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Fall brings first fruit of the new theatre season

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September brings yellow school buses, cooler nights, and the smug satisfaction that comes with knowing a sumptuous feast of theatre is upon us. This weekend you can already sample the early fall fruit as four local theatres open their doors.

The Jewish Ensemble Theatre – better known as JET – is first out of the chute with its production of “The Value of Names,” which starts on September 3. Old wounds reopen when Leo Gershen, a legendary Hollywood director, casts the daughter of his old friend, Benny Silverman, in one of his productions. Benny has never forgiven Leo for renouncing him before the House Committee on Un-American Activities 30 years ago. It’s a story packed with humor and fortified by solid intellectual content – good for thoughtful after-theatre discussion. Visit the JET website for ticket and show-time information.

The Avon Players – Rochester’s community theatre – is staging the musical comedy “Big,” inspired by the 1988 film starring Tom Hanks. The film is best remembered for its “Heart and Soul” duo played by dancing on a giant piano keyboard at FAO Swartz. Certainly, translating this story into the language of musical theatre is a natural. If you missed the film, it’s the story of frustrated adolescent Josh Baskin, who wishes he were "big" and wakes up the next morning as a 30-year old man. He learns a lot, and teaches us a lot, and we leave realizing that we must all grow up at our own pace, in our own time. The Avon Players website has more about times and ticket information.

The Ringwald Theatre of Ferndale opens its 8th Season with “Angels in America,” winner of a Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. The Ringwald will present both parts of this epic, "Millennium Approaches" and "Perestroika," by performing them in repertory, working from a recently revised script that includes new material. The story centers on Prior, a gay man living with AIDS who is visited by an angel, and includes several other New Yorkers who deal with their own struggles – peoples whose lives are intertwined with Prior’s. This new American classic was popularized as an HBO in 2003. For more details, visit the Ringwald website.

Planet Ant in Hamtramck launches its 2014-2015 season with “The Big Story of Lazarus Small.” A different sort of comedy, this is the kind of show that Planet Ant does so well – introducing us to a guy whose appearance in a local TV commercial has kindled fantastic dreams of stardom. There’s wisdom in the expression, “be careful what you wish for” – and that’s what this play sets out to prove. Complete information is available on the Planet Ant website.

By the way, if you’re looking for something to do Sunday, consider the Sidewalk Jamboree at Eastern Market. Presented by Rock Ventures, the event promises to offer Experimental jazz, outdoor theater, installation art, modern dance, performance art, and eclectic street buskers. The event is hosted by Detroit's own Sidewalk Festival of Performing Arts and the Sunday Street Market – look for the action in Sheds 2, 3 and 4. To learn more, visit their Facebook page.

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