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Ferndale, Grosse Pointe Park

February 5, 2014

Scheduling snag leads to unexpected encounters in comedy ‘Breaking Convention’

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

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Scheduling snag leads to unexpected encounters in comedy ‘Breaking Convention’
The cast of “Breaking Convention” at Go Comedy! includes, from left, Billy Crawford, Jennifer Bloomer, Erik Heilner, Michelle Giorlando, Chris Petersen and Scott Myers.

FERNDALE/GROSSE POINTE PARK — When you go to a convention, you expect to meet people with similar interests or professional backgrounds. After all, conventions are usually organized around a particular theme or business.

So imagine the surprise of convention-goers when ladies from the Red Hat Society encounter hunters, science fiction and comic book fans, “Little House on the Prairie” re-enactors and more at the Richard Myron Convention Center. In the decidedly wacky “Breaking Convention,” playing at Go Comedy! in Ferndale until March 7, a convention center scheduling mistake of catastrophic proportions has resulted in the center hosting a year’s worth of conventions during the same week. Chaos and close encounters of the oddest kind ensue in a series of sketches written by the local cast of this comedy.

Directed by Pete Jacokes of Ferndale, “Breaking Convention” features Billy Crawford, of Grosse Pointe Park; Jennifer Bloomer, of Hamtramck; Erik Heilner, of Howell; and Ferndale residents Michelle Giorlando, Scott Myers and Chris Petersen, all of whom play multiple characters.

“It’s fairly fast-paced,” Jacokes said. “We use the whole theater.”

And indeed, characters sometimes enter and exit through the audience, or appear — if only vocally — from backstage or the lighting booth.

Crawford used to live closer to most of his castmates in Royal Oak, but the Grosse Pointe Park native and his wife, Aubrey, who grew up in Grosse Pointe Farms, recently moved back to their hometown, getting a place in the Park. They’re the parents of Lauren, 5, and William, who turns 3 in March.

Crawford said his wife and kids are often early audience members for characters or sketches, calling his wife “very understanding” for enabling him to pursue his love of improv and comedy. And as for his kids?

“They definitely know that dad makes a lot of jokes,” Crawford said. “I’m not sure how much they understand at this point.”

Crawford, 33, got his start in improvisation while in high school. From 1997-99, he was a member of Second Suburb — Grosse Pointe South High School’s version of Detroit’s Second City company. Second Suburb and Second City Detroit have both since disbanded.

Crawford continued to hone his comedy chops through the Telecasters at Michigan State University, and then studied at Detroit’s Second City training program. His other Go Comedy! credits include the scripted comedy “North by North Pole” last year.

“He is one of my favorite people to work with,” Jacokes said of Crawford. “He always comes to rehearsals smiling. It’s usually a sign something is going to work if he falls out of his chair laughing. He very clearly enjoys doing this, and he is very fun to see onstage.”

With its references to current events and pop culture, along with covering an array of topics, Jacokes said this show is “a lot of fun” for audiences and performers alike.

Although “Breaking Convention” is a scripted show, Jacokes said the scenes were mostly borne out of improvisation. Slight costume changes — and much bigger changes in persona and body language — are how the actors convey a wide range of characters.

“Improv is all about working with what is around you and suggestions from the audience,” Crawford said. “I love it, because you can practice tools and rehearse how to react to what’s given to you, but you never know what’s going to be thrown at you. It’s incredibly exciting and fulfilling.”

The 1999 Grosse Pointe South High School graduate works as an account executive for Google. Being in the business world has provided fodder for some of the bits he’s come up with, including a sketch in “Breaking Convention” in which Crawford plays a keynote speaker who’s less than inspiring.

“A lot of the ideas I get (for sketches) come from the office environment, come from interactions in the business world,” he said. “I think that’s typically why they’re so relatable.”

“Breaking Convention” is being staged at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through March 7 at Go Comedy!, located at 261 East Nine Mile Road in Ferndale. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call (248) 327-0575 or visit www.gocomedy.net.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.