Talking Headstones is an outdoor stage production of fictional vignettes portraying historical Grosse Pointe people, from the French settlers of the 1700s to the 20th century. Audience members who live in the area will recognize many of the characters’ names from the streets and institutions named after them. Other characters are based on the personal family history of a writer. Talking Headstones is a collaboration of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society and Grosse Pointe Theatre.
Performances of Talking Headstones will be October 11, 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 PM in historic St. Paul Cemetery on Moross Road at Country Club Lane in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Regular tickets are $15. Discounted tickets for members of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society and Grosse Pointe Theatre are $10. Call Grosse Pointe Theatre at (313) 881-4004 for tickets and to inquire about membership.
Free parking will be available across the street from the cemetery, behind Grosse Pointe United Methodist Church. Attendees are asked to bring their own chairs and to wear appropriate clothing for the weather. Flash lights are also recommended for exiting the grounds, since there is no electric lighting in the cemetery. Performances have sold out in previous years, so it is advisable to purchase tickets in advance.
Since 2008, Talking Headstones has been performed at Grosse Pointe Farms’ historic St. Paul Cemetery. The show is comprised of original scripts written by area playwrights. The ever evolving presentation is an enriching program, bringing together historians, writers, actors and the technical crew that have produced this show in an unusual venue.
St. Paul Cemetery is situated in a residential neighborhood on Moross Road at Country Club Lane in Grosse Pointe Farms. Talking Headstones has traditionally been shown at dusk. Since there is no electricity available in the cemetery, GPT member Sal DeMercurio of St. Clair Shores designed the staging and built a system of torches to light the show.
Talking Headstones begins with the narrative piece, Roadhouse, in which Edmund Vernier introduces the various characters and stories throughout the production. It was written by Peter DiSante (St. Clair Shores) who also wrote two other pieces: New Church about Pauline Vernier Van Antwerp and her daughter, Catherine Van Antwerp Kirby, and The Interview about Father John Elsen, pastor of St. Paul’s Church in the 1890s.
Other vignettes include:
Reno/Renaud by Dennis Wickline (St. Clair Shores) about Benjamin Renaud’s encounter with descendant Antoine Reno.
Fall of Detroit about the Moran family during the War of 1812, and Temperance featuring Charles Moran, Jr and Virginia Moran St. Aubin, both written by Dianne Pegg (Grosse Pointe Woods).
Back to Back by Mary Lou Britton (St. Clair Shores) is a vignette about Louis and Theresa Allard.
Letters by award-winning Michigan playwright Kim Carney, about George and Mary Neff.
Remembering by Gwenn Samuel, about Catherine Peltier Beaufait and Louis Beaufait.
Tenant Farm Family by Kathy Conlon (St. Clair Shores) about the playwright’s ancestors, Elodie and Emma, and Mary (Houtteman) Boone.
Talking Headstones is directed by Grosse Pointe Woods resident Harry Burkey. Emmajean Evans, a Grosse Pointe resident, is also directing some of the vignettes as well as stage managing. Grosse Pointe Farms resident Mary Stelmark is producing Talking Headstones and playing the role of Theresa Allard. St. Clair Shores resident Rick Hawley is the technical director. Grosse Pointe Woods resident Dale Pegg is doing lighting and photography. Costumes are being done by St. Clair Shores resident Marie DeLong, Harper Woods resident Ric Selke and Grosse Pointe Woods resident Jane Burkey. Grosse Pointe Farms resident Ruth Ellen Mayhall is doing the makeup and hair. All of the staff are doing double and triple duty on technical assistance for Talking Headstones.
The cast of Talking Headstones includes:
Grosse Pointe resident
Luke Naidow as George Moran;
Grosse Pointe Farms residents:
Sydney Anderson as Elodie Boone,
Catharine Fennessey as Genevieve Vernier,
Jack Fennessey as Louis Beaufait and Victor Vernier,
and Mary Stelmark as Theresa Allard;
Grosse Pointe Park residents:
Perry Calisi as Father Elsen;
John Diebel as Louis Allard;
Ben Holochwost as Joseph Moran and Remi Young,
Phelan Johnson as Phelice Moran,
Elizabeth Schaefer as Catherine Moran and Pauline Van Antwerp,
and Claire Zimmeth as Emma Boone.
Grosse Pointe Woods residents:
Jerry Nehr as Edmund Vernier,
and Patricia Stewart as Catherine Beaufait
St. Clair Shores residents:
Kelly Kucharski as Virginia Moran and Catherine Kirby,
Anna Wendt as Mary Neff,
and Diane Wendt as Mary Boone;
Clinton Township resident
Sal Rubino asAntoine Reno and Charles Moran;
Clif Levin as Benjamin Renaud; and
Kevin Fitzhenry as George Neff.