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Vanessa Sawson (Mary) and Joe Plambeck (Ben) star in the Michigan premiere of "Detroit" at the Hilberry Theatre.

Hilberry Theatre to present Michigan premiere of 'Detroit' by Lisa D'Amour

Hilberry Theatre
Jan. 11 - April 5, 2013

Posted: Dec. 15, 2012 at 10:50 a.m.

DETROIT – The Hilberry Theatre will continue to celebrate its 50th season with the Michigan premiere of the new play "Detroit" by award-winning playwright Lisa D'Amour. "Detroit" has only been produced in three other places; the Hilberry Theatre is proud to be the fourth to offer this hilarious and touching show in Midtown Detroit.

"Detroit" will run in repertory from Jan. 11 through April 5, 2013. Playwright Lisa D'Amour will be visiting Wayne State University to participate in post-show talkbacks on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

The Hilberry Theatre is also excited to premiere "Detroit" in a hometown way, by collaborating with community organizations and local businesses, including the Detroit Institute of Arts' "Reveal Your Detroit Display" in the lobby for patrons to enjoy during the run of the show.

"Detroit" tells the story of two Detroit residents, Mary and Ben, who welcome the arrival of their new neighbors, Sharon and Kenny, who have just moved into the vacant house next door. Set in the first ring of residential homes on the outskirts of Downtown Detroit, the play details the relationship that forms between the two couples as they begin to learn more about each other. The closer this foursome gets while bonding over backyard barbecues, the more their precarious neighborly connection threatens to unravel the lives they've built and change them forever. An ecstatic, dangerous new comedy, "Detroit" exposes the nerves that live just under the surface of American life today.

D'Amour chose the title "Detroit" even though the script describes the play to be set in a "first ring suburb" outside of any mid-sized American city. "Something about the way the name of that city vibrates in the American imagination…that name evokes this kind of iconic anxiety around the crumbling American dream," said D'Amour in an interview with Tim Stanford, artistic director of Playwright Horizons. "I keep trying to talk about it as this transformation of our economy. I don't even know if we know what our economy is anymore. I keep thinking there are not going to be any jobs left for anyone to do anymore. How are people going to figure out what a career is and what their livelihood is?"

The Hilberry Theatre's production is actually set in Detroit rather than the suburbs, in the first-ring of houses on the outskirts of Downtown. Lavinia Hart, director of the Hilberry's production of "Detroit," says of the play's title, "The play is a Detroit story – we're a city bereft of revenue, neighborhoods and opportunity. But Detroiters are survivors, and their sense of humor is gritty and wry. Even the expression 'that's another Detroit story' is usually accompanied with the laughter that comes of immediate recognition – personal knowledge of the pain and irony of a particular loss. So, we'll revel in D'Amour's title and find the 'Detroit' humor in the story. We'll also honor the catastrophe that looms over the residents in that first circle of housing that embraces the parameters of our downtown."

Hart says she is grateful for the opportunity to premiere Detroit "in a very hometown way."

Detroit has been bashed in the media with constant images of poverty and destruction. Ruin porn, a new term used to refer to photos and videos of long-abandoned areas of declining cities, is often associated with Detroit. "When I read the play, I recognized it as (a) written piece of ruin-porn rather than a photo," said Pegi Marshall-Amundsen, scenic designer for the production. "I manipulated ruin-porn imagery to create the texture on the set."

The play, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, may detail the crumbling of a middle class American dream, but its metaphorical ending signifies hope. Detroiters know that times have changed, and neighborhoods are not what they used to be. Neighbors are not what they used to be. Seeing this play will give new meaning to Detroit's motto, "We hope for better things, it will rise from the ashes."

"Reveal Your Detroit" is a unique community photography project that was inspired by the DIA's "Detroit Revealed: Photographs 2000-2010." The display features a digital compilation of submissions, including those from The Detroit Free Press' "Detroit Self-Portrait" project, the DIA's Flickr pool, and from over 50 Detroit-based community organizations and groups. "Reveal Your Detroit" showcases a broad cross-section of images - from the gritty to the sublime - of Detroit's rich diversity and unique character.

Partnerships have also been established with local organizations that will participate in three special community oriented talkbacks. Detroit Works Project Long Term Planning will participate in a talkback on Jan. 26, Midtown Detroit Inc. will participate on March 2, and Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation on March 23.

Individual tickets for "Detroit" range from $12-$30 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at 313-577-2972, online at, or by visiting the Wayne State University Theatres Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock in Midtown Detroit.

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