Encore Michigan

Detroit Public Theatre launches at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Hall

News August 05, 2015 Anne Kiley

Two seasoned theatre professionals, one from New York and one a Detroit native, have joined forces to launch the Detroit Public Theatre (DPT). Detroit’s newest performing arts institution will open in residence at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center in October 2015. The inaugural season of Detroit Public Theatre opens with the Michigan Premiere of the dark comedy, “American Hero” by Bess Wohl, on October 30. The lineup continues through May 2016 in the Robert A. and Maggie Allessee Rehearsal Hall at the Max with three more productions, including Dominique Morisseau’s powerful and timely “Detroit ’67,” and “From Broadway to Obscurity,” a musical journey by Eric Gutman, a homegrown artist and leading Broadway player.
“I am thrilled to be involved with the Detroit Public Theatre and am excited that we will be making our home at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center,” says Debbie Erb, board member for The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation and founding board member for Detroit Public Theatre. “These are promising times for Detroit, and I am truly very happy to be a part of this new theatre endeavor.”
Detroit Public Theatre is the inspired work of Courtney Burkett, director of theatre programs at Mosaic Theatre of Detroit and co-founder of Breathe Art Theatre Project, and Sarah Winkler, a recently transplanted New York producer and ensemble member of the award-winning Off-Broadway theatre company, Epic Theatre Ensemble. DPT’s advisors and board members include theatre luminaries from across the nation such as Nina Essman, general manager of the 2015 Tony award-winning musical “Fun Home” and general manager and executive producer of “Wicked;” Christopher Burney, associate artistic director of New York City’s Second Stage Theatre; and Tony Award-nominated actors Kathleen Chalfant, Detroit-born Celia Keenan-Bolger and many more. The DPT board also includes Ann Heath Templeton of Duncan Fuller Interiors, Travis Michael of Fiat Chrysler Automotive group and Jamie Kaye Walters of WDIV – Local 4.
DPT’s mission is to produce plays and programs with world-class writers, directors, actors, and designers in the heart of Midtown’s thriving cultural district. The theatre will produce bold plays that are relevant to Detroit audiences and illuminate the joys, thrills and challenges of our shared human experience.
In addition to producing cutting-edge theatre for the city’s audiences, the Detroit Public Theatre will offer educational programs for students in Detroit schools as well as serve as the base for one of metro Detroit’s signature community art projects, Shakespeare in Prison.
Susan T. Mosey, executive director of Midtown Detroit, Inc., says, “I am thrilled that the Detroit Public Theatre will bring professional theatre to Detroit’s thriving Midtown Cultural District. Midtown Detroit is where art lives, and the Detroit Public Theatre will add to the cultural offerings in our district, helping to make Midtown an even more dynamic destination for audiences and artists.”
Key cultural leaders from throughout metro Detroit, including the staff of Ponyride, and the board and staff of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, are working to build a strong foundation for Detroit Public Theatre and ensure its future as a living, thriving pillar of the performing arts in Detroit. “The Detroit Public Theatre is adding an important facet to Detroit’s rich cultural environment,” says Erik Rönmark, Detroit Symphony Orchestra general manager and artistic administrator. “We are proud to welcome theatrical arts among the many important projects that find a home at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center.”
DPT is also working collaboratively with many of Michigan’s theatre leaders, who are strongly supportive of establishing an anchor regional theatre in Midtown Detroit that will bring more local and national attention to the work of the whole community. DPT will strive to bring Detroit in league with cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., where great regional theatres have contributed to their cultural revivals and artistic vibrancy.
“Detroit has an incredible pool of Michigan-trained theatre talent and a sophisticated audience,” says Burkett. Winkler adds, “We want to keep more artists and audiences here at home rather than losing them to New York and Chicago.”
The Detroit Public Theatre staff includes producing director Sarah Clare Corporandy and director of programs Frannie Shepherd-Bates. Shepherd-Bates was founding artistic director of Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, which will dissolve as DPT absorbs its successful Shakespeare in Prison program. Corporandy will continue concurrently as managing director of Chautauqua Theater Company at the Chautauqua Institution in southwest New York.
The inaugural season of Detroit Public Theatre will comprise four thought provoking, entertaining and thoroughly memorable productions:
“American Hero” by Bess Wohl (Michigan premiere): October 30 2015 thru November 22, 2015. At a toasted subs franchise in the local strip mall, three up-and-coming “sandwich artists”—a teenager, a single mom, and a downsized refugee from corporate banking—are perfecting the mustard-to-cheese ratio according to the company manual. But when their shot at the American dream is interrupted by a series of strange events, they become unlikely allies in a post-recession world. “American Hero” is a supersized dark comedy about life, liberty, and the pursuit of sandwiches.
“From Broadway to Obscurity” by Eric Gutman: January 22, 2016 thru February 20, 2016. Written by Michigan’s own Broadway “Jersey Boy,” this autobiographical one-man musical journey is a hilariously revealing confessional in which dreams collide. With well-known songs, dead-on celebrity impressions, and a heart-warming narrative, the show intimately details the rocky road to “making it”: from sweating bullets auditioning face-to-face with Frankie Valli himself to rollicking backstage drama to his eventual life-altering change of heart as Eric’s internal compass points him back to the values of his community—faith, family, and tradition.
“Sex With Strangers” by Laura Eason (Michigan premiere): March 11, 2016 thru April 3, 2016. The third show of the season follows the story of star sex blogger and memoirist Ethan, who tracks down his idol, the gifted but obscure (and older) novelist Olivia. He finds that they each crave what the other possesses. As attraction turns to sex, and they inch closer to getting what they want, both must confront the dark side of ambition and the near impossibility of reinventing oneself when the past is only a click away. “Sex With Strangers” examines social identity and how we define ourselves as artists and humans.
“Detroit ’67” by Dominique Morisseau (Michigan premiere): May 6, 2016 thru May 29, 2016. The centerpiece of the Detroit Public Theatre’s inaugural season is “Detroit ’67” in which the award-winning Detroit playwright Morisseau takes audiences on a journey to the city of Detroit in 1967. Motown music is getting the party started, and Chelle and her brother Lank are making ends meet by turning their basement into an after-hours joint. But when a mysterious woman finds her way into their lives, the siblings clash over much more than the family business. As their pent-up feelings erupt, so does their city, and they find themselves caught in the middle of the ’67 riots.
Performances of all four shows will be at 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with 2:00 p.m. matinees on Wednesdays and Sundays. The general admission rate is $35 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and $45 on Fridays and Saturdays. Discounted rates are available for seniors at $30, students at $20, and groups of 10 or more at $25.
All productions will take place in the Robert A. and Maggie Allesee Rehearsal Hall at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, located at 3711 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201. For tickets please www.detroitpublictheatre.org>DetroitPublicTheatre.org.

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