsors include Michigan Radio, Detroit Performs, ChelseaMich.com, Applied Storytelling, and HOME.fm.

All performances will be held at The Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park Street, Chelsea, Michigan 48118.

Ticket prices range from $20.50 to $46 with special discounts for students, seniors, teachers, members of the military and groups. For more information or to make reservations call (734) 433-7673 or go towww.purplerosetheatre.org.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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