Playwright Dominique Morisseau at final night of The Detroit Projects reading
On October 16, Wayne State University’s Black Theatre Ensemble completed a three day performance of The Detroit Projects at the Charles H. Wright Museum, a play cycle that recounts the telling of the black experience at three iconic moments in Detroit’s history. This was a free community event aimed at reaching the community through one of the rawest forms of theatre: a staged reading written, rehearsed, and performed for Detroiters, by Detroiters.
On Thursday, October 15, the final night of the readings featuring Skeleton Crew, the room was visited by the playwright, Dominique Morisseau, who took to social media earlier that day saying that she was excited that, “Detroit can say they saw it first!” Skeleton Crew is the only play in the trilogy that has yet to have a world premiere; it is scheduled for a production at the Atlantic Theatre Company in 2016.
Dominique Morisseau, playwright and actress, got her BFA in acting from the University of Michigan and her start as a performance poet in the Detroit community of Harmonie Park. She is a recent PONY (Playwright of New York) fellow, and is generating a substantial body of work independent of the Detroit cycle: Sunset Baby, Follow Me To Nellie’s, and Blood At The Root. Her work has also been published in NY Times bestseller “Chicken Soup for the African American Soul” and in the Harlem-based literary journal “Signifyin’ Harlem.”
During the post-show talk surrounding the conversation of current Detroiters’ struggle, Morisseau commented, “When writing about Detroit, what I can do is make you look as dimensional, complex, and human as you really are. And that’s not always perfect, that’s just full. When people are being painted as three-fifths human, it’s my job in the arts is to show you the other two-fifths.”
The Detroit Projects is Dominque Morisseau’s love song to her city and the people that influenced herself as a person as well as her work, with the intent to take back and control the public narrative of the city. These relatively new works highlight and explore the human condition in a dramatic fashion; evoking themes of generational struggle, the commitment to socioeconomic advancement, and the imperative and meaningful connection within one’s lineage and race.
“This has been an exciting and phenomenal three days. To experience the humanity of Detroit in these plays by Dominique Morisseau, and for her to attend the last show, engage in the talkback, and to hear her go in depth about the experience, was absolutely memorable,” said Billicia Charnelle Hines, director of The Detroit Projects and the director of the Black Theatre Program at the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance. “It affected the cast and the audience immensely, to have that personal interaction with the playwright.”
Each night preceeding the staged readings there was a post-show talk, where Detroit professionals who held expertise or relative experience with the time period of the play, or the content within the reading, analyzed and held a discussion. Abayomi Azikiwe of the Pan-African News, moderated each post-show talk, and posed questions and thoughts that provoked audience engagement, interaction, and participation with the material and information presented.
This community event was made possible through support and partnership by the Charles H. Wright Museum and the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights.
PHOTO: (left to right) Juanita Moore, president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Cary McGehee, chair of the Michigan Coalition of Human Rights, Dominique Morisseau, John Wolf, chair of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance.