Ferndale Friends: With Improv Comedy and The Ringwald, both at the center of the recent Detroit Improv Festival, it seems live comedy and entertainment is gaining in popularity—and fast. What is it about the current generation that’s driving the success and resurgence of live entertainment, and how does live entertainment tie into the popular culture we see around us: DIY, bicycling to work, the re-development of urban areas, making creative and better use of smaller spaces, etc. Is there a connection?
Joe Bailey: I think people are always looking for different types of things to do. We are fortunate to be in a city of folks that really embrace this philosophy. With the numerous street fairs and alternative stores and restaurants in the area, I think it’s a good and natural fit for us to be where we are. When Go Comedy opened about a year after we did, it was nice to have another performance space in Ferndale and we quickly became great friends and colleagues with those folks and treasure our relationship with them.
Jamie Warrow: I cannot speak to just comedy performance, (and especially I cannot address improv as a medium – because it is a whole other animal), but as for live theater like what we do at the Ringwald, I believe that live performance is an immediate challenge to the audience spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. It forces them to participate on multiple human levels, to be present in the moment and pay attention. Thus, I think the immediacy of live performance is becoming more attractive/popular because the current generation wants to be involved, is more “hand on” and wants to see the nuts and bolts of art.
FF: On your website, it states the goal of your venue is to challenge and entertain, and that the Ringwald “blurs the lines between race, income, religion, and sexuality.” Just what is it about audience members that you want to challenge specifically, and could you give an example and/or provide more explanation of what you mean by “blurring the lines…”
Bailey: For me personally, I like to offer different takes on things. Whether it’s the type of show we do, or if we have a guy in a dress, or do a show reverse-gender, I like for people to potentially see something that they’ve never seen before or think in a way they’ve not done.
Warrow: I believe that presenting diverse views broadens human understanding and empathy. It’s important to view the human experience from a perspective that is not necessarily an instinctive one.
FF: In comparison to other live entertainment venues: Mark Ridley (Royal Oak), Go Comedy (Ferndale), Planet Ant (Hamtramck), what is the defining characteristic that distinguishes The Ringwald from the other theaters and makes it a unique place to take in live entertainment?
Bailey: Every theater has it’s niche and what they’re known for. I suppose over the years, we’ve primarily come to be known as “the gay theater.” It’s an easy identifier, but not wholly accurate. I like that we take risks and challenge ourselves to do shows that don’t necessarily make sense for us to do – whether due to size of the show or subject matter – and then we work really hard to make sure it’s the best product that we can make it.
Warrow: We are not the gay theater. We are Unpredictable theater. Eclectic, smart and funny, fearless, and dangerous.
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