Mary started working with BTE in 2014, acting in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – but she worked with Isaac and James on shows with other groups (A2CT). She’s had a great love for theatre since she was thrust onto the stage in a Builder’s Club production of Rumpelstiltskin, where she took over the lead for someone else that had some sixth grade emergency or another. Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan (double major in Organizational Studies and Theatre & Drama), and almost (but not quite) completed a Master of Arts degree at Eastern Michigan University in Theatre Arts. More recently she’s been studying improv comedy, as well as writing, directing and producing with BTE.
Alexa Ducsay started working with The Brass Tacks Ensemble as a stage manager in 2013, beginning with The Seagull...and then stuck around and proceeded to stage manage seven more shows in the following four years. (She was tired.) Alexa became an Associate Artist in 2016, and invented the position of Communications and Company Style Coordinator on a bit of a whim while discussing staffing needs with Executive Director Isaac Ellis over coffee. While the slightly wordy job title is just a placeholder that stuck, mostly it means a lot of proofreading of all promotional material produced by BTE, and extensive discussions (mainly in the margins of Google docs) on word choice and phrasing, and how it all ties in to the company mission and image. For Alexa, working with Brass Tacks means “I get to be involved in a little bit of everything. Most people in Ann Arbor know me as a stage manager, and I love all the coordination of rehearsals and performances and behind-the-scenes aspects of shows (and with BTE I get to touch all the technical elements of a performance), but I also love digging deep into a text to explore the meaning – or meanings – of a line or a scene, and observing actors trying different techniques and approaches to inhabit a role. I am a text person; everything else involved in a show, for me, stems from an understanding of the text. Kind of an unusual perspective for a (nearly) life-long techie, but it works!” Alexa is looking forward to watching Brass Tacks continue to evolve – and hopefully her dog will let her leave the couch long enough to stage manage again soon.
Isaac joined The Brass Tacks Ensemble as an actor in 2006. Since then he has also directed, designed, written, and translated plays for the ensemble. Isaac started doing theater at age 14 when he was cast as the youngest person in an adult role in Damn Yankees. He went on to receive a B.A. in Theater with a second major in Spanish from Adrian College, and moved to Ann Arbor to accept an apprenticeship position at Performance Network Theater. He has worked with other local theaters, including The Ann Arbor Civic Theater, The Michigan Classical Repertory Theater, and the theater troupe at The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at U of M.
James is one of the co-founders of the Brass Tacks Ensemble and has been involved in every BTE production in some capacity or other. James came to Ann Arbor in 1990 to attend college and fully expected to leave after four years (or so) with a degree in mathematics; he ended up with a degree in Drama from U of M’s Residential College instead. Most of his work over the past sixteen years has been with BTE, but he has worked with Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, the Michigan Classical Repertory Theatre, and the Performance Network (both on their professional stage and in children’s plays that he has written for PN).
Maegan Murphy is a local performer who made her Brass Tacks Ensemble debut in 2017 as part of the acting and directing troupe that year. She performed in Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure. In 2018 she performed in all three BTE shows: The 39 Steps, The Hairy Ape, and Blithe Spirit. At the end of 2018 she became an official Associate Artist of The Brass Tacks Ensemble. She wanted to join because of how BTE focuses on telling the story of a play more than anything else in every production. Specifically it was the primary concentration on the script, what it says, and the acting that made her want to be a part of Brass Tacks. She is excited to work on and be a part of their 2020 season.
Rachel Robbins Toon
Shortly after breaking a multi-year hiatus from theatre, Russ Schwartz joined Brass Tacks as a member of its 2017 Shakespeare Season, and quickly recognized that he’d somehow been lucky enough to fall in with a fantastically talented group that offered some of the best theatre training he’d ever received. In addition to BTE’s weekly workshops, the season gave Russ the chance to take on five roles across three plays, including one of Shakespeare’s weirdest protagonists: the inscrutable Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure. Scarcely a month later — should anyone dare question whether BTE’s methods pay off — Russ accepted the title role in Barefoot Productions’ Macbeth. Russ returned to Brass Tacks in November 2018 for the phantasmal farce Blithe Spirit, and is excited to be part of the company’s adventures moving forward. Other recent shows include Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s Arcadia and Roustabout Theatre’s Mad as a Hatter; in 2014, he directed Elektra at the Penny Seats Theatre Company. In 2019, he was back at Roustabout for Big Daddy Shakespeare.
Aaron C. Wade