2017-06-11 / Insight

Living a Double Life

Assistant prosecutors by day, community theater actors by night
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com

Lapeer County assistant prosecutors Lauren Matich Dayton and Tom Sparrow life “double lives” — attorneys by day, and musical theatre performers by night. Both Dayton and Sparrow can be seen this October in The Center for the Arts of Greater Lapeer’s rendition of “Guys and Dolls in Concert” directed by Tony Stroh-Piechowski. 
Photo by Nicholas Lapeer County assistant prosecutors Lauren Matich Dayton and Tom Sparrow life “double lives” — attorneys by day, and musical theatre performers by night. Both Dayton and Sparrow can be seen this October in The Center for the Arts of Greater Lapeer’s rendition of “Guys and Dolls in Concert” directed by Tony Stroh-Piechowski. Photo by Nicholas LAPEER — Some say that success in the courtroom and on the theater stage share a strikingly similar skillset, and for Lapeer County assistant prosecutors Lauren Matich Dayton and Tom Sparrow, that skillset has been honed in both venues.

Recently cast in principal roles in The Center for the Arts of Greater Lapeer’s upcoming production of Guys and Dolls as Martha and Benny Southstreet, respectively, Dayton and Sparrow will lean on their considerable experience both as litigators and performers to provide a local flair to the musical, which will hit The PIX Theatre stage in October. “We’re really excited to be a part of Guys and Dolls,” said Dayton. “It’s a great time to be involved in musical theatre.”

During the day, both Dayton and Sparrow work at the courthouse in downtown Lapeer as assistant prosecutors under Lapeer County Prosecutor Michael Sharkey.

Sparrow graduated from Wayne State University in 1996 and worked for the City of Detroit before finding his way to Lapeer, accepting a position as law clerk for Judge Nick Holowka in 1999. The next year, in 2000, Sparrow accepted a position to become an assistant prosecutor under then-prosecutor Byron Konschuh, and from 2012 to 2016 served as a Friend of the Court referee, which acts as a hearing officer for the court in domestic relations actions, making fair determination in terms of child support and custody. When Sharkey took over as prosecutor, Sparrow returned to the assistant prosecutor role he held for a decade-and-a-half.

“I wanted to fight injustice and do right,” said Sparrow. “A prosecutor has an obligation not just to win but to do justice, and to do the right thing.” Originally from the East Lansing area, Sparrow has called Lapeer County home for nearly 20 years. “Public service is an absolute honor and it’s been a privilege to serve the people of Lapeer County,” said Sparrow. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of the past 18 years.”

For Dayton, who has been on the job as assistant prosecutor since only May 1, it’s an exciting time to rekindle her love of law. Dayton graduated from the University of Detroit’s law program in 1989 and worked with law firm Plunkett and Cooney for four years before moving on to work on Allstate Insurance’s in-house legal staff.

Dayton said her inspiration for going into law was an incident that happened to a sibling who was exposed to toxic chemicals. “I was motivated into pursuing product liability cases because of what happened,” said Dayton. There was a lawsuit, but a financial settlement did nothing to assuage the lifetime of health issues that resulted from the exposure. “Then I had a baby,” she said with a laugh. “And I worked from home for 24 years. I would put the kids to bed and write legal briefs at 3 a.m.”

Dayton reentered the workforce thanks to a call from newly-elected prosecutor Michael Sharkey, who invited Dayton to work with him as assistant prosecutor. “My youngest just graduated Lapeer High School this year so the timing was perfect,” she said. “Tom (Sparrow) and I are both very honored to work under Mike Sharkey.”

While the paths Sparrow and Dayton took in their professional careers have been winding, one constant has remained — a love of performance. Both credit their upbringings as instilling in them a love for music and musical theater.

Dayton has been the vocal coach for Lapeer High School productions four times, most recently acting as coach for this year’s production of Bye Bye Birdy, and has done community theater since she was only 7 years old.“WhenIwas8Igottobeinmy older brother’s high school production of South Pacific,” said Dayton, and she’s been hooked ever since, attending Western University on a vocal music scholarship and going on to perform in productions of West Side Story as well as in Lapeer Community Theatre shows.

Sparrow’s start in theatre is similar to Dayton’s. He started young and has been involved with the stage ever since. “I credit everything to my choir teacher in school, Carol Johnson,” he said. “That’s where I got the musical theatre bug. She gave me the part of Will in Oklahoma! and I was hooked.” Singing and music has always been a part of Sparrow’s life. “Both my parents sing, and I’ve always liked to sing,” Sparrow said. Since his school days, Sparrow has gone on to perform in several productions, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Wizard of Oz, Pajama Gang, and Oklahoma! — again. “I got to reprise my role as Will, years later,” he joked.

“It’s like the musical Chicago, you have to be something of a showman,” said Sparrow of being an attorney. He said there are a lot of similarities between performing on stage and “performing” in a courtroom. “You have to present to the jury in a lot of the same ways as you would to an audience.”

According to Dayton, that musical theatre influence never really goes away, even in the prosecuting attorney offices on the second floor of the courthouse. “We do break out into song in the office every once and awhile,” she said. Sparrow agreed, and said jokingly that he’s even thought about singing a closing argument “if there was ever the perfect case for it.”

“The prospect of dusting off my resume after 24 years was truly daunting,” said Dayton. “So (returning to work with Sharkey) has been a really sweet ending for me.” Like Sharkey, said Dayton, Guys and Dolls director Tony Stroh-Piechowski is bringing new blood and a new passion to the area, and both she and Sparrow couldn’t be happier for what’s to come, both at the courthouse and the theater.

Chorus auditions for “Guys and Dolls in Concert” will be held Saturday, June 17 from 2-4 p.m., with no appointment necessary at The PIX.

Stroh-Piechowski and The Center for the Arts of Greater Lapeer will seek actors and actresses for chorus and ensemble roles. Interested audition candidates are asked to prepare to sing one song, preferably of the musical theatre variety, as well as have all possible scheduling conflicts available from Aug. 1 to Oct. 6.

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