Kickshaw Aims to Excite and Entertain

. September 30, 2019.
Dave Davies, Sonja Marquis and Nancy Kammer-Wildern in Kickshaw’s production of “Milvotchkee, Visconsin,” directed by Lammers in 2018.
Dave Davies, Sonja Marquis and Nancy Kammer-Wildern in Kickshaw’s production of “Milvotchkee, Visconsin,” directed by Lammers in 2018.

Theatre company’s fifth season

For most people in theater, the most fulfilling parts of the job comes as the show is going on— the performance, the lights, the applause. For Lynn Lammers, the founder and creative director of Kickshaw Theatre in Ann Arbor, some of her most rewarding experiences come after the show ends.

“The thing that has made me understand and know that I’m on the right path is, the number of people who approach me after performances who are just utterly surprised or blown away by what they have just seen. They were not expecting it, they were delighted, or they were just engaged on so many different levels,” Lammers said. “I love having conversations with my audience after the show. Those are the moments where I see people are getting it. People are excited about this. We have something that people want to see.”

Off the beaten track

Now entering its fifth season, Kickshaw Theatre has distinguished itself with an eclectic and entertaining history of performances, with readings and productions of shows that are often off the beaten track of what attracts the average theatergoer. Works like Stefanie Zadravec’s The Electric Baby and Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Really have made Kickshaw’s unique brand stand out, guided by Lammers as director.

“I want people to come away surprised,” Lammers said. “Have their intellect engaged. But also we’re working on getting people in the gut, too. We want to lean into theatricality. We want to use movement and sound and embrace the kind of stylized form, that will make people use their brains a little bit and interpret what they’re seeing.”

The company, which ran its first full production in 2016, began as a passion project of Lammers, who has a graduate degree in theatre from Michigan State University. “It started because I wanted to do some theatre that was a bit more adventurous, a bit more theatrical,” Lammers explains. “And I wanted something that really made people curious rather than having our audience expect that they will directly relate to the people on the stage, the characters and the story. We’re telling uncommon stories, stories that don’t get told in mainstream theater very much.”

Striking a balance

The company doesn’t have its own dedicated performance space, instead forming partnerships with other groups around Ann Arbor, putting on shows at locations like trustArt Studios and the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth. This coming season will see Kickshaw hold its first performances in Ypsilanti.

“I think that, as a company, we’re figured out how to strike a balance between artistic risk and making sure that our artists always get paid. We’re being really careful, fiscally. But we don’t want that to stymie the risks we’re taking,” Lammers said. “We want to do that work, but we’re finding ways to make sure that everything we do stays high quality and professional, by hiring professional artists.”

Kickshaw’s fifth season began with a fundraising gala on September 13, and Lammers will direct a production of David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries in December. For the future, Lammers said she is hopeful that the company will soon find a performance space to call its own. “We want to be sure Ann Arbor doesn’t lose its character and reputation as an arts town. We’d really like to see some kind of (small, community) performing arts space, whether it’s our own or some kind of shared space.”

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