Why Detriot ‘67
by Jennifer McEwen - Managing Director of True Colors Theatre Company
At True Colors we are thrilled to be presenting the Atlanta premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit ‘67. The 2014 winner for the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, Detroit ‘67 is a period piece centered around a brother and sister who are jamming to the tunes of Motown and find themselves caught up in the riots of 1967. Step back and change the soundtrack and this scenario could take place in almost any city today given the recent history of gentrification, racial profiling, and police violence. Detroit ‘67 gives us a class of people sick and tired of being abused and mirrors the news reels from the last year coming out of Ferguson, MO and New York City, among other places.
When asked how the city (Detroit), the history, and the music influenced and shaped the play, playwright Dominique Morisseau responded, "I wanted to capture the memories of my parents and elders of Detroit not just in turmoil, but in joy and love and family and fun during times of turmoil. So the music of Motown in the 60's, of course, was a no brainer. But it was interesting to see how that music played into the political landscape happening at the time when Detroit was becoming an irreversibly Black city. And still the music was bridging White and Black Detroiters and of course people all over the nation. It is really remarkable to me as I listened to music and wrote, how much I felt like my mother and father. I felt like I was seeing my city through their lens instead of my own and it was so beautifully inspiring. And beyond that, the world of the 60's red light and blue light basement parties just felt like really fun material to explore in a play. Imagine Detroiters just trying to party away their Vietnam blues, while outside the basement, police brutality has the city erupting in flames. Sounds a little too familiar these days."
As a producer of art, when life imitates art there is often an "aha" moment that accompanies it. During Detroit '67 there are many of these moments, and the play presents ideas and imagery that should spark a conversation. Past True Colors productions have taken a look at historical events or moments in time and posed the question, “How far have we really come?” but Detroit ‘67 pushes the envelope and makes us think about what it means to be free. Does this freedom apply to all races, genders, and classes? And how do we as human beings learn from this shared history so that we don’t repeat it? Or is it too late and are we already repeating ourselves? Then what do we do?
At True Colors we would like to thank the playwright Dominique for encouraging True Colors to present this play and we look forward to conversation that we hope it sparks.
Detroit '67 runs from February 10 - March 8, 2015 at the Southwest Arts Center. More information can be found at www.truecolorstheatre.org.