Tuesday, 28 August 2012 10:51

Mitch Albom Brings Story of Ernie Harwell to Wealthy Theatre for Limited Run

Written by  Charlsie Dewey
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Visit the theater and the ballpark all in one night this September.

Mitch Albom, bestselling author, playwright and journalist, is bringing his newest play, "Ernie," to Wealthy Theatre for a special 12-performance run from Sept. 12-23.

"Ernie" is the story of beloved Detroit Tigers Announcer Ernie Harwell, set on his last night at Comerica Park. Harwell is preparing to give his farewell address to the crowd when he encounters a young boy who appears to have stepped directly out of the 1930s. The boy eagerly approaches Harwell, telling him how excited he is to hear the iconic announcer's broadcast. Confused by the identity of the boy, Harwell explains that he no longer broadcasts games. The boy does not want to hear a broadcast of the night's game though; he wants to hear the broadcast of Harwell's life.

To help bring Harwell's story to life, Albom secured historic footage from Major League Baseball, dating all the way back to 1926.

"We use three big screens," Albom said. "A left field screen, centerfield and right field screen that show real footage from Major League Baseball, going back to 1926 and the World Series, which was the first game Ernie ever listened to, all the way up to current, modern Comerica Park . . . throughout the play, all of these images of players keep coming up on the screen as if they are his dream."

"Ernie"
Wealthy Theatre, Grand Rapids
Sept. 12-23, show times at 2:30 and 8 p.m.
$30
grcmc.org/theatre, (616) 459-4788

Some of baseball's most famous moments are shown during the play as Harwell thinks back. They include Babe Ruth being thrown out after trying to steal second base in 1926, Ted Williams on the last game of the season batting 406, Bobby Thompson's 1951 "shot heard round the world," as well as footage from the 1968 and 1984 World Series games.

"Ernie was witness to really many of the highlights of the entire 20th century, not just baseball," Albom said. "He was born in 1918, right at the end of World War I, and he lived through the Depression, which his family went through, he served in World War II, he was around for the invention of television . . . you get to see sort of the birth of TV in the play and how it affected radio and the difference between television and radio.

"And then, of course, he was there during the ‘60s, in Detroit, and the race riots and the 1968 World Series. He was there when the game got very moneyed and really exploded, and he was there for the destruction of Tiger Stadium, which he tried to save. Really, there is all this other stuff going on that chronicles the 20th century, and, from the ‘60s on, chronicles Detroit that isn't even about baseball."

Albom met Harwell in 1985 when he moved to Detroit to work as a sportswriter. They became lifelong friends, and before he passed away, Harwell expressed an interest in having Albom write a play about his life.

"Ernie" is the result of that brief conversation. The play debuted at Detroit's City Theatre, located across from Comerica Park, in April 2011 to sold-out crowds. It is now in its second year and is still drawing full houses.

The Wealthy Theatre engagement is the first time the play is being produced outside of Detroit, thanks to a partnership between Albom and Hospice of Michigan to benefit the organization's Open Access Program.


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