Dominique Morisseau is a daughter of Detroit and, in many ways, Detroit Public Theatre is a daughter of Dominique Morisseau. Just as Detroit is the inspiration for her celebrated cycle of Detroit Plays, Dominique’s work was one of our earliest inspirations, and she was one of our very first advisors and champions. She was there as we first articulated our mission: to produce work that is relevant to Detroit and illuminates the joys and challenges of our shared humanity. Producing Dominique’s work was at the center of our vision from the beginning.
Her plays sing and soar; they elevate everyday words to poetry and everyday dreams to visions. Her Detroit Plays are universal; we can all claim these stories as our own. And so theatres all over the country – indeed, all over the world – are bringing Dominique’s work to their communities. Producing these plays in Detroit, though, is a profound experience. When Detroiters see a Dominique Morisseau play onstage, we don’t just see ourselves. We see how our city and its stories interweave with others; we see the importance and the beauty of our struggles, our triumphs, and even our failures. We understand that we are not isolated; our community is not simply a metaphor, but part of a broad and critical dialogue.
By May of 2016, Detroit ‘67 had been seen around the country and the world, but there had not yet been a full production in Detroit. We were honored to bring it home that year, in our inaugural season, in a co-production with Baltimore Center Stage – a priceless gift of mentorship and partnership for our brand new theatre. This season, we were privileged to mount a touring production of Detroit ‘67, partnering with several of the city’s most venerable cultural institutions, while simultaneously producing Skeleton Crew on our mainstage. Performances of these Detroit Plays in our city have been electrifying. They have played to sold out audiences and standing ovations. Our audiences have heard Detroit’s unique humor and cadences; our very parks, highways, and high schools; in Dominique’s writing. They have come away feeling seen and celebrated as vital players in our nation’s most important historical and current events.
Producing Dominique Morisseau’s work in Detroit has fulfilled some of our greatest hopes for our theatre. It has brought our city’s diverse residents together to experience a work of art and engage in meaningful dialogue. It has also left our audiences and us eager to welcome Paradise Blue home as soon as possible.
And it has given us two great wishes for our larger theatre community. First: we hope that you will produce one (or more!) of the Detroit Plays so your audiences, through the words and lives of Detroiters, will illuminate for themselves the joys and challenges of our shared humanity. Second: we hope you will nurture your own homegrown, visionary playwrights who tell stories of urgency, import, humor, and wisdom; who will provide your audiences the same profound and deeply moving experience that we have had in Detroit. And when you do, please share those plays with us at Detroit Public Theatre so we can share them with Detroit. As Dom says, “This is community. Let’s Go.”