Actors’ Theatre Concentrates on ‘Impacting Works’

Written by  Shelby Pendowski

Actors’ Theatre Concentrates on ‘Impacting Works'Actors’ Theatre 35th Season

143 Bostwick Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, (616) 234-3817

Upcoming shows:
Heathers: The Musical, Oct. 8-10, 15-17 & 22-24
Dogfight, Dec. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19
Grace, Jan. 28-30 & Feb. 4-6
Rapture, Blister, Burn, March 17-19 & 24-26
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, May 12-14 & 19-21


Since its genesis in 1980, the Actors’ Theatre in Grand Rapids has not only spotlighted local talent, it’s also used its productions to highlight timely, crucial topics.

Past Actors’ Theatre productions include: The Stories of Gay Christians, Angels in America, Corpus Christi and Intimate Apparel — each show is selected in hopes of raising dialogues in the community.

“They perform so many premieres and it’s such cutting-edge theater, as well,” said Jolene Frankey, one of Actors’ Theatre’s directors. “They are willing to push the boundaries and really truthfully examine real life, which theater doesn’t always give you the opportunity to do.”

The Actors’ Theatre, located at 160 Fountain St. NE in Grand Rapids, has another busy roster. The 2015-16 productions include Grace, Rapture, Buster, Burn and Vanya, Dogfight and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The season officially launches Oct. 8 with Heathers: The Musical. Actors’ Theatre also performs original pieces such as Seven Passages: The Stories of Gay Christians, which is now rights-released to other community and professional theaters.

The theatre has never shied away from sensitive topics. When the theatre opened in 1980 it was one of the first local theatres to address the outbreak of AIDS in a production. That passion remains to this day and is prudently planned by the theatre’s organizers.

Selecting a production starts with a few questions: Is the piece challenging to the directors, actors and actresses? Is it thought-provoking? Is it important and relatable to the Grand Rapids community? Does it have innovative writing or design?

“I am really excited about our mission,” said managing director Kyle Los. “We are really refocusing, so part of our mission is that we are doing thought-provoking works, which means we are doing impacting works.”
Actors’ Theatre is a non-profit organization. However, they do provide stipends for their performers.

“We are working towards the future where we as an organization can sustain artists,” Los said. “We are sustaining culture in West Michigan.”

The company receives about 60 percent of its funds from donors, sponsorships, underwriting and grants. The rest of its revenue comes from ticket sales and special events.

The group has many actors, actresses, directors, crewmembers and volunteers participating but there are only two full-time employees. Los, who began working as managing director last November, said in the future the company will optimistically look to add more full-time staff members and beef up its marketing procedures.

“I’m really moving this organization to be a little bit more proactive towards earned income-based revenues so we can become more sustained by the people who are going to the shows,” Los said. “There is a big audience in Grand Rapids that doesn’t come to our shows or any shows in town so we are really trying to change the way we are doing marketing.”

Actors’ Theatre is also looking to enhance their connections with local students by expanding their internship program to every aspect of the theater, not just production. The company currently provides internships and opportunities for volunteers to work on production or behind the scenes.

The ebb and flow of actors, actresses, directors, staff members and crewmembers has circulated through Actors’ Theatre. But since its inception the company hasn’t wandered from its mission of “bringing West Michigan the best in entertaining, innovative, challenging and thought-provoking theatre.”

For more information, visit


“What’s Your Damage, Heather?” Heathers the Musical comes to Grand Rapids

Written by  Shelby Pendowski

Poster for Heathers the Musical at Actors' TheatrePoster for Heathers the Musical at Actors’ Theatre

Ah, yes, the glory days. Life as a high-school teen was all about cliques, young love, pimple-ridden faces and the drive to fit in with the snide popular kids at any cost. Sounds abysmal, doesn’t it?

Film director Michael Lehmann dramatized this confused chunk of life in the black-comedy tale of Heathers. The now cult classic 1988 teen flick tells of Westerburg High School students Veronica Sawyer, Jason Dean, Heather Chandler and Heather Duke. The over-the-top plot centers on the “teenage suicide” hysteria that unfolds around a preppy in-group called The Heathers.

It wasn’t until 2010 that the film was adapted to the stage as Heathers: The Musical. By a twist of fate, the Actors’ Theatre acquired the rights for its 2015/16 season — this will be the Great Lakes regional premiere and Michigan premier.

“We actually had something else slated in this time slot but we got a call from the rights company just before we announced the season,” said Kyle Los, Actors’ Theatre managing director. “We quickly made the switch because we are really excited about the show. It’s always exciting when we can get early rights to shows. It says something about the organization.”

The popularity and complexity of this musical drew in actors such as Emily Diener, who was casted as Heather Chandler and Jess Luiz, who portrays Veronica.

“I grew up watching this movie and I always loved it,” Diener said. “When I found out there was a musical about it, I became very obsessed with it and the fact that there was an opportunity to do it close to home is just mind-blowing. I had to be a part of it.”

The musical version further explores the motivation behind the chain of dark, yet witty events. The audience takes the dramatic journey with Veronica as this production breaks the fourth wall and has direct dialogue with the audience, said director Jolene Frankey.

“I think the musical version digs a lot deeper and you get to know the characters’ many layers, more so then you do in the film,” Frankey said. “I think it is a really unique challenge to take such a cult classic and bring it to the stage because you want to honor the crazy, zany moments the audiences have really connected with, as well as bring to life new elements of the script.”

Casting calls for Heathers began in early August and the crew quickly realized this was going to be a unique production.

“This process was different from an Andrew Lloyd Weber type of show where people are usually auditioning with more classical theater-music pieces,” said Scott Bell, the company’s music director. “So in this audition process it wasn’t unusual for us to hear Pat Benatar songs or Green Day. It was definitely a lot more rock oriented which is more or less what the score is like.”


A Q&A with Dianne Reeves: Vocalist headlines at St. Cecilia Music Center

Written by  Shelby Pendowski

Dianne Reeves – Great Artist Gala
St. Cecilia Music Center — Royce Auditorium
24 Ransom NE, Grand Rapids 
Oct. 29; $125 and up; (616) 459-2224

While the Jazz Age of the Roaring Twenties may be long behind us, that energy still thrives today thanks to artists like five-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves.

Her new LP, Beautiful Life, includes Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” along with a roster of originals. The Denver-based songster is now touring the country in support of the LP; she performs Oct. 29 at St. Cecilia Music Center’s Great Artist Gala in the Royce Auditorium. The concert kicks off the center’s 2015-16 season.
When did you know you wanted to make singing and performing a career?

In middle school, it was something that empowered my life and I loved how I felt when I was performing. I loved how it made other people feel. My grandmother always used to say, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” I remember walking down the hall after a concert in junior high school and I said, “I am putting all my eggs in one basket.” I was that sure.

How was it taking these well-known songs for Beautiful Life and making them your own?

That has always been the tradition of jazz, to take music and give it a jazz tradition. This particular record, one of the reasons [I chose] “I Want You” is because Marvin Gaye is one of my favorite artists and I love the fact that his artistic voice is so sophisticated in soul music. This record was a jazz record steeped in soul music so I thought that was the perfect song to start out with.

What was it like producing with Concord Records and people like Terri Lyne Carrington, Lalah Hathaway and George Duke?

It was great. My very good friend Terri Lyne Carrington, who currently has a record out, too, she was the producer on the record and I have known her since she was 10 years old. She is an extraordinary producer, so we worked on this record and a lot of different people contributed to it. It is called a Beautiful Life but it should have been called a Beautiful Experience because the process was really nice.

You won your first Grammy in 2001 for In the Moment – Live in Concert. What was that experience like?

You know, I had been nominated many times and so to hear your name called is pretty extraordinary. It’s pretty amazing. It is like a feeling of disbelief and at the same time it is a feeling that you are on the edge of glory.

You worked on the soundtrack for Goodnight, and Good Luck. Was there any difference between working on your albums compared to working on a soundtrack?

This was amazing because the music that you hear in the movie was live. George Clooney wanted the music to be performed in the best way possible — jazz music is best experienced live. In the film, that is a real band and I am really singing. That part was great and it was kind of crazy because I have a lot of recordings and videos of singers from that time period so, you know, I was taking all of these singers that I loved and kind of putting them all in one performance.


Reasons to Be Pretty gives intimate performance

Students from the Grand Valley State University Theatre department organize multiple performances each year, and under the direction of GVSU student Cody Robinson, they premiered “Reasons to Be Pretty” this weekend at the Louis Armstrong Theatre.

The performance was one of intimacy. Audience members were seated on stage in rows of three on platforms surrounding the simplistic set.

The production was that, simplistic. The cast consisted of four GVSU students, so they each were given ample amount of time to shine – and shine they did. Caleb Baird as Greg, Monica Longstreet as Steph, Chad Marriot as Kent and Mara Spears as Carly all dazzled the audience in different ways.

Although some of the chemistry was off amongst the actors, each of them did an excellent job at becoming their character. They were each believable as mindless boyfriend, an inconsiderate and cheating husband, a hopelessly devoted wife and a stereotypical girlfriend.

Each of the four cast members did the best they could with this content, and they each embodied maturity as they delivered vulgar, sexist lines with ease.

Baird was the real star of this play. His performance of Greg, a man who accidently upsets his girlfriend which results in the demolition of their relationship, was believable.

The only downfall to Baird’s performance was the chemistry lacking between him and co-star Longstreet. Love or sexual-tension between the two wasn’t present, and it took away from the play. They didn’t seem like two people who had been in a long-term relationship and in love; instead, they were like awkward teenagers terrified of PDA.

Longstreet individually gave a noteworthy performance. She played Steph who was a stereotypical girl that would make any feminist cringe, and she did it quite well. Each fight, emotional moment and fit was performed almost perfectly.

Spears, a GVSU freshman that has yet to declare a major, should follow her talents in theatre. The freshman played a wife that remains devoted to her cheating husband through all her doubts and, eventually, she conjures the strength to leave the situation. Spears’ performance was memorable.

Kent was the trickiest character to become, but Marriot transformed into the sexist, misogynistic character. During a fight with Baird, Marriot’s temper-tantrum could have rivaled that of Bruce Banner just before he transforms into the Incredible Hulk.

The simplicity of the play’s production and props made it that much better. The lack of décor and backgrounds allowed for audience members to concentrate on the important message that the play had to offer. Everyone in life deals with relationship problems –whether it is with family, friends or significant others – and “Reasons to Be Pretty” tackles the issues surrounding such relationships.

The audience could identify with the dead-end relationship of Greg and Steph, the unhealthy marriage of Kent and Carly or even the tests placed on the friendships of all the characters.

In the end, the cast, crew and everyone involved allowed audience members to leave the Louis Armstrong Theatre contemplating their relationships and knowing that the reason to be pretty is for one’s self, not for others.

Dancing for Donations

Each semester, the Grand Valley State University Dance Troupe partners with a nonprofit to give back to the community, usually by taking donations. This semester, the group paired with Kids’ Food Basket to collect various items.

“Dance Troupe decided to donate to the Kids’ Food Basket this semester because recently we have not donated to an organization that dealt with food,” said GVSU Dance Troupe Vice President Jessica Sevic. “It was something different that we haven’t done in the past few semesters. Since we donated to the American Cancer Society last semester, we felt it was important to donate to something dealing with children.”

The dancers began preparation for the spring dance recital in January, and each dancer attends a weekly 40-minute class to perfect their routines. The recital “Move Your Feet So Kids Can Eat” will feature about 30 choreographed pieces. For many seniors, such as Sevic, Dance Troupe President Paige Redner and Secretary Caty Hoffman, this will be their final bow with the group.

“This is my last recital, so I am really excited but also really sad,” Redner said. “Dance Troupe is this really big organization, but I feel like we are all really close because we share something we love to do and it is just fun. I am just excited to go out there and dance one last time with all the people that I have become so close with.”

The dancers will take to the stage of Allendale High School on April 10 at 7 p.m. and on April 11 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door, at the GVSU 20/20 Desk or from a Dance Troupe member. Children 12 and younger are free.

“It (partnering with charities) just kind of gives us a purpose for our dance,” Hoffman said. “I don’t really know how it began, but it kind of just gives us a purpose. And, instead of doing nothing with the money and stuff that we raise at recitals, we can donate it.”

Attendees are asked to bring non-perishable food items; juice boxes; snacks, such as crackers, raisin boxes and pudding and gelatin cups; individual fruit; creamy peanut butter and zip-lock bags for the Kids’ Food Basket wish list. Although people are encouraged to bring items for the wish list, the group will also take monetary donations.

“I think it is really great because there are so many people that get to have fun and share what they love to do,” Redner said. “Not only do we get to do dance and have fun doing that, but our shows always donate money to organizations, and we are very connected in our community and I think that is great as well.”

Tickets are now on sale. For more information, visit, or contact Hoffman at

Hoodie Allen with Lion Babe to perform at GV

The contract is signed, the date is set, the venue is secure and now Grand Valley State University’s Spotlight Productions is pleased to announce Hoodie Allen with Lion Babe will headline the annual spring concert on April 9.

“It starts with polling the student body, so we send out a survey to everyone at Grand Valley and we ask them what genre,” said Spotlight Productions Music Chair Kaylee Groenewold. “We got a lot of requests in the past to bring Hoodie Allen to campus, so we decided to finally make it happen.

“His availability was great; he is going on a college tour right now, and so it worked out perfectly.”

There was no debate amongst the organizers; they wanted to book Hoodie Allen, Groenewold said.

“There is a lot of things that went into it. First of all, he is very personal with his fans,” Groenewold said. “He is really on the rise right now, and that is especially what we are looking for – artists that have a lot of potential and are coming up.”

Allen is known for hits such as “All About It” featuring Ed Sheeran, “No Interruption,” “No Faith in Brooklyn” and “Lady Killers.” This hip-hop artist has also played shows alongside musicians such as Passion Pit and Macklemore.

“It wasn’t really that hard of a decision – we have been looking at him since October,” Greonewold said. “We have been following him for a while. There were some other artists that we looked at just in case his availability didn’t work…but for the most part Hoodie is the only artist we have been looking at.”

His unique R&B, hip-hop jive is due to his musical influences: Amy Winehouse, Justin Timberlake and Talib Kweli. Allen’s music is a narrative with a poetic flow.

Booking Allen was a change from the musicians that usually perform at the spring concert. In the past, country artists such as David Nail and Sam Hunt have headlined the show.

“Well a lot of time with the spring concert, in the past, is a more country artist,” Groenewold said. “We wanted to do something that was outside of that genre and also what the student body was looking for – which was less of the country music and more of the hip-hop genre.”

Beginning March 16, tickets are available for purchase at the 20/20 desk and at Tickets are $10 for students, $15 for GVSU faculty, staff and alumni and $25 for the public. Students are limited to two tickets, and tickets increase to $15 on the day of the show.

“It is a unique opportunity that we get to put on such a big production, and we are very lucky that we get to put on a show when other colleges don’t get this,” Greonewold said. “It is affordable, it’s going to be fun and it is a really great part of being a Laker.”

Newer Isn’t Always Better: GR Ballet Performs Dracula

By  Shelby Pendowski
GRBC presents Dracula
GRBC presents Dracula PHOTO: Wende Clark

Grand Rapids Ballet Presents Dracula
Peter Martin Wege Theatre, Grand Rapids
Oct. 25-27, Oct. 31-Nov. 2
Show times at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
$12-$40, (616) 454-4771

Before glittering diamond skin, vegetarianism and werewolf hatred came around to screw up classic lore, vampires owned the night, seducing countless victims. In 1897, Bram Stokersculpted the first iconic vampire: Dracula. In Stoker’s novel, Dracula possessed all the legend qualities — beauty, lust for human blood, the ability to fly as a bat, repelled by garlic and deathly allergic to the sun — to properly display a horror character.

This required reading for many high schoolers, college students and horror enthusiasts creates the ground work for many of the vampire films, books and comics. But when it comes to performing arts, the Grand Rapids Ballet Company sticks to the original.

“The production itself really holds true to the original story and the book,” said artistic director Patricia Baker. “The heart and the essence of the book is there.”

While perfecting Dracula, the company is also working on productions later in the season such as A Midsummer’s Night Dream and The Nutcracker. With daily rehearsals always changing to accommodate the three ballets, the 19 company dancers concentrate on their many-casted roles and the advice from the various choreographers in order to preserve the meanings of each individual tale.

Dracula took not only the extensive hours of practice, but also the puzzle work of choreographers Roger Van Fleteren and Wes Chapman, as well as the director and all participants to make sure accuracy of the novel stayed intact.

This is not the first time GRBC has performed Dracula. Two years ago, the company performed this beloved seasonal ballet. This time around. GRBC revamped the performance with a new original score by Thomas Helms, upgraded projections, better technology and costumes, which resemble the time period in Stoker’s novel. The set, also historically accurate, incorporates the contrasting red with the dark, daunting colors described to be lurking in the castle of the Count.

Research struck as a key component to making sure the adaption is accurate. Each of the main characters – Dracula, Lucy and Dracula’s three wives – were double or triple cast. So, in order to learn their parts, many of the dancers hit the books. Stephen Sanford, who plays Dracula, and Laura McQueen Schultz, who plays one of the wives said watching various films, reading many Internet sources and reviewing the novel proved the most effective way to learn their roles.

“You are always thinking of new avenues to take and how you want to accomplish what you want the audience to get out of it,” Sanford said.

For those who know and love the dark and eery tale of the stalking monster, the plot line of the ballet will hold no surprises. The dancers, however, aim to bring to life the readers’ imaginations and to properly portray the novel.

“It is the classic story of Dracula” Barker said. “It is the one that started it all … if you haven’t gone back in time to really see what happened the first time, this is really your opportunity.”

Big Gigantic Brings New Tour Experience to Kalamazoo

By  Shelby Pendowski
Big Gigantic
Big Gigantic
Kalamazoo State Theater, Kalamazoo
Oct. 19, 9 p.m.
$22.50 per-order, $25 day of, (269) 345-6500

The excitement of a new album for fans also shakes with a dose of nerves. With the music industry continually changing and many musicians conforming, the worst fear for fans is the album will drop with a sound of unrecognizable content. The raving-revamped-saxophoning Big Gigantic (a duo comprised of Jeremy Salken and Dominic Lalli) originally set to release a new album this fall, but pushed the release back to stay true to their sound and to their purpose.

“It’s still getting the Big Gigantic sound … that’s been developed, but it is another evolution of that,” Salken said. “Dom keeps getting better and better at producing so the tones get better and the bass fuller and in general the sound is higher quality.”

That sound features saxophone melodies over the steady drum beats. As Lalli writes the music, he focuses specifically on the duo’s experiences. But it is the drive to create a one-of-a-kind experience for fans that keeps the sound true, Salken said.

The band plans to take the stage up until the new album’s release. The over-the-top fans will recognize the popular hits, “High Life,” “Sky High” and “Nocturnal,” but new, unfamiliar singles weave their way into the set list.

“We are dropping a bunch of new stuff this fall,” Salken said. “Come January, the album [will be] done and frickin’ awesome and ready to rage.”

While performing, Big Gigantic thrives off the snowball effect its music has on the audience.

“When we are on stage, you know, people see us having a good time so they have a good time,” Salken said. “It is like a snowball effect, it just keeps going back and forth until everyone is just raging and having fun.”

Although the band’s trademark performance stays intact, the stage transforms with a new lighting kit for the tour. The kit amplifies the mood of a Big Gigantic show, in addition to the festive confetti and intense bass levels, Salken said.

Returning to Michigan on Oct. 19, the kit premieres for the first time in the mitten. The band can’t wait for feedback not only on the lighting and experience but also the developing music, Salken said.

“We just want to get it right and get as many tracks as we can.”

Harmonizing as individuals and as a community: Four GV groups perform at A Cappell-Off

By Shelby Pendowski

For the past five years, the Grand Valley State University chapter of SAI Mu Alpha has hosted A Cappell-Off. A Cappell-Off is a competition that brings a cappella groups from around the Midwest to compete for titles such as best overall group, best male group, best mixed group and best female group. This year, not only will groups from four different states compete, but also all four of GVSU’s a cappella groups will go head to head.

“It is going to be a very competitive competition because we have Euphoria that is going and I believe Midnight Snack and After School Special are as well, and those are all the GV groups,” said GVSU GrooVe! president Jacob Sackleh. “It is exciting to be able to share the stage with those groups and really put our best foot forward.”

The competition is a yearly fundraiser to raise money for the sisterhood of SAI Mu Alpha and the music program at Allendale Public Schools. The A Cappell-Off begins at 7 p.m. on Jan. 17 at Allendale High School’s auditorium.

groove_rgb02GVL / Courtesy GVSU Groove

groove_rgb00GVL / Courtesy GVSU Groove

“This one (competition) is a great one because it goes directly to SAI,” said Midnight Snack Vice President Lindsay Cannon. “And on top of that, it is a really good cause and it is local and we get to meet so many different people from all the different colleges. It is just a really fun thing to be a part of.”

Groups such as GrooVe! are using the A Cappell-Off as a stepping-stone to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), which would give them the chance to work closely with the other music groups.

“We have pretty much gone to ICCA for four years and the ICCA is a pretty big competition…and the A Cappell-Off is a really good tune up for the ICCA,” Sackleh said. “I mean the experience aside, we really want to be able to connect with other a cappella groups, and we really want to grow ourselves…”

To get ready for competitions such as these, the groups at rehearsals concentrate on blending voices, choreography and fine-tuning their set list, Cannon said.

For the A Cappell-Off, Midnight Snack will be performing a mashup of “Some Nights” and “Payphone,” “Skyfall” by Adele and “Fallen” by Alicia Keys.

GrooVe! is planning to use the performance to perfect its set list for the ICCAs. The group will perform “The Rhythm We Started” by Sophie Madeleine, “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran and “Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae.

“For these competitions, we select specific songs that we want to perform and that we think we are the best at and that would put our best foot forward,” said Josh Sackleh, GrooVe! e-board member.

With a cappella groups from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio in attendance, each group will have to perform its best to take home a title. For the GV groups, it is also a chance to grow as individuals and as a community.

“The idea of opening your mind to different ideas with your music and stuff,” Jacob Sackleh said. “That is a huge thing. These other groups you know – Euphoria, After School Special, Midnight Snack – all bring a different style to the table and we can learn from that.”

The show is not only enjoyable for those familiar with a cappella, but it also will be a night for anyone who enjoys music, Sackleh said.

“It is going to be a great show,” Sackleh said. “You are looking at a lot of really good a cappella groups under one roof and it is not just going to be a good show, but you are also going to see a variety in terms of musicality.”

Local film stars GV talent

By Shelby Pendowski

In 2009, 228 people boarded Air France flight 447 in Rio de Janeiro to make a routine flight to Paris, but the passengers and flight crew never reached their final destination. The Air France flight disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean.

The mystery of the flight and its recovery in May 2011 inspired local producer and screenwriter Roger Rapoport to create the film “Pilot Error” about Nicola Wilson, an investigative reporter personally impacted by the plane crash, and her search for answers.

“Malaysia happened well after we had filmed and shot most of the movie,” said Jacqui Bernhardt, an actress in the film. “It is just a relevant issue similar to things that are happening right now. That is when I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this movie could really change the way we are looking at airlines.’”

pilotoferrors_rgb00GVL / Courtesy Roger Rapoport

Production began July 31, 2013 in Muskegon, Mich., but before filming began, Rapoport and director Joe Anderson casted a variety of local actors. Three members of the Grand Valley State University community were chosen, including Bernhardt who graduated from GVSU in 2014.

“I love being a part of independent films, especially when it is in West Michigan, because I think Michigan is a great state to have film professionally done,” Bernhardt said. “So anything I can do to be a part of that I want to do.”

Kate Thomsen, an adjunct theater professor at GVSU, stars as Nicola Wilson, and fellow professor and WGVU Morning Show host Shelley Irwin plays a TV reporter throughout the film.

“…when we had made the movie I hadn’t really heard of Air France, but as I was researching, I thought this is kind of interesting and strange,” Bernhardt said. “I loved how Kate’s character, Kate Thomsen, was so independent and determined to solve this.”

With professors and alumni starring in local films, it can impact current GVSU students who are looking to pursue a career in acting, Bernhardt said.

“Having a Grand Valley professor lead in a film that is showing across the country but that was made not even a half hour away from Grand Valley, I think it just says a lot about the future and about the potential Grand Valley has,” Bernhardt said. “(Students) don’t have to move out to New York or Los Angeles to begin their careers. Self-starters all over the place can create their own independent films, and there are plenty of talents and locations right here in Michigan.”

The film highlights regional locations in the majority of the scenes.

“I think a big reason our films are so widely attended when we do events is because it was made in our backyard,” Bernhardt said. “It is just very exciting to have a film that was made in our area, produced in our area and premiered in our area.”

The film’s cast and crew traveled all around the state from Detroit to Holland to Saugatuck to Ypsilanti to film the project. As the projector rolls, attendees are transported not only throughout the United States in the plot, but also internationally. The film shot a total of 12 Michigan locations, plus scenes in Milwaukee and Paris.

“Pilot Error” premiered at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo on Nov. 8, 2014 and since has played in theaters locally and nationwide.

“Not truly having read the whole script, I was in the audience just as the person next to me,” Irwin said. “The premiere itself was done so professionally. You had a stage, you had a VIP section and you had comments afterwards from a panel. So it was a first class premiere.”

The film has many upcoming showings including at the Fremont Cinema in Fremont, Mich. on Jan. 9 and at the Harbor Cinema in Muskegon from Jan. 16 through 22. For more information on the film and other showing times, visit