Banned book, soon to be a film, inspires youth to read: see The Giver at the Civic



Imagine a world where everyone is universally polite and civil. All adults are gainfully employed in a position that suits their abilities and interests. The entire society is orderly and serene, and its people are free from pain and suffering.

Dreamy, right?

Or could this dream come at an uncomfortably high emotional price?

This is the world you’ll enter when you see The Giver at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. The production runs from October 18-27, 2013. I attended the Civic’s Inside Dish program on October 1 to learn more about this production.




Try to understand my mindset as I entered the theatre. If you recall, October 1, 2013 was something of a hot mess. The Federal Government shut down. People began exploring health insurance options online as the sign-up for the Affordable Care Act went live. People all around me participated in overwrought shrieking about these two historic circumstances almost all day.

To top it off, ArtPrize was still going down. As I walked from my car to the theatre, I saw hordes of phone-gazing adults stumble on the sidewalks and into the streets, ignoring traffic signals, their children, and other pedestrians.

“Welp, I’m living in the dystopian future I was promised as child,” I thought cheerfully as I broke through one phone-gazing herd only to narrowly avoid colliding with a lone phone-zombie careening through Veteran’s Park.

Given our chaotic social, economic, and political climate — how could you not want to escape into the tranquil and organized world of The Giver?

And how is it that this not a utopian play but a dystopian one? How can a world where everyone gets along so perfectly go so horribly wrong?






A 1994 Newbery Medal winner, The Giver was often assigned reading for many middle school children in the late 1990’s and 2000’s. Both cerebral and emotional, the story pressures you to explore how you feel about balancing individual desires with the needs of the community.

The subject matter is decidedly timely and relevant. What else might you need to know to enhance your experience of this dark play? As it turned out, I learned three key things at The Inside Dish that might make you love this production a little more.

One of the first shocking things I learned is that The Giver is often a banned book in many communities. This blew my already weary mind.

Sarah McCarville, the Branch and Youth Services Coordinator at the Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL), was on the 1994 Newbery Medal Committee. She helped select the book for the prestigious annual award. In her Inside Dish presentation, McCarville told us that The Giver is currently number 23 on the list of frequently banned books.

The Giver was written specifically for young adults. At the Civic, it will star 16 year old Jake Goldberg as 12 year Jonas. Most of the cast are children. There’s absolutely no foul language. No nudity. No violence. No sex. What could possibly make anyone want to ban this story?

A 25 year old Civic volunteer told me her class had read the book when she was in middle school. She went to Calvin Christian. If they didn’t ban it there, I reasoned, why would anyone ban it anywhere?

“They always ban the best books,” I overheard someone at the theatre murmur. I grinned at this bit of truth. Forbidding something can make it even more delicious.

The second fascinating tidbit I learned is that the book actually has sequels. To me, this seemed unlikely. The story ends ambiguously, which is a huge part of its allure. The ending creates an internal “what happened?” dialog. Viewed as a play, I suspect that this internal dialog is likely to spring into a lively discussion among family and friends. Now knowing there are sequels, I’ll want to get my hands on these books before Hollywood makes popular films out of them. The Giver is already slated to become a film starring Jeff Bridges. Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, and Taylor Swift have also signed on as cast members. If you move fast, you can probably get your hands on the sequels at your local library now, before the books become a craze.

This leads me to the third heartwarming fact I learned at Inside Dish: inspiring young people to read is a driving force behind this particular production. The Civic Theatre, Grand Rapids Public Library, and the Student Advancement Foundation are partnering with Pooh’s Corner, American Seating, and Mercantile Bank to collect new copies of The Giver (as well as new copies of Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells-Batman Smells, a Civic Theatre production slated for April 2014.)

“Our goal to is to have 150 new copies of The Giver to distribute to Grand Rapids Public School Middle and High School libraries. Students will be able to read the book, and attend a special viewing of the play,” stated Nancy Brozek, Civic Theatre Director of Community Relations. “We also want to have this book drive generate 1,200 new copies of Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells- Batman Smells, so all Grand Rapids Public School Second Grade students can receive a copy prior to their visit to the stage in April”.





The Bring a Book To Life Book Drive begins October 1, 2013 through March 21, 2014. You can drop off new book donations of The Giver at the Civic Theatre box office, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, American Seating, Pooh’s Corner, and Mercantile Bank. You can also make a direct donation or get more information by visiting:

A provocative banned book, poised to be a popular film, inspiring children to read: those are three factors beyond our current dystopian climate that make me feel even more excited to see The Giver at the Civic this October. You can get your tickets at the box office online or at

Artprize: Can Art Save Cities? — The Juried Grand Prize Panel Discussion


ArtPrize is entering its second weekend (already!) and in just one week, the ArtPrize Awards will be handed out to the winners of the public vote as well as the juried prizes. On Thursday evening in an ArtPrize event being held for the first time ever in five years, the Juried Grand Prize Committee held a panel discussion to discuss their feelings on the question, Can Art Save Cities?




This year’s Grand Juried Prize jurors are:

Anne Pasternak, President and Artistic Director of Creative Time, NYC. Creative Time is a 40-year-old nonprofit organization that commissions artists to create art that pushes the envelope, art that is truly an experiment. As she says, they believe that, “there is no door that an artist shouldn’t kick open.”




Mel Chin, Artist. Chin is a conceptual artist and an activist. His work includes everything from clay pottery to video games. He has reclaimed abandoned houses and helped a neighborhood feel safer.


Manon Slome, Co-founder and Chief Curator, No Longer Empty. No Longer Empty is an organization in NYC that creates very site-specific exhibits in very nontraditional (empty) spaces. From banks to fishing tackle shops, Slome’s organization has created 14 exhibitions since it began in 2009.




Sam Cummings, managing partner at CWD Real Estate, kicked off the evening with a few comments about his perspectives on ArtPrize and public art. Cummings talked of his firm’s work on the restoration of more than 30 buildings in Grand Rapids and the huge sense of pride he feels about our city during ArtPrize. He said the art competition, “challenges the perception that art is exclusive to a few select cities.”

ArtPrize Exhibitions Director Kevin Buist then introduced the jurors who each had seven minutes to talk about what they do, their organizations, and their art. They shared their personal experiences with public art and the impact it has had on their lives and their careers. After their brief presentations, all three sat down with Buist to discuss the question of the evening: can art save cities?



Chin’s response to the question was, “obviously no” but he then suggested that “maybe art can be saved by the city.” He did say that maybe ArtPrize would change the city, eventually, and he believes that cities should nurture creativity. Chin has enjoyed his time at ArtPrize so far, saying it really inspired him and as he appreciated the opportunities it brought to artists and the community.

Slome posed the question—is the art really engaging with the city? —and she said that while ArtPrize is a great contributor to the economy, whether or not art is saving the city depends on what the art is doing. Pasternak noted the class and racial divide with art that exists in cities and said that it was true of art everywhere. She said it was important that we look at who we are engaging, but more importantly—who are not engaging. (Interesting statistic from Pasternak—97.8 percent of curators identify themselves as Caucasian)

As they talked about their personal strategies for encouraging art in public places, the impact art can have on a community, and their experiences here in Grand Rapids, the three jurors had a great synergy. It was easy to see why these three were selected as this year’s jurors. Be sure and get your ticket to the ArtPrize Awards event that takes place next Friday, October 4 so you can see who they select for the $100,000 Grand Jury Award!





The Chef Mark Noseda Scholarship Fund Charity Brunch & Auction



Chef Mark Noseda II passed away unexpectedly on the evening of August 16th. He was the Executive Chef for Twisted Rooster, Crooked Goose and the new Freighters in Port Huron, MI.

As a close friend to Heather Halligan, Mark’s girlfriend of many years, I reached out to see what I could do to help. Her wish was to see a culinary scholarship set up in Mark’s name. I took the idea and ran with it.

All the pieces quickly came together. I started by contacting Rod GlupkerFlavor616 Magazine, to solicit his help in setting up a scholarship fund at GRCC’s Secchia Culinary Institute. Then I spoke with Jenna Arcidiacono, chef and owner at Amore Trattoria Italiana. The event started to come together as we used ideas of reaching out to other well known chefs like, Ice Guru Randy Finch, Tommy Fitzgerald and Sawako Cline. The concept was to create a fundraising brunch at Amore Trattoria Italiana — all done in jusa little over a month after Chef Mark’s passing.

Donations were solicited from all over West Michigan to help supply the brunch with food and to have auction items to help in the fundraising effort. We had over 50 auction items/packages to offer, some very unique items, like a 2 hour ice carving class with Randy Finch or a chef’s pasta battle with Chefs Jenna Arcidiacono and Tommy Fitzgerald.






The brunch and silent auction was held on Sunday, September 22nd from 12 – 3pm. Over 200 guests and volunteers from all over West Michigan were in attendance including Chef Mark’s family, who came from the east side of the state.

Culinary help came in from all over West Michigan. Besides the aforementioned chefs, Chef O Hale, Chef Len Towne from New Holland Brewing Co., Chef Steve Brechting, Chef Chad Allen Idema from the Speak EZ lounge, plus volunteers from Amore, the Secchia Culinary Institute, and Kitchen Sage.

$12,800 was raised between ticket and auction sales. All time and food was donated and every dime went in the ‘Chef Mark Noseda Culinary Scholarship Fund‘ at Grand Rapids Community College.




Further donations can be made online at:

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Further annual fundraising will take place to fund the scholarship so it can be endowed and continue to help aspiring young culinarians attending the institute for generations to come.

Artprize: Juried Awards Shortlist Event



ArtPrize V started less than a week ago and already there have been almost 200,000 votes cast by the public. Amongst the thousands of visitors to downtown Grand Rapids there have been five art experts who are this year’s jurors for the Juried Awards. Last night those five jurors came together in front of a live studio audience for The Short List, which aired on WOOD TV Monday evening from the ArtPrize HUB in downtown Grand Rapids.

The five jurors came from throughout the United States, each judging a different category and awarding one of their top 5 an award of $20,000 on October 4 at the ArtPrize Awards Celebration.




John Yau, editor of Hyperallergic Weekend, has been looking at the 2-D works, or as he put it, the art that is “flat and on a wall.” To him, the pieces that stand out are those that are, “unfamiliar in an interesting way.” His five selections were (venues in parentheses):

Tropical Migrants, by Alexis Rockman (Grand Rapids Art Museum)

Europa & the Flying Fish, Kyle Staver (Grand Rapids Brewing Company)

Three and Four: Red, Yellow, and Black, Peter Crow (Cathedral Square)

Series 28 Untitled #1, Mary Rousseaux (DeVos Place)

Rick Beerhorst Painting, Rick Beerhorst (DeVos Place)



The 3-D pieces are being judged by Hesse McGraw from the San Francisco Art Institute. McGraw commented on how incredible ArtPrize is as he was, “walking through the city with thousands who are invested in art.” He stated that he wants to have his “brain broken a little bit” when he is looking at the pieces of art. His top five in the 3-D category are:

Watching, Daniel Arsham (Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park)

Ecosystem, Carlos Bunga (Site:Lab @ 54 Jefferson)

Through the Skies for You, Kevin Cooley/Phillip Andrew Lewis (Kendall College of Art and Design)

The world’s an untranslatable language II (for Charles Wright), Charles Matson Lumes (Kendall College of Art and Design)

The Unfounded Future of the Untitled, Julie Schenkelberg (Site:Lab @ 54 Jefferson)




Rashida Bumbray from New York City has been looking at the entries for the Time and Performance Based category and she also commented how impressed she was by ArtPrize and how it was “really inspiring to see people of all ages, all walks of life engaging with art.” She described her top five pieces:

Angle of Repose, Dance in the Annex (Site:Lab @ 54 Jefferson)

Sonnet 27, Arthur Liou (Site:Lab @ 54 Jefferson)

The Last Post, Shahzia Sikander (Grand Rapids Art Museum)

Whispers of the Prairie, Deanna Morse (Grand Rapids Art Museum)

Facing Al Aqaba, Maurice Jacobsen (Ab-Nab-Awen Park)


Executive Director and Curator at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC, Eva Franch Gilabert, had the task of judging the Best Use of Urban Space category. She said she looks for pieces that “will transform the way we view cities.” Her top five included:

Egg Prize, David Kail (Van Andel Arena)

Facing Al Aqaba, Maurice Jacobsen (Ab-Nab-Awen Park)

united.states: an everyday people project, JD Urban (Calder Plaza)

Temporary’s Pursuit of Permanence, Hanson and Feinburg (Gillett Bridge)

I want to be different… (Ladder), Henry Brimmer (First Community Bank)


The final category for the Juried ArtPrize is Most Outstanding Venue. Alice Gray Stites, chief curator of 21c museum has been looking over all of the venues and selected her top five:

Kendall College of Art and Design

Grand Rapids Art Museum

Site:Lab @ 54 Jefferson

Craft House

Auto Fixit Body Shop




The jurors wrapped up the evening by discussing their process and how they all worked together throughout the last week. As they talked they discovered pieces and venues they had not visited and found that they all experienced the city in their own way. That is one of the great things about ArtPrize. Whether you travel from far away or even if you live here, during these 19 days we all experience Grand Rapids “in our own way.”

Happy ArtPrizing everyone!

You can download a map of all the pieces selected on Monday evening by going to







Cheeky Strut Special Events


BY: The Sparkly Stellafly

If you’ve ever visited the magical land of Cheeky Strut in downtown Grand Rapids, you know they are the place to visit when you want your hair and makeup done to perfection, a relaxing spa service, or the latest and greatest in hair care products.

But now Cheeky Strut is adding more fun to their menu of services—special events. Next time you’re planning anything from a bachelorette party to a bridal shower to a birthday party for anyone from 3 to 93, think of the amazing fun you could have at Cheeky Strut.

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Each party is completely customized to meet the needs of the client, said Lisa Richards, Cheeky Strut makeup artist and event planner extraordinaire. The salon recently hosted a bridal shower for owner Kaite Lyn Christoffersen’s sister, and not too long ago they had an American Girl Doll themed birthday party for one of their younger clients. Parties include creating a hairpiece and then using them to style the guests’ hair, or just a casual night with wine and hors d’oeuvres. Guests can bring in their own food or the Cheeky Strut staff will take care of that for you.

If you are interested in having your special event at Cheeky Strut, give Lisa Richards a call at the salon, 616-272-3123. She and the Cheeky Strut staff will help make your party one you and your guests will always remember!

LIKE Cheeky Strut on Facebook:

Cheeky Strut is a high energy, cutting edge salon located in trendy downtown Grand Rapids. Renowned as one of GR’s best, Cheeky Strut has been featured in and on many local and regional publications and television programs. Their highly trained stylists offer a personalized and genuinely caring experience with a focus on creating your very own Cheeky Strut. We provide an unconditional commitment to authentic beauty and legendary customer service.

A.K. Rikk’s Opens new Women’s Luxury Section



Last weekend we learned about a bit of new fabulousness at A.K. RIKK’S!

One of our favorite stores threw a special cocktail party for the opening of their Women’s Luxury section on the second floor.

They’ve recently remodeled and created a special place for evening wear, formal dresses, and luxury featuring designers Donna Karan, Jason Wu, and many others.

A.K.Rikk’s is a contemporary fashion boutique that specializes in every aspect of a man and woman’s wardrobe and lifestyle. From a board meeting to a night out with friends to a week in the tropics; our goal is to have you looking your best in every situation.

Stop by. Support Local and pick up something fabulous for fall.















Iron House: strength and hope for men in recovery




Four guys sit around Charlie Morse’s kitchen table talking about daily life stuff  — Charlie’s new job, the church down the street they might check out on Sunday.

Lynn Slyter, Jr. tells how he just learned his sister lives a stone’s throw from his new apartment.

That’s when it becomes clear there’s a different kind of story behind these four guys and their new digs.

Wouldn’t a guy know where his own sister lives?

“I’m just getting around to talking to my family again,” Slyter says.

“Is it good?” asks his friend, Brian Elve.

“Real good,” Slyter replies with a smile. “They’re really proud of me.”

These men live in Iron House, new transitional housing in Kentwood run by Guiding Light Mission. They lived at the downtown Grand Rapids mission for months, going through a substance abuse program designed to get them back on their feet, sober and in society.

But adjusting to life on your own again, clean and working and paying rent, is tough. A six-month stay here, in four apartments housing eight men, is designed to boost their chances of success.

Elve, 46, is a vocational coach at Guiding Light, paid to help the men there find work.

But, like them, he’s a recovering alcoholic. He’s been to a sort of hell and back more than once. Now he lives at Iron House as a mentor and facilitator.

And as a guy hoping to stay sober.




Elve knows as well as anybody how hard it is not to relapse. He takes a sip of his coffee, and tells how a privileged East Grand Rapids kid ended up living at Guiding Light Mission.

After graduation he headed to Montana State University on a basketball scholarship. He pondered a career in law enforcement.

“I didn’t drink that much in college, because of athletics, but when I did, I drank to excess,” he says.

The drinking increased when Elve was in his 20s, working a sales job in Cincinnati. He was in hotels a lot, alone. Vodka was good company.

“Soon, my sales calls ended at 3 instead of 5,” he says.

He moved back to Grand Rapids and coached basketball at Calvin College while he took education classes at Grand Valley State University, planning to be a teacher.

He landed a job teaching high school history and government. His drinking got worse, but he still functioned, he says.

“I could still present myself well,” he says. “I wasn’t a rambunctious drunk. I wasn’t a fighter. I told people, ‘If you don’t see me for a while, don’t worry.’”

But there was reason to worry. If you didn’t see Elve for a while, chances are he was holed up in a hotel room, drinking a gallon of vodka a day.

“I’d have stints of sobriety, and things would go well for a while,” he says. He coached basketball at East Grand Rapids High School. But sometimes, he didn’t show up.

There were hospital visits. Detox trips to Pine Rest. Elve lost his teaching job. He lost his house.

“All my options were gone,” he says. “None of my family wanted to see me. That was tough. My Mom and I had been pretty close. I was a kid who had the good life in East Grand Rapids. Now, I’m a disappointment.”

He went to Guiding Light Mission, hoping for help. He was still drunk when they did his intake assessment.

“I used to drive by there and think it was for bums, for losers,” he says. “For people who didn’t want to work. There was some of that going on. But I also met guys who worked at GM. An architect. A guy with a master’s degree in business.

“These people weren’t stupid,” he says. “They weren’t working the system. This is just what happens when you make bad choices. The degree of difference between all of us there was very, very minimal.”

He went through Guiding Light’s three-month program, but not too long after he left, he was drinking again.

When he showed up at the mission door a second time, “They said they didn’t know if they could help me,” he recalls. “My life was a wreck.”


Guiding Light did help Elve. The program had changed dramatically since the first time he was there.

Stuart Ray is the executive director now. When he took over four years ago, “it was the last place you’d send anybody,” Ray says. The board had decided to close the place, he says.

“Most programs last 28 days,” he says. “They’re mostly about detox — drying people out. But it takes a year for your brain to normalize. And five years before you have a real shot at abstinence.

“I look for ways to keep them here,” Ray says, “so we can get some real work done.”

Now the average man’s stay is 242 days. And the work happens through two different programs.

The Back to Work Program provides a short term stay for men who are employed or seeking full-time employment, allowing them time to save money while they look for permanent housing.

They use the computer lab for online job searching, e-mail, and resume preparation. They work with Elve, the job coach, to find employment.

The New Life in Christ program helps men suffering from chronic homelessness, substance abuse and other life challenges. They get counseling, work therapy, bible study and mentorship.



And now, with the opening of Iron House Sober Living, men who qualify can get an extra boost of support while they transition back to society. They pay $350 a month for rent, and get $900 of it refunded after six months of sober and successful living.

Elve, who wrote the rules for the house, will be like a “big brother” for the guys there, Ray says.

Brian has relapsed enough, tumbled down the stairs often enough, that he knows what will work,” Ray says. “He’s a very hopeful person and men tend to gravitate toward him because of his hopefulness. He brings a sense of genuineness. I hope he finds himself again.”

Elve says he’s on his way.

“I’m not the man I was,” Elve says. “This will be a testing ground for me, too. In order to stay sober and healthy, I have to start giving back. People in AA say the magic starts to happen when you help other addicts, other alcoholics.

“This will be very real,” he says. “It’s my job to remind these guys, when they complain they don’t have cable, to remember where we all were a year ago.

“Gratitude is huge.”

Elve is quiet for a minute. Then he tells how he spent Labor Day weekend with his family at his parent’s place north of Grand Rapids. When the other adults had to leave early, his young nieces and nephews wanted to stay.

He could stay there with them, Elve offered, and drive the kids home later.

“A year ago, my sisters wouldn’t have even answered my phone calls,” he says. “But they didn’t hesitate. They said, ‘Sure.’”

Elve chokes up as he tells this, and he wipes away a couple tears.

“Hope,” he finally says. “If these guys can get a little taste of that…”

Elve takes a deep breath and tells of his hope for a small, positive community in his new apartment building in Kentwood.

“I want to be the neighbors who smile.”

Join Guiding Light this year for their Annual Banquet featuring Michael Seaton, author of Becoming a Good Samaritan, for a revealing look into the heart of the Good Samaritan Message. This multi-media program will include interviews with well-known Christian Authors, including: Mike Huckabee, Desmond Tutu, Chuck Colson, John Ortberg, Joni Eareckson Tada and many others. This will truly be a night you won’t want to miss. For more information:

Take the time to find your ‘why’: Paul Doyle



Paul Doyle served on the Kentwood Public Schools Board of Education for eight years. He often talks to students in career and goal setting sessions.

Students might talk to Doyle about what they want to be. A basketball player. A nurse. A teacher.

Doyle, an organizational performance consultant and educator in the healthcare sector, would agree that positions like these are meaningful or valuable.

“But I would switch the discussion back to ‘All right, outside of all of that — what is it that you want your life to be able to provide for you? Let’s talk about that. What would it take to get to that kind of position in life? What would you like to experience? That’s more important than saying what you want to do.”

For Doyle, finding and nurturing your own personal “why” in almost any situation is key. Finding the ‘why’ continues to drive Doyle as he works as a consultant, educator, and community leader.

“What is your why? What is it all about? How are you going to get there? How are you going to do it?”

“If your ‘why’ isn’t strong enough, I’ll tell you, coming from Brooklyn to Michigan: if the why wasn’t strong enough…why bother?”


Doyle grew up in a Brooklyn, New York housing project. The youngest of five from a single parent household, he was the first to graduate from high school. After high school, he left Brooklyn to attend Ferris State University, and became the first in his family to graduate from college.

“I didn’t know exactly where I would end up, but there was something that kept telling me what I would need when I got there,” said Doyle. “And what I mean by that is that I knew I would need the ability to communicate and interact with a multitude of diverse people, whether that was small towns or big cities. I would need to be able to build intentional relationships. I basically dove into communication, speech, sociology, and psychology — just to learn more about behavior, more about what drives people and why we do what we do, not knowing that eventually I would be working specifically in health care, which is pretty much all about people.”

After graduating from Ferris, Doyle actually wanted to pursue his passion for learning and human behavior through teaching and coaching. However, he went back to New York and used his finance minor to land a job in a hospital finance department. After five years in patient accounts, Doyle moved back to Michigan and continued working in the healthcare arena.

Today, Paul heads Paul T. Doyle & Associates, LLC, which supports the organizational performance of healthcare systems through leadership development, community engagement, and strategic planning; as well as diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence. He teaches as an adjunct at the MSU College of Human Medicine in downtown Grand Rapids, focusing on culture and medicine. His work often involves addressing health disparities.



“I think there is a variance in our world. We have a lot of disparities and gaps,” said Doyle. “Certain people have privilege that others don’t.”

Doyle stresses that uncovering the motivating ‘why’ of a patient or client is essential.

“…it’s not what you know, it’s how you find out what you need to know or want to know about something that’s more important.”

“When I work with physicians, the first line that I teach them is ‘what is it that I need to know about you that’s going to help me provide the quality care that you deserve?’ That’s totally different than ‘I heard that all you people do it this way. Or I read about it in a book. Is that true?'”

“In other words, if I was going to ask you about things I want to know about you, I’m not going to inquire or try to obtain that in a way that devalues you or discounts you. I’m going to actually engage in a way that empowers you and gives you value. That edifies and complements you.”

“Every patient or person that has a health issue, what they’re often thinking about more than anything else is, ‘How can I get back or how can I keep my quality of life? Will I still be able to golf? Will I be able to certain things with my family? Is my family going to be OK?'”

“That’s their why. ‘Why I came to see you today at this appointment is because I want to golf next week. I want to get back to what I want to do.’ But you need to take more time in understanding their why.”

Doyle also serves on a variety of community boards, including the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, Hospice of Michigan, the March of Dimes, and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. What’s his ‘why’ behind giving back to the community?

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As a youth in Brooklyn, Doyle participated in after school programs at community centers that were mainly supported by foundations. He participated in youth development, leadership, and music programs.

“I had support systems around my community that enabled me to be able to get on that track of getting out and going and launching my journey,” said Doyle. “I believe in the power of giving. I believe in the impact of being able to support working models that actually can produce measurable outcomes. And I believe foundations, especially community foundations, that’s key to their framework. That’s what they do.”

Without the youth programs at the Brooklyn community centers, Doyle doubts he would be where he is today. He credits these programs — and the unselfish people in his community — with helping to expand his world view and igniting his potential. They were but one key factor that helped him form a strong enough ‘why’.

“I knew why,” said Doyle. “I didn’t know how or what. I wanted to get to a place in life where I would have the ability to live a real quality life. And that’s important.”

The Inside Dish — Sherlock Holmes at the Grand Rapids Civic Theater


Man, I enjoy good live theatre. And I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan.

So when I learned that the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre was sponsoring a one-hour after work Inside Dish to promote its upcoming performance of Sherlock Holmes from Sept. 6-21: I didn’t hesitate. I signed up to attend, pronto.

It fit my schedule. I was working downtown that day, so it would be easy for me to pop by, grab free off-street parking after 5, and hit the event at 5:30.

Lucky me, I backed into the sole on-street parking spot on S. Park Street at exactly 5:02. I could kill 15 minutes or so answering emails from the nearby Grand Rapids Public Library‘s free wifi before getting to the Inside Dish event 5 or 10 minutes early.

At 5:20, I walked a few hundred steps from the library to the theatre. Ruefully, I saw through the windows that a cocktail party with twenty or so people was already in full swing.

I’m not from Grand Rapids: I’m from Chicago. And I travel on business quite a bit. Even though I’ve lived here over 20 years, I perpetually feel out of the Grand Rapids cultural “everybody knows that” loop.

Make a mental note: in Grand Rapids, a 5:30 theatre event means 5:00. At 5:20, you’re late.

Got it.




A sign outside the theatre requested that I enter through the East Tower. Since I was on the north side of the building, looking in at the cocktail party, I walked east. There was no entry. No door. No nothing.

I went back to the north. I looked in at the happy partiers, puzzled. How did they get in?

I went to the west side of the building, where a sign read “East Tower”.

Again, I’m out of the loop. “East means West” must be a Grand Rapids thing.

I have only been to the Civic for a performance once before. It was a mid 1990’s performance of Inherit the Wind. I would have enjoyed the play immensely had it not been for one thing: the horrible, awful, you’ve-got-be-kidding-me seating.

I’m 6’1″, with a 36″ inseam. My bad 30something self arrived wearing a green suede miniskirt.

Back in the 1990’s, the row of seats in front of me at the Civic were so close that my knees were  nearly parallel with my shoulders when I kept my legs together. And my feet dangled a few inches off the ground. (Yes, really.)

Aside from looking idiotically awkward, it was nearly impossible to hold that crazy position for the duration of an entire play. And legally, I probably could have been arrested for indecent exposure if I sat with my legs spread in that miniskirt.

I activated my abs of steel to maintain the most ungainly position you’ve ever witnessed in public outside of a circus act. With stern resolve, I held this crazy pose for over two hours, with only a small break for intermission.

My weird pose and physical stamina gave my already hot date even raunchier ideas. But I felt sore and in no mood.





Later that night, I went home with only muscle cramps under a set of newly acquired six pack abs. After this sole Civic Theatre experience, I never went back to see another show. The performance was terrific: but here in the heart of ultra-conservative Furniture City, the theatre seating was an S&M fantasy camp nightmare.

But, hey: it’s almost 20 years later and I’m itching to see my beloved Sherlock. I figured in 2013, maybe things have changed. We’ve come a long way in few decades, right?


I learned in our one-hour tour that the theatre underwent a massive renovation in 2006. One of our tour guides, Dr. Nancy Dodge, assured me that the seats improved drastically.



Ever the skeptic, I insisted on checking this out myself. I sat in a middle section and felt thrilled.

My rear end is going to love Sherlock Holmes.

I could actually wear a miniskirt in these spacious, comfortable seats if I wasn’t so old now. Instead, I’ll plan on wearing something more modest. But I’ll still show up for Sherlock on the arm of one of Grand Rapids’ most handsome bachelors.


The rest of our tour was historically entertaining. We wandered through the cavernous basement, winding our way through a labyrinth of old stage props. I kept myself crouched, perpetually concerned about knocking my head on the low ceilings and pipes.

For about an hour, the tour group trooped around the theatre. The basement. The orchestra pit. A dressing room named after the late Julie Harris. And for our finale, we went up four flights to witness a vertigo-inducing view from one of the few remaining (but closed to the public) peanut galleries in the United States.

As our tour guide led us through the theatre, we’d be periodically interrupted by a costumed character in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes play. Watson in the basement. Holmes backstage. Moriarity in the balcony.

You know the scene: good, clean, cornball fun. Mugging for the camera and assorted silly hijinks. Schticky, cutesy, kitschy theatrics mixed in with local and national history.


I left with only one burning question: why is the East Tower on the West Side of the building?

None of the tour guides seemed to know. But I was assured that’s what it has always been called.

Yap. I’ll just add another “everybody knows that” to my giant heap of “that’s the way we do it around here.”

Twenty plus years, and I still don’t get this crazy town.

But I can personally vouch for the Civic’s comfy new seats. And I feel like I’m going to thoroughly enjoy some hot Sherlock Holmes action at the Civic this season.

And who knows? Maybe super-sleuth Sherlock will unlock the mystery of East Tower for us.


The SHERLOCK HOLMES FINAL ADVENTURE runs Sept 6-21, 2013. Tickets are available online:
Season Tickets Packages are completely flexible — You choose the shows and how many tickets for each show! Purchase a Season Ticket Package for our 2013|14 season now and pick your shows when you are ready! Not only will you enjoy considerable savings over our regular individual ticket prices, but there are many other perks available only to those who purchase a Season Ticket Package — priority seating, discounts to other Grand Rapids Arts organizations, savings on classes through the School of Theatre Arts, and more! Learn more about purchasing a Season Ticket Package.
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