Monthly Archives: April 2013

“SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody” returns to Detroit

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

After seven sold-out shows in February, “SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody” will  be performed for eight more shows May 1-5 at The City Theatre in Detroit.

Written and directed by Jim Milan, and produced by Mills Entertainment, the

Photo Courtesy of SPANK!

Photo Courtesy of SPANK!

play is not affiliated with the E.L. James’ “50 Shades of Grey” novel series it parodies.

Those wildly successful erotica books detail the S/M relationship between an innocent, beautiful young woman and a wealthy, enigmatic and controlling international entrepreneur.

FYI: Performances of “SPANK!” will be 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2; 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 3; 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, May 4; and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday May 5 at The City Theatre, 2301 Woodward Ave., in Detroit. Tickets are $45.50 and can be purchased at, The Fox Theatre and Joe Louis Arena box offices, Hockeytown Authentics in Troy, Ticketmaster locations and

Actress Amanda Barker, a Massachusetts native residing in Toronto, narrates the play as E.B.J., a takeoff on “Fifty Shades of Grey” writer E.L. James. Barker was Major League Baseball’s first and only female mascot for the Toronto Blue Jays. She also does stand-up and writes sketch comedy, in addition to acting in commercials, directing productions and taking roles in television, stage shows and film.

Danielle Trzcinski of New York City plays Tasha Woode, the parody of “Grey” heroine Anastasia Steele. Trzcinski was part of FringeNYC’s “Non-Equity the Musical!” which she wrote, and she made the top 25 in NBC’s “Last Comic Standing NY,” in addition to participating in other shows and tours.

Gabe Bowling of Los Angeles plays Hugh Hanson, the character modeled on Christian Grey, the novel’s young entrepreneur. Bowling performed in the Tony Award-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet,” and appears an upcoming romantic comedy “One Small Hitch,” as well as performing as a musician in his solo project “Gabe vs. The Sad Kids.”  

The satire pokes fun at scenes mostly from the first book, though at times touching on others from the trilogy, Barker says. The jokes rise from the story set-up and suggestions of the novel, as well as audience involvement.

“We get to play so much in the show,” Barker says. “What’s really fun is that as the narrator, I can sort of incorporate audience suggestions, play with the crowd and also with the actors on stage.”

While those who know the novels enjoyed the play, Barker said people who haven’t read the books still find it hilarious.

“I think there’s something in the play for everybody,” Barker said. “It’s just a really fun night out. The laughs just keep coming.”


West Bloomfield artist exhibit at Lawrence Street Gallery in Ferndale

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Folk art will be displayed at the Lawrence Street Gallery in Ferndale, as West Bloomfield artist Alice Frank presents her exhibit “Artful,” beginning Wednesday, May 1.

The gallery, run by the 27 resident artists, changes displays monthly. This month features Frank’s works, which she created in various media.

West Bloomfield Artist Alice Frank's exhibit "Artful" will be on Display at Lawrence Street Gallery throughout the month of May.

West Bloomfield Artist Alice Frank’s exhibit “Artful” will be on Display at Lawrence Street Gallery throughout the month of May. COURTESY PHOTO/ ALICE Frank

“I like folk art because you can create a feeling about something that might be local to a certain area,” Frank said. “It has a primitive but playful quality to it.”

Observing people and nature inspires Frank in her projects. She said art is a way for her to capture and remember the moment.

In addition to the Lawrence Street Gallery, The artist belongs The Michigan Watercolor Society, Farmington Artist Club, Michigan Guild of Artists and Artisans, Detroit Society of Women Painters, Crooked Tree Arts, Ohio Designers and Women in the Arts, according to a press release.

Frank has sold pieces to celebrity clients, including musician Bob Seger and actress Victoria Principal.

Elementary education was Frank’s original profession, after earning her bachelor’s degree from The University of Michigan in 1965. As a teacher, she incorporated art into her lessons. She provided other art education for children as well.

Frank says she loves working with children, “because they’re not swayed by any particular thing, they just go with the moment — they are pure and ready to absorb any ideas you may have.”

Frank produces art in a variety of media, including monoprints, fired enamel and metals, though she said watercolor is her favorite.

The folk works she created feature hand-painted paper and found objects united

"Africa" by Alice Frank. COURTESY/ ALICE FRANK

“Africa” by Alice Frank. COURTESY/ Alice Frank

in collage. She said she put a lot of thought into the pieces’ titles as well.

“I find her work to be very whimsical and different than any other artwork you see,” said J. Gordon Rodwan, photographer and Lawrence Street Gallery artist. “It’s sometimes abstract, sometimes whimsical. I like the way she uses images and colors, and her multimedia displays are quite awesome, very captivating.”

The exhibit will run throughout May at Lawrence Street Gallery, 22620 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 9 p.m. Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call 248-544-0394 or visit to learn more about the gallery.

Teavana introduces Berry Kiwi Colada tea

Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

Summer is a great time for a tropical tea. Teavana’s new Berry Kiwi Colada loose



tea was added to the selection last week.

One of seven new spring teas, the featured beverage mixes fruit favorites with coconut for a tropical twist.

The blend is herbal, with notes of mango, kiwi, pear, pineapple and strawberry, meshed with a mellow coconut taste.

At first sip, berry elements stand out by adding sweet flavor, with kiwi coming after for a bit of a bite. Both fruits are evident in the drink’s aroma as well.

While the recommended mix is with one of Teavana’s white teas, Berry Kiwi Colada also blends well with one teaspoon of Pineapple Kona Pop. Add one-and-a-half teaspoons of each and steep for 2 to 3 minutes for the right amount of flavor.

Ice and a teaspoon of sugar transform the warm beverage into a sweet treat for summer, though it is good hot and plain as well.

For $9 an ounce, the tea is a bit pricey. But the strong, rich flavors of loose give tea drinkers the most for their money. Loose teas should be stored in a metal tin to preserve freshness and flavor, and prepared with an infuser.

‘Film Nerds’ take their zeal to podcasting

Stephanie Sokol for OU News Bureau

They meet every Wednesday, watch a movie and discuss it. Unlike typical moviegoers, however, these young men share their opinions with others by taking their tradition to the Web.

OU Journalism senior William Gibbs and friends Alex Murrell and Nick Blauvelt are the trio behind Midwest Film Nerds, a film critic blog and podcast.

“I started with just wanting to write. I’ve always enjoyed writing and been pretty good at writing,” Gibbs said. “So I wanted to take that and apply it to things I liked — mainly movies, video games and comic books. I’m kind of a nerd, so those are things that I like.”

The men met working at Family Video in Berkley.

Gibbs and Murrell are film fans. Blauvelt, who studies film at Wayne State University, provides the technical perspective.

“Movies seemed the most universal and approachable for us, from our work schedules, and for listeners, as well,” Gibbs said.

After realizing they shared a love for film, they decided to start the podcast.

COURTESY OF Midwest Film Nerds

COURTESY OF Midwest Film Nerds

“For some reason, the storytelling in movies can really get to me,” Murrell said. “There’s so much that goes into making a good movie that just kind of experiencing that and tearing the movie apart to look at all of its individual parts is interesting to me; and that’s part of the reason the podcast exists.”

A growing trend

Podcasts provide a different media outlet, with the recorded discussions available on a variety of topics.

The first podcast was created by Volomedia, in 2003 as “a method for providing episodic content,” according to Mashable. They have grown in popularity since.

Small Business Trends said through 2013, at least 37.6 million people will download podcasts monthly.

“I think podcasting is a very distinct thing,” Murrell said. “And I know there’s a lot of people out there who listen to radio who haven’t really given (podcasting) the time of day. If you’re listening to talk radio, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be listening to podcasting. It’s always a good idea to go out and listen to people’s ideas about things, and I hope that podcasting sticks around.”

Gibbs discussed their podcast about the “Dark Knight,” which they put out last summer after seeing the film.

He said they try to keep the blog and podcast focused on new movies to help others decide what they want to see. Keeping reviews current also brings more people to the site.

Building a fan base

Uploading the podcast feed to iTunes, in addition to networking with other bloggers, has helped Midwest Film Nerds attract followers.

“I can say that as soon as we finished the first (podcast), I knew this was something I wanted to do,” Murrell said. “But the biggest challenge so far has been getting listeners or getting word out to try and have people listen, getting a wider fan base.”

Murrell set up the account with iTunes, linking to the blog from the store. He said the requirement is a host location for the feed to reach, but iTunes makes the podcast more available to listeners.

To further reach their audience, the podcasters use social media as an outlet. They have also had their podcast mentioned on the podcast of a popular blogger.

“I try to maintain a Twitter account, post things up on Reddit and get it out to friends on Facebook, but there’s some untapped potential, some ways to reach more people that I just haven’t found yet,” Murrell said.

A future for the film nerds

The men want to see the blog make it big, but for now are focusing on sharing their passion for film and entertainment with others.

Gibbs discussed possibly expanding to include video game reviews or bringing in other podcasters, but the current goal is to have fun and share insight with listeners.

“We get so immersed in talking about these things, why not record it and put it out there?” Gibbs said. “It gives people a perspective and I think that each one of us comes to the podcast with something different.

“There’s so much debating going on today about really important things, it’s kind of fun to have a debate about something that’s not going to change the world. It’s nice to have a friendly debate.”

Follow the Film Nerds on Twitter @MidwestPodNet

Animal hoarding starts with good intentions and turns into a nightmare

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

It starts out with a couple of cats or a few dogs. People start taking them in, wanting to help each one and believe they are making an impact.

But what starts as help leads to issues for both the animal and human.

Animal hoarding is a growing problem.   The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals defines it as “a complex animal cruelty issue, mental health issue and public safety issue.”

At least 250,000 animals are victims of hoarding each year, according to theAnxiety and Depression Society of America.

Television shows such as Confessions: Animals Hoarding and social media have animalhoardingcatstorybrought light to the issue.

“There’s not an official diagnosis (for animal hoarding),” author Celeste Killeen said. “With no course of treatment, psychologists are left to deal with what they can, and usually diagnose hoarding as an addiction or OCD.”

In 2003, Killeen co-wrote “Inside Animal Hoarding,” which looked into the case of a woman with 552 dogs.

About 200 of them lived outside and 300 were in the home. The husband was ill, and stayed in a chair. Housing conditions were poor, with feces covering the floor and animals starving.

“It was absolutely horrible,” Killeen said. “There was constant neglect. The animals were not fed, many were dying. They were not socialized at all so they could not be given to other homes. It was a really unhealthy way to live and a horrible existence for the animals.”

The woman had a breeder profile, and displayed addictive behaviors, Killeen said. The hoarder felt the animals needed her, and used them to feed her ego.

animalhoardingchart2The treatments can be helpful for some, but usually when the animals are taken away, the people become anxious and hoard even more, according to Killeen.

Animal hoarding is similar to the act of collecting, which provides a sense of comfort that begins during childhood, psychologist Jim Windell said. Kids look at things such as dolls or trading cards as security and view them as comfort objects.

What starts as collecting can get out of hand and become a problem, however, leading to hoarding. And when the collection consists of living things, the result is cruel. Pets often become a substitute for human relationships. The “collectors” see animals as dependant on them.

Up to 250,000 animals are victims of animal hoarding each year, according to Animal Legal Defense Fund. This has doubled during the past four years.

Local Cases

Cases of animal hoarding have occurred in Oakland County. Recently, a home with 20 cats was cleaned out, according Joanie Toole, administrative supervisor at Oakland County Animal Control.

Another recent incident occurred in Livonia, when the Michigan Human Society and Animal Control removed more than 50 cats from the home, according to WDIV Detroit.

Though there is no limit on the number of animals a person can have, animal control evaluates the situation and looks for issues including illnesses, diseases and inbreeding.

The animals’ living conditions are taken into account to determine whether the home is a clean and healthy place to live, Toole said. Problem homes have feces all over the floor, unkempt animals and an environment unfit for human life.

The numbers and treatment

Seventy percent of hoarders are single, widowed or divorced females; 40 percent of people who hoard objects also hoard animals, according the ADAA.

When hoarding occurs, the first step is removal of the animals from the home. Depending on the severity of the situation, animals are often left are unsocialized and unfit for adoption. This leaves them facing euthanizing from animal control.

In the case of the 552 dogs, the court banned the woman from having animals, according to Kileen. Despite having her pets taken away, the woman was determined to take in more animals and stole a pregnant cat from someone else.

“I think it’s a way of satisfying a need that’s missing in their life,” Windell said. “(Mass amounts of animals provide) a certain amount of comfort.”

Summer at the Detroit Zoo


Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

Sunset Auction (1)

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Zoo

Summer means warm weather and outdoor nights under the stars. Starting in June, the Detroit Zoo kicks off events for young people, in addition to family-friendly happenings.

Events include wine tasting, charity nights and family music events to reconnect people with the zoo.

“After 5 Detroit is a proud partner in the lineup of summer events targeted at the area’s young professionals,” said Kerry Doman, founder and CEO of After 5 Detroit. “We are excited about the opportunity to help attendees fall in love with the zoo again by engaging them in these fun and unique events.”

Sunset at the zoo

Starting off the summer, on June 14, the annual Sunset at the Zoo fundraiser provides “a strolling supper, zoo-themed martinis, live entertainment, dancing and live and silent auctions, according to Janeway.

This event is 21 and over, with tickets from $150 to $600.

The Zoo will close at 2 p.m. to get ready for the event.

“The Detroit Zoo is an incredible resource for our community and these events allow them to engage a younger demographic that is looking to enjoy a different side of the Zoo,” Doman said. “Before the Zoo started these summer events for young professionals, I personally had not been to the zoo since I was a kid.  That’s typical of the audience they are targeting with these events and any time a business or organization can attract a new visitor or patron, it is beneficial for all.”

 Wild Summer Nights

Wednesday nights throughout July and August, the zoo will host the free Wild Summer Nights concert series.

The shows, which feature live music, will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jazz, pop, folk and blues are among performers’ genres.

While food and beverages will be available for purchase, people can bring a blanket and picnic to the celebration.

Summer Zoomance

Summer Zoomance is one of the newest events on the Detroit Zoo’s summer schedule.

This 21-and-over event will be hosted July 11 and August 22 from 6 to 9 p.m., and features adult beverages and foods for purchase.

Tickets are $12, with $5 parking.

“The goal with the 21 and over events is to attract an audience of people who might not come to the zoo,” Janeway said. “These events provide an opportunity for date nights for younger couples, and nights out for groups.”

Wild Beasts, Wild Wine

Guests can sample wines near the animals, at the Wild Beasts, Wild Wine event July 26.

From 6 to 10:30 p.m., wines from local and national wineries and vinards will be available, in addition to access to “habitats after dark, animal enrichment experiences and zookeeper talks,” according to Janeway.

Ticket packages for zoo admission, parking and 10 winte-tasting tickets can be purchased in advance for $35, or for $40 after July 19.

The event sold out last year and has a capped attendance, according to Janeway.

“The Detroit Zoo has done a great job in creating unique events that will cater to young professionals,” Doman said. “The various events offer a little something for everyone.  The Zoo Brew will sell out to beer enthusiasts and fun-lovers. Zoomance is great whether you want to mix, mingle and meet new people, or just go on a unique date. And whether you like reds, whites, cabernets or zinfandels, Wild Beasts, Wild Wine should have something for everyone to sip, savor and enjoy.”

For more information about the Detroit Zoo, or to order tickets to events, visit