www.mybaycity.com August 22, 2018
Arts/Theater Article 11343

The Vanishing Elephant Appears!

Vanishing Elephant Players To Stage Work at the Historic Masonic Temple

August 22, 2018
By: Stephen Kent

The Vanishing Elephant Players (VEP) return this weekend to the Historical Masonic Temple in downtown Bay City for their first theatrical production, "Circle Mirror Transformation".

The troupe takes the Historic stage on October 23 at 7:00 pm for the first of three shows. They'll be back at 7:00 on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday afternoon the group will present a matinee at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door, or online at HMTBC.org (where you can also learn more about the Historic Masonic Temple.) Since making the Historic Temple their home last year they have presented two, well received, cabaret shows.

Their upcoming play, Circle Mirror Transformation, plays very much into the Vanishing Elephant Players credo of community, taking place in a community center acting class. It features a quirky, diverse cast of characters, from the aging hippy who runs the class to the carpenter who's trying to move forward with his life after a divorce. McFarland describes the play as having a "Wes Anderson-y vibe with naturalistic, yet funny dialog." Anyone who's been involved with theatre will be able to relate to how the characters change and bond, but non-actors will enjoy the show, too. "It's funny, it's got heart, it'll make you think."

Vanishing Elephant started around 2007, Erica Tatum told MyBayCity.com in a recent interview. "It started when Jessica McFarland, a stay-at-home mother of three young girls, decided to embrace her life-long love of performing and the theater. Building on her knack for the organizational side of theatre, she and her brother formed a short-lived theatre company in Midland and staged Steven Sondheim's Into the Woods as their inaugural show.

The Great Lakes Bay Region has a lot to offer playgoers, from the professional touring productions at the Midland Center for the Arts, to the intimate community productions of the historic Bay City Players, and everything in between. VEP offers a new opportunity and a different take on the art. After their initial successes, the group knew they needed a more permanent home.

"I was chatting with some friends about the type of shows we wanted to see", said McFarland. "A lot of what came up was more risky shows and things that weren't exactly fiscally viable for established theaters to put on. We had a lot of ideas swirling around: we wanted to focus on youth-oriented stuff and some outreach to the community. We wanted to be an open space for lots of different types of people, and as we were talking, it all started to take shape. We wanted to see if this could really happen, so we needed a stage."

"It was very difficult," she said. "The Great Lakes Bay Region has a lot to offer playgoers, from the professional touring productions at the Midland Center for the Arts, to the intimate community productions of the historic Bay City Players, and everything in between."

Initial research led McFarland to the old 'Whistling Idiots' stage downtown and that led her to the "Friends of the Historic Masonic Temple". "The Friends wrote back right away and said, 'Yes, we're very excited. Can you do a presentation tomorrow?' So we stayed up all night and put together all the pieces of what we wanted to do, and it worked really well with their goals of revamping the Historic Masonic Temple to become a sort of arts center downtown."

McFarland says "I love community theater. I love the way it can transform a community. A lawyer, a stay-at-home mom, a high school kid, they can all come together and create something that's really valuable." This love expanded as she and her husband moved to Bay City, and she wanted to once again put her own mark on the arts scene.

The name "Vanishing Elephant Players" is inspired by Harry Houdini, a Mason himself. Finding a home base at the Historic Masonic Temple allows the group to honor the Masonic history without necessarily using "Mason" in the name.

Black Tie Beach Party

In the past year, VEP has put on theme parties and improv events, such as their Black Tie Beach Parties, in order to bring awareness to the group. "It's also a fun excuse to dress up." They've also held cabarets at the Historic Masonic Temple, a funny, low-key way to showcase local talent, including those who like to be on stage but can't necessarily commit to the months-long rehearsal process that comes with traditional shows. Most recently, they collaborated with the 99 Trees bookstore to put on a poetry night, combining Vanishing Elephant actors with local poets and musicians.

More information about Vanishing Elephant?s upcoming events, including another Cabaret in November, and a Christmas radio show in December, can be found on the Vanishing Elephant Players Facebook page,

Black Tie Beach Party


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