The cast of Ed Nahhat’s new comedy, “Hope Canyon,’’ includes actors from the Actors Equity Association. A limited number of tickets for the free virtual performance Feb. 27 can be claimed at shakespeare royaloak.com.

The cast of Ed Nahhat’s new comedy, “Hope Canyon,’’ includes actors from the Actors Equity Association. A limited number of tickets for the free virtual performance Feb. 27 can be claimed at shakespeare royaloak.com.

Photo provided by Scott Myers


Ed Nahhat to virtually premier original comedy, ‘Hope Canyon’

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 22, 2021

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ROYAL OAK — While live theater has been put on the back burner during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ed Nahhat, longtime attorney, Royal Oak High School drama coach and founder of Shakespeare Royal Oak, used the downtime to finish a comedy he had begun writing a decade ago.

The Feb. 27 virtual premier of Nahhat’s original play, titled “Hope Canyon,” will feature six actors from the area in the form of a table read. Patrons are encouraged to sign up for a limited number of free tickets for the unprecedented event.

“Before I started practicing law 20-some years ago, and before I started Shakespeare in (Starr Jaycee Park), I wrote a few plays, and professional acting was always my first love,” Nahhat said. “I always wanted to finish this play.”

Nahhat, of Royal Oak, founded the Water Works Theatre Company, Michigan’s largest professional outdoor Shakespeare festival, in 2001. The group hopes to return to a regular season at Starr Jaycee Park in 2021.

Nahhat said the full two-act play is now in the development stage and referred to the work as a “first draft, not ready for prime time.” However, he said, he hopes viewers will enjoy watching and get some laughs out of it.

“We wanted to have a lot of fun with it,” he said. “With feedback from (the cast) and the participating audience, we can continue refining the work toward a full, staged production.”

The premise of the uplifting play is that artists from a struggling local theater company engage in a last-ditch effort to present their final tragedy, but it turns out so poorly the production turns into a smash comedy. Fans of Mel Brooks’ humor will likely approve.

The reading will feature Sandy Birch, Meredith Deighton, Travis Reiff, John Lepard and Michael Brian Ogden, with stage direction provided by Barton Bund.

The virtual event, which will kick off at 7 p.m. Feb. 27, will be followed by a conversation immediately following the play. Ticket holders will have the ability to watch the virtual event though March 8.

“It’s about turning lemons into lemonade. I had a lot of experiences like that in my time. What is better for 2021 than to have a funny play about something so serious that goes so wrong but have so much fun?” Nahhat said.

Nahhat said one of the characters in “Hope Canyon” is modeled off of a popular local actor, Randall Godwin, who died in 2008.

Lily’s Seafood, a Royal Oak staple and longtime supporter of Shakespeare Royal Oak, partnered with the group to offer viewers a special themed cocktail named “Blazing Saddles” and a discount on their carryout menu Feb. 27.

Jenni Clark, managing director of the Water Works Theater Company who has worked with the organization since 2007, said she is thrilled to be a part of the virtual approach to a brand new play.

“The world is hungry for artistic value, and with the theaters shut down, our core mission is to support local projects, including the artists, designers and actors, and offer our patrons a unique experience,” Clark said. “Those of us who are actors miss our ability to perform, create characters, entertain and share our craft with others.”

Clark said she hopes the virtual experience keeps the theater group relevant and current, especially with the cast of local professional actors. She underscored the irreplaceable experience of enjoying performances of the Bard’s works in the park, with a choice beverage in hand and the auditory backdrop of cicadas at nightfall.

“We need a little bright spot in our valley, in the canyon. We need a little hope,” she said.

For more information or to reserve tickets, visit shakespeareroyaloak.com or call (248) 399-3727.

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