As part of Performance Network's mission to promote new plays and the works of local playwrights, the theatre will premiere Joseph Zettelmaier's "Dead Man's Shoes," a darkly comedic Western tale of friendship and vengeance. This co-production, which is currently running at the Williamston Theatre in mid-Michigan, comes to Ann Arbor through April 8, 2012. It is directed by Performance Network Artistic Director, David Wolber and features Aral Gribble ("Man of La Mancha," "The Home Team"), Paul Hopper ("Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol"), Maggie Meyer and Drew Parker ("Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh").
Though "Dead Man's Shoes" is based on fact, it feels as though it's steeped in the tone of a good old fashioned outlaw movie. Injun Bill Picote and Army deserter/camp cook Froggy wander the wild west in search of a man who done a truly despicable deed. Filled with true grit and dark humor exploring the real cost of revenge, it's a fast-paced and panoramic journey to the dark side of American history.
When playwright Joseph Zettelmaier decided to write a western, he began by researching real stories of the old west. One of the most striking was the tale of Big Nose George Parrot, a cattle rustler and outlaw who, after murdering a deputy Sheriff, was arrested and lynched by a mob of 200. Upon his death, John Osborne, a local doctor, took possession of Parrot's body in order to study his brain for signs of criminality. The resulting cadaver was sent to a tanner, and made into a pair of shoes. John Osborne is said to have worn the shoes in 1892 when he was sworn in as the Governor of Wyoming. Though the main plot points of "Dead Man's Shoes" are entirely Zettelmaier's creation, audiences will hear mention of Big Nose George, John Osborne and, yes, even the shoes.
Since his first premiere at PNT in 2000, Joseph Zettelmaier has had five plays premiered at PNT ("Science Friction," "Fever Dreams," "The Stillness Between Breaths," "Language Lessons," and "It Came From Mars"). He has received three nominations from the American Theatre Critics' Association (ATCA) for Best New Play and has been produced across the state and country. He is regularly produced at Performance Network, Williamston Theatre and the Planet Ant in Hamtramck. In 2010, his play "It Came From Mars" won The Edgerton Foundation New American Play award, broke PNT box office records for world premieres, and garnered an ATCA nomination. With an Edgerton award already secured, "Dead Man's Shoes" looks to be on the road to similar success.
In addition to the script, Zettelmaier also wrote original lyrics for "The Ballad of Injun Bill," a song featured prominently throughout "Dead Man's Shoes," often sung and strummed by actors Paul Hopper and Maggie Meyer. "The Ballad" was composed by The Potter's Field, a local folk band featuring Rochelle Clark and John Natiw.
Weekly performances of "Dead Man's Shoes" are Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm.
Tickets can be ordered at the Performance Network Box Office at 734-663-0681, online at
www.performancenetwork.org or by coming to the Performance Network Theatre (120 East Huron St., Ann Arbor, 48104) Monday-Friday 10-6 and Saturday 11-6, or one hour before a performance. Tickets are priced at $22 - $41, with discounts available for seniors, members, students and groups.
"Dead Man's Shoes" contains adult language and themes and is not suitable for those under age 17.
Founded in 1981, Performance Network Theatre has grown from a fledgling company to Ann Arbor's only resident, professional theatre. The Network reaches 40,000 theatre patrons and children each year through the year-round Professional Series and the Children's Theatre Network. Performance Network also presents the Fireside Festival of New Works and a series of classes on theatre-related topics. The Network provides uncompromising artistic leadership in the region and produces works that engage, challenge and inspire audiences and artists.