Brother and sister Lank (Darien Vaughn) and Chelle (Tayler Jones) face problems after they inherit their parent’s Motor City home in Detroit ’67. (Photo by Eastern Michigan University Theatre)
Historical events, when presented as a series of statistics and dates, have far less impact on us than they do when integrated into a human story.
This is why, of course, history is the backdrop for so many movies, plays, television shows, and novels. These entertainments let us briefly experience what it was like to be living when a specific historical moment was unfolding around us. And most recently, in our own backyard, the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit Riots/Rebellion — depending on who’s telling the story — spawned a number of creative works that helped us revisit this pivotal moment in the Motor City’s history.
University of Michigan graduate (and Detroit native) Dominique Morisseau got a bit of a jump on things, premiering her play, Detroit ’67, in New York in 2013. The drama — now being staged by Eastern Michigan University’s Theater Department — won the 2014 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, and ended up being the first in a Morisseau-penned trilogy focused on Detroit’s past. (Paradise Blue and Skeleton Crew were the second and third.)
But helping audiences go back in time, to a particular place, requires attention to detail, so expect to hear Motown tunes; spot script-specified images of Muhammad Ali, a black power fist, and The Four Tops on the walls; and see clothes and appliances from the play’s era. “We have a washing machine with a crank on top that I swear was on my mother’s porch back in 1962,” said EMU Theater Professor Wallace Bridges, who’s directing Detroit ’67. READ THE REST HERE
It’s amazing how, when a brilliant script is masterfully executed, three and a half hours can seem to pass in the blink of an eye.
Yet that’s the experience you’ll have if you’re lucky enough to catch the University of Michigan Department of Theatre and Drama production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches — which is so terrific that it’ll remind you all over again why the play has earned its status as a timeless masterpiece.
For the first chapter of this two-part, epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning play premiered back in 1991 at San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre and told an era-defining story set in New York City in the mid-1980s – the height of the AIDS epidemic. We’re introduced to three sets of characters whose lives intersect: Second Circuit Court word processor Louis (Jesse Aaronson) and his boyfriend Prior Walter (Jeffrey James Fox), whose health is rapidly worsening; a judge’s chief clerk, and a transplanted-from-Utah Mormon, Joe Pitt (Peter Donahue), and his hallucinating, Valium-popping wife, Harper (Savanna Crosby); and powerful right-wing lawyer/macher Roy Cohn (Sam Dubin), who pushes Joe to accept a position in the Justice Department in Washington so as to have a sympathetic ally in high places.
Joe’s and Louis’ paths initially cross at work, in a public bathroom, as Louis is crying over his struggle to stay with Prior as AIDS ravages his body. In that moment, Louis voices his assumption regarding Joe’s homosexuality — which Joe denies, citing his marriage as proof, but he’s visibly rattled by the observation. Harper, meanwhile, spends her days alone in the couple’s apartment, obsessing over the Earth’s deteriorating ozone layer, dreaming of traveling to Antarctica, and struggling to figure out why her husband goes on so many long walks and shows no sexual interest in her. Cohn is enraged by charges of ethical misconduct, as well as his own AIDS diagnosis. And Prior, finally, finds himself in and out of the hospital, facing his illness and his mortality alone. READ THE REST HERE