News Release

The Culture of Fear is Exposed in the Terrifying Comedy "The Empire Builders"

In a world of attack ads and political rhetoric, the dark side of humanity can be overwhelming and the ugly anxiety-filled pressures of the world can start to consume us. Boris Vian’s 1959 play The Empire Builders explores this restless world where the culture of fear can sometimes be too much. The UDM Theatre Company invites you to experience the terrifying comedy The Empire Builders at the Marygrove Theatre (8425 W McNichols Rd, Detroit, MI 48221) running November 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. and November 11 and 18 at 2 p.m.

Boris Vian invites us to observe a world where the DuPont family allows fear of the unknown to overtake their human experience. With a combination of pure anxiety, tense humor and unbridled aggression, Leon DuPont fears for his family’s life as he forces them to flee from an unseen threat. In a progression of mounting terror and the blackest of comedy, the family releases their frustration in a frighteningly hysterical fashion. The production is directed by Theater Company Alumni Kate Peckham and features Actor’s Equity Association members John Manfredi and David L. Regal.

Born in 1920, Boris Vian was one of France’s most gifted poets, playwrights, critics and musicians before passing at age 39 while watching the film version of his first novel, I Spit on Your Graves. Vian has been scrutinized and praised for his artistic work and his presiding spirit amid of France’s intellectual cafe society. After his death, Vian’s acclaimed 1946 novel Foam of the Days became one of the most popular books in all of twentieth-centruy French Literature, selling over a million copies.

The Empire Builders features Actor’s Equity Association members John M. Manfredi (Waterford, MI) as Father and David L. Regal (Hamtramck, MI) as the Neighbor. Other associate guests artists including Melissa Beckwith (Ferndale, MI) as Mother and Johnice Littlejohn (Detroit, MI) as Mug. Theatre Company students featured are Chris Jakob (Detroit, MI) as the Schmurz and Michelle Katulla (Troy, MI) as Zenobia. Directed by Theatre Company Alumni Kate Peckham (Ferndale, MI), the production team is rounded out by Stage Manger Mathew Lira (Toledo, OH), Scenic and Costume Designer and Production Manager Melinda Pacha (Royal Oak, MI), Technical Director Rudy Schupebach (Detroit, MI) and Director of Marketing and ManagementGreg Grobis (Detroit, MI).

Kate Peckham is a proud 1994 University of Detroit-Mercy B.F.A graduate and is thrilled to be directing at her alma mater. Directing credits include “Death and the Maiden” at the Matrix (starring fellow UDM grad, Karen Kron), “Time Stands Still” at the Performance Network, “Beyond Therapy” at the Detroit Ensemble Theatre, and “Crimes of the Heart” at Tipping Point (winner of best comedy from the Rogue Critic). She is also an acting teacher and private coach at the Michigan Actors Studio in Ferndale, MI. Kate has been nominated for Best Actress by the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News for numerous shows and has won Best Supporting Actress from the Detroit Free Press for “Steel Magnolias” at the Meadowbrook Theatre and won Best Supporting Actress from the San Antonio Globe Awards for “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at the Attic Rep.

John M. Manfredi (Father) has enjoyed a 30 year career in the professional theatre as an actor, director, choreographer, writer and producer. Additionally he has served as an executive administrator, stage manager and currently owns his own production company working with professional and university theatre’s across the state. Awards include Best Actor from Between the Lines Newspapers for his work in ‘Oedipus’ at Williamston Theatre. He has also been cited by other publications and associations as Best Director (‘The Immigrant’, ‘Driving Miss Daisy’, ‘Syncopation’) and Best Musical Performer (‘The Rocky Horror Show’). John is currently adjunct Professor and Director at Oakland University where he received recognition for his work on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ from the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and the American College Theatre Festival. As a fortunate recipient of work from the recently murdered Michigan Film Incentive’s John can be seen in the recent feature films, ‘Real Steel’,’ Ides of March’ and ‘Game of Death’ and the upcoming ‘Great and Powerful Oz’.

The Theatre Company at University of Detroit Mercy continues its mission of providing the Metro Detroit community with thoughtful, high-quality and professional productions. The Theatre Company offers students of the Performing Arts Department the rare opportunity to work on and off stage with theatre professionals. By working with professional directors and associate guest artists, students are encouraged to work at a high level, producing rapid growth throughout their undergraduate education. For more information on becoming a student or an associate guest artist, please contact Greg Grobis at 313-993-3273.

Individual ticket sales are now on sale. Admission to the 2012-2013 season will be $20 for adults and $17 for Seniors, Donors, Alumni, Detroit Residents and UDM and Marygrove Faculty and Staff. Student individual tickets are $10. Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more by contact Lisa Rybak at 313-993-3270.

The Theatre Company events with The Empire Builders:

November 9 @ 8 p.m. Free for Students

November 10 @ 8 p.m. Alumni Afterglow: Held immediately following the performance in the Marygrove Art Gallery. Food and drinks are provided through our generous sponsors. Connect with UDM Alumni Donors and Theatregoers. Everyone is welcome!

November 11 @ 2 p.m. Talkback: A talkback is a post-show discussion where the audience meets with members of the artistic staff and cast. This is a chance to ask any questions about the show or artistic process and gain more insight into the author’s work. Everyone is welcome!

November 16 @ 8 p.m. Pay-What-You-Can

November 17 @ 8 p.m. Livernois Corridor Community Night: Created to bring together neighbors in the Livernois Corridor. Following the performance the audience is invited to mingle at the 1917 American Bistro on Livernois Ave. Jazz music, hors d’oeuvres and discount drink specials will provide a great after party! Everyone is welcome!

The UDM Theatre Company’s box office on non-performance days is located in Reno Hall room 43 on the University of Detroit Mercy campus (4001 W McNichols Rd, 48221). Hours of operation are noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. On performance days the box office will open 45 minutes prior to curtain at the Marygrove Theatre (8425 W. McNichols Rd, 48221). To subscribe, or for more information, call the theatre box office at (313) 993-3270, or reserve tickets online at

Release date: November 05, 2012

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The University of Detroit Mercy is Michigan's largest private Catholic University, with more than 100 academic majors and programs. Sponsored by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and the Sisters of Mercy, the University has campuses located in downtown and northwest Detroit.

UDM is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities and the largest of 17 Mercy institutions of higher education in the United States. For the 14th consecutive year, University of Detroit Mercy is listed in the top tier of Midwest regional universities in the 2015 edition of the U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges" rankings.