A new chapter begins for the Ringwald Theatre as it leaves longtime Ferndale home

The Ringwald Theatre first opened its doors in Ferndale in May 2007. Since then, the theater company has produced more than one hundred performances over the years, starting with Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy, a parody of the 1987 thriller.

It’s perhaps fitting then that their final performance on the Ferndale stage is another film parody, and this one with a Christmas bent: Have Yourself a MISERY Little Christmas.

It’s true. The Ringwald Theatre has opted not to renew its lease at its longtime Woodward Avenue location, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this is not the end for the Ringwald cast and crew. For now, the theater company will film future productions and stream them online. Have Yourself a MISERY Little Christmas was filmed on the Ferndale stage and is now available as a ticketed streaming event online, now through Thursday, Dec. 31.

We spoke with artistic director Joe Bailey who, along with husband Brandy Joe Plembeck, is one of the original founders of the theater. We asked Joe about the latest production, their decision to leave Ferndale, and what’s next for the Ringwald Theatre.

Metromode: Tell us about “Have Yourself a MISERY Little Christmas.” What is it about?

Joe Bailey: HYAMLC is first and foremost a parody of the movie version of Stephen King's Misery. In our version, Annie Willis stumbles across a crashed Santa Claus and hauls him back to her Colorado cabin and holds him hostage until he changes his Naughty/Nice List to her liking.

Metromode: What went into deciding to close the Ferndale location? What were you up against?

Joe: The decision to leave our Ferndale home was a difficult one. Our lease was coming up for renewal and there was obvious concern about the state of things in terms of the pandemic. We had been closed since the middle of March but we were still paying our rent but for no real purpose. The prospect of continuing that model for who-knows-how-much-longer seemed financially irresponsible and especially foolish for an arts organization, where money is historically tight on a good day. We were looking at potentially being closed for another 8, 9, 10 months? Who knows when we'll be able to convene again. So, we made the decision to move out, produce some digital content, and ultimately look for a new space a little down the road.

Metromode: How has COVID-19 affected independent venues like yours and what can be done to help?

Joe: Well, the pandemic has been devastating on theatre in general. But look, we have to keep it in perspective. People are dying every day. The important thing is to follow the recommended protocols so that we can slow this down until the vaccines arrive. If people want to help, any kind of donations would be extremely helpful.

Metromode: How will the Ringwald move forward from here? What’s the plan?

Joe: The Ringwald is looking enthusiastically toward the future. We will start our search for a new venue sometime after the start of the new year. Our intent is to be ready to go once it is safe for us all to be in the same room again. In the meantime, we will continue to produce virtual content for our audiences and hopefully make people laugh a little bit.

Metromode: Any sense of where the Ringwald might end up?

Joe: We will be staying in Oakland County.

Metromode: How can online performances fill in the gap between locations and in-person theater? Are there other solutions to supplement that?

Joe: Virtual content is obviously not the ideal solution. Nothing can beat the real live, in-person, communal experience of live theatre. However, it is the best alternative right now. We're storytellers (and big hams) and any creative outlet that we can pursue right now to feed those creative juices, we'll take it! Other than digital content, when we get into warmer weather, outdoor performances remain a possibility, but we shall see where we are as a nation when the spring arrives.

Metromode: What sort of legacy does the Ringwald leave in Ferndale? And what sort of legacy does the Ringwald hope to build next?

Joe: Oh boy, this is a tough question to answer. When we made the announcement that we were leaving our space, the outpouring of love and support on the social media outlets was really overwhelming. I guess I'm most proud of the fact that we were able to speak to so many people, that people were able to find a home with us and felt seen and included. And the great thing is, it's not over. We shall return! And we will tell our funny, outrageous, poignant, gay, inclusive, dramatic stories again.

Visit the Ringwald Theatre online to see their latest production, Have Yourself a MISERY Little Christmas.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.