Poetry slams, Blissfest jams, and theater hams are all part of Petoskey’s Red Sky Stage lineup this summer.
Housed in the old Montgomery Ward building on Mitchell St., Red Sky is injecting the local arts scene with grassroots entertainment. Its improved stage, sound system, lighting, and a new internet radio stream are all giving voice to both locals and touring performance artists.
JAZZING IT UP
Red Sky’s popular Blissfest Strings Jam is still going strong Sundays from 1pm- 4pm, so much so that they’ve added a Jazz Jam from 5pm-7pm, at which every session includes a drummer, a bass player, and the venue’s newly restored 102-year-old piano.
Red Sky also added the Blissfest Folk and Roots June Mini Concert Series, which takes place on all four Fridays in June.
Poetry slams, still hot on college campuses, are hitting Red Sky the first Monday of each month, opening up the mic for poetry, prose, and stories.
And North Star Performing Arts’ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is returning to Red Sky’s stage in July.
Red Sky’s brand-new streaming internet radio is now up, featuring local news, events and coverage of the visual and performing arts in Petoskey, Northern Michigan and beyond.
Red Sky Stage’s aspirations may be big, but they’re getting big support from the community to match.
“We’ve gotten a great response from everybody in town,” said Marty Scott, the venue’s champion and co-founder of the Northern Michigan Artists Market, a gallery and artists’ space well known for its eclectic range of visual art.
FILLING THE CHAIRS
Scott, a guitarist, banjo player and metal/ clay/wood mobile artist, said that his passion for music inspired him to open the 2,000-sq.- ft. space to local and touring musicians.
“We keep improving as a great place to see a performance, and an excellent place to perform,” Scott said.
But there was nowhere for people to sit at first, so Scott initiated a “Chair Raising,” where anyone who donates a chair to the facility gets a ticket voucher for an upcoming performance.
Red Sky Stage now seats 90, and Scott says he’s having no problems filling those seats, nor finding artists to play to them.
“I expected that we would find lots of talented performers of all kinds,” Scott said. “And that has certainly turned out to be true – almost every day I hear from a musician, actor, poet, or performing arts group. Delightfully, most of them turn out to be not only very talented, but also nice people.”
GROWING A STAGE
Scott said he’s found a lot of help as he’s worked to make Red Sky a success, but that he also has “a lot to learn” as a publicist and show promoter.
“Our audiences have been respectable, but we need to grow,” he said. “We still have a way to go until everyone in the area learns about the entertainment and cultural experiences we have to offer.”
Red Sky Stage recently hosted their first play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” with North Star Performing Arts, and Scott says the acting was “fantastic.”
Musical performances by singer-songwriter Charlie Millard, rock-blues band Spectrum, and country musician Ernie Mindel were also big hits. And a big Red Sky summer is right around the corner.
Scott says he is continuing a series of Blissfest-sponsored folk and roots concerts with local musicians.
The Bliss series will include a performance by popular local folkster Kirby, as well as shows by vintage singer-songwriter Dolph and folk guitarist Brad Hersey.
The venue is adding an international folk series set to include Northern Michigan’s own Ananda, a trio that plays traditional Indian music on sitar, tanpura, and table.
Millard will also be back with a full band for two more shows, along with a number of national and regional touring groups, like Tennessee folk music duo Sparky and Rhonda in early September, Scott said.
“I knew when I started Red Sky Stage that I only knew a small percentage of what I needed to know to get this place off the ground, and turn it into the valuable community resource that I dreamed of,” he said.
“That has proved to be true. But so has my suspicion that all the expertise I need was right here, and my neighbors would be happy to help.”
Red Sky Stage is located at 445 E. Mitchell in downtown Petoskey. For updates and a full schedule of shows, visit Red Sky Stage’s Facebook page or redskystage.com.