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Dog Story Theater hosts local theater company

Kimi Griggs discusses working with the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company at Dog Story Theater
Kimi Griggs performing a scene from Julius Caesar

Kimi Griggs performing a scene from Julius Caesar /Zachary Carlton Johnson

Dog Story Theater

Dog Story Theater

7 Jefferson Ave. SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Dog Story Theater on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids offers performers the chance to share their theater work with the community. The theater is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that strives to "provide an affordable, flexible performance space for performers, directors, writers, dancers, comedians, poets, filmmakers and musicians to showcase their work." In collaboration with the local branch of the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, they recently showed the company's production of Julius Caesar.

Kimi Griggs, a senior at Grand Valley State University and member of the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, explained that "Pigeon Creek is a touring theater company based out of Grand Haven, but performs all across West Michigan." In their most recent production, Julius Caesar, Griggs portrayed Calpurnia, Artemidorus, Citizen, Varro and Clitus.

"The company runs using original practices and typically small casts, so it is common for an actor to have multiple roles," Griggs said, "but this is the most characters I have played in a show with Pigeon Creek."

In addition to Pigeon Creek, Griggs has been a part of Grand Valley’s theater program since the winter semester of her freshman year in 2012. She has been in many plays including Almost, Maine and Bethany at GVSU. Griggs said about the university's theater program that it's unique in that "You do not get to walk in and say, 'I'm an actor and I only want to act.' When you study theater at Grand Valley, they expose you to as many facets of theater production as possible."

Over the past few years at GVSU, Griggs has taken courses on costume construction and design, scene design, stage management, acting, theater history, and has been a tour manager, all while performing roles in different shows.

“I think they really try to prepare you to leave Grand Valley and be able to serve any role in a theatrical production,” Griggs commented.

Griggs' first show with Pigeon Creek was Measure for Measure in summer of 2013, and she has been performing with them on and off since then. She said that Julius Caesar was her fourth show with the theater company. Griggs explained that she first heard about Pigeon Creek from her Introduction to Shakespeare course at GVSU, which was taught by the executive director of the company. Griggs said, “The company is made up of many GVSU alumni, so they often advertise their auditions to Grand Valley students, which is how I found out about those.”

Pigeon Creek is different than anything Griggs has worked with before because the company “performs using original practices Shakespeare, which means that they try to replicate the conditions the plays would be performed in during Shakespeare’s time. This involves things like doubling (actors playing multiple roles), small casts, universal lighting on the performance space and the audience,” among other things. She said that she found the work for the theater company to be both challenging and exciting at the same time, because without “all the flash” of big sets or fancy costumes, there is a lot of reliance on the actors to create the atmosphere for the audience with just the text.

After Julius Caesar, Griggs said she would like to pursue a graduate degree in theater. Immediately after graduation she will be looking into apprenticeship opportunities with theater companies across the country. She explained that while they differ, they all requie a season-long commitment to work backstage, performance in shows, master classes, and anything else for the productions that they need from you.

"This sort of thing appeals to me because it matches well with the Pigeon Creek structure. With Pigeon Creek, the actors are not only actors but serve other production roles as well," Griggs said, "For example, with only the four shows I have done with them I have been a props designer twice, worked on the costume crew and been a tour manager, all while also performing a role in the show. This is something Shakespeare's company would have done as well.

Dog Story Theater is located at 7 Jefferson Avenue SE downtown, and is always hosting different local arts productions.


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