Pulitzer Prize-finalist play “Detroit” to make Michigan premiere at the Hilberry

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Photo courtesy of the Hilberry Theatre
Vanessa Sawson (left) as Mary with Joe Plambeck as Ben in the Michigan premiere of Pulitzer Prize finalist play “Detroit” which debuts Jan. 11 at the Hilberry Theatre. For more information call 313-577-2972 or go to www.Hilberry.com.

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By SUE SUCHYTA
“Detroit,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist play by Lisa D’Amour, makes its Michigan premiere Jan. 11 with Wayne State University’s Hilberry graduate theater company. The show will run through April 5 in rotating repertory.

For tickets and more information, call the Hilberry box office at 313-577-2972, or go to www.hilberry.com. The Hilberry Theatre is at 4743 Cass at Hancock on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit.

D’Amour will be onsite for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 post-show talk-back sessions with audiences.

The Hilberry also will host a Detroit Institute of Arts lobby display of, “Reveal Your Detroit,” a digital compilation from numerous sources, showing Detroit images taken from 2000 to 2010, ranging from urban ugliness to the city’s unique beauty.

The play “Detroit,” described as both humorous and touching, focuses on two couples living in first ring of housing on the outskirts of downtown Detroit.

As the couples bond over backyard barbeques and learn more about each other’s lives, their precarious neighborly connection threatens to unravel the lives they have built and change them forever.

The cast includes Danielle Cochrane of Garden City as Sharon, Edmund Alyn Jones of Detroit as Frank, Joe Plambeck of Ferndale as Ben, Vanessa Sawson of Ferndale as Mary and Georgia transplant David Sterritt as Kenny.

D’Amour said in a press release that she chose “Detroit” as the title of the play even though it could be set in any first-ring suburb of a 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,” D’Amour said 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 keep thinking there are not going to be any jobs left for anyone to do anymore.”

Director Lavinia Hart said in the Hilberry’s press release that she is grateful to be able to debut the play in a very hometown way.

“The play is a Detroit story – we’re a city bereft of revenue, neighborhoods and opportunity,” Hart said. “But Detroiters are survivors and their sense of humor is gritty and wry. 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.”

Scenic designer Pegi Marshall-Amundsen also said in the Hilberry press release that the media often depicts Detroit with images of poverty and destruction, also known as “ruin porn,” which include photos and images of long-abandoned areas of declining cities. She said she recognized written elements of “ruin porn” in the script of the play, and then manipulated ruin porn imagery to create texture in the set.

“The Pulitizer Prize finalist play may detail the crumbling of a middle class American dream, but its metaphorical ending signifies hope,” Marshall-Amundsen said. “Detroiters know that times have changed. Seeing this play will give new meaning to Detroit’s motto, ‘We hope for better things – it will rise from the ashes.’”

Several community organizations will provide audience talk back sessions at select performances. Detroit Works Project Long Term Planning will run a talk back session Jan. 26, with Midtown Detroit Inc. leading a talk-back session March 2, and concluding with a March 23 session led by Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp.

For more information about talk back schedules, call 313-577-2972 or go to www.hillberry.com.

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