It’s 1967 and the world is changing around Chelle and Lank, who run an after-hours club in the basement of their late parents’ house. Tensions mount when the siblings discover that their dreams have diverged, their tight-knit community is threatened by the arrival of an outsider, and the city around them erupts in violence. The music of Motown fuels this riveting new play set in America’s Motor City.
Production photos by Michael Brosilow.
Motown plays as streets burn, conflicts simmer
November 17, 2013
By CHRIS JONES
Detroit ’67 not only is a very interesting idea, but you can see that [author Dominique] Morisseau already has figured out the structure for something much larger and has realized how well huge moments can be represented by small personal experiences. (Her tavern here is not unlike New York’s Stonewall.) Morisseau’s main point, her very telling point, is that the notion of Detroit as “a Negro mecca” was undermined from the start by white menace and corruption. It is represented here not only by telling the story of those vice-infused police officers, which is well-documented in history, but also by the inclusion of the Caroline character, who functions partly as a dangerous sexual siren ready to sap the power of black men, partly as a spy and partly as a reminder of the promise of racial harmony. That last theme is bolstered by the crossover Motown soundtrack, playing on an 8-track player in the corner, singing of love and unity in what history has shown us was a fatal moment in the life of a city.
Having said all that, the Northlight audience certainly responded warmly to this hugely promising play, generally well-acted on Jack Magaw’s straightforward setting … I for one am fascinated by Detroit, where I’ve spent a bit of time. It is fertile ground for writers and artists now in all kinds of ways. And you already can see here that Morriseau not only is invested in this town, but she knows where to look to understand how, where and when things went so badly wrong.
A city starts to unravel in intriguing Detroit ’67
November 17, 2013
By HEDY WEISS
In her play Detroit ’67, now in a winningly realized Northlight Theatre production, Dominique Morisseau looks at what many cite as the beginning of the Motor City’s downward slide.
She has set her story in the semi-finished basement of a working-class home at the epicenter of the chaos — Detroit’s near West Side — where a police raid of a popular, unlicensed, after-hours bar became the flashpoint of the riots. The owners of the house, Chelle (Tyla Abercrumbie, an actress of great radiance and emotional fervency) and her brother, Lank (the easefully intense Kamal Angelo Bolden), are running a little house-party operation of their own at the time.
In a very real sense, Morisseau has picked up where Lorraine Hansberry left off in A Raisin in the Sun, the 1959 drama that Detroit ’67 director Ron OJ Parson staged earlier this season at TimeLine Theatre. Key to both plays is the opposing attitudes of two siblings. Chelle, a young widow and mother of a son attending Tuskegee University, is determined to hold on to the hard-won gains made by her parents. But Lank, ambitious and restless, wants to forge his own future, taking a risk by buying a night spot of his own with his pal, Sly (Kelvin Roston Jr., all mischief and hustle).
Theater: ’67 Crystallizes Motown And Madness A Generation Experienced
Northlight Theatre mounted a riveting production of one family’s 1967 experience, from dancing parties to ambition to the great race riot that crippled a city.
November 23, 2013
By JENNIFER FISHER
It’s challenging to tell a personal story that opens the lens wide on a drastic event in history.
Northlight Theatre’s Midwest premiere production of Detroit 67 does it powerfully, examining the experience of an adult African-American sister (Chelle) and brother (Lank) who run dance parties in the basement of the home their parents left them–a convincing 1960s set by Jack Magaw, complete with laundry and linoleum tiles–to earn a few extra bucks.
The dance-party element fortunately gave playwright Dominique Morisseau a reason to lace the play with great Motown hits–from the fun tunes that carry the upbeat mood of the two young siblings and their best pals Bunny and Sylvester, to the pensiveness as the brother, Lank, starts falling into a then-forbidden affection for a white woman, and then the mixture of sadness, grief and resolve that mark the aftermath of how the enormous July 1967 Detroit riot affects the characters.
… [T]his is a well-written, beautifully performed work of theater that puts a human face on the racial strife and riots of the 1960s, showing us, the audience, the toll they took on a vibrant family. Under Ron OJ Parsons’ direction, the essential goodness and compassion of the characters comes through, which makes the events that unfold all the more shocking.
Detroit ’67 timely look at the racial divide
November 6, 2013
By CATEY SULLIVAN
ou can’t actually see either of the two galvanizing forces that indelibly alter the lives of the tight-knit brother/sister team at the heart of “Detroit ’67,” at Skokie’s Northlight Theatre. But the infectious sounds of Motown and the terrifying sounds of riots all but serve as additional characters in playwright Dominique Morisseau’s emotionally charged exploration of ferocious civil unrest and equally intense family ties.
In the hands of veteran, much-lauded Chicago director Ron OJ Parson, Detroit ’67 is both deeply rooted in the titular time and place, and as urgently relevant as the latest headlines.
“A lot of people want to say we’re living in a post-racial society because we’ve got a black president, but in some places of the country? It’s worse than ever,” says Parson.
For Langston, Chelle and Sylvester, the danger outside literally enters their apartment when the two men find a young white woman, dazed, bleeding and incoherent, wandering the streets. Simply by doing the decent human thing— taking her in and tending to her wounds — they put themselves in grave danger.
Still, the enigmatic Caroline is a catalyst for hope, says Bolden, so that Detroit ’67 is ultimately a joyful, hopeful play.
“There’s positivity that eventually shines through,” says Parson, “We’re still fighting a protracted struggle. But we’re making progress.”
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November 27, 2013
By CHRIS JONES
[I]f you are interested in the history and fate of the Motor City, Detroit ’67, which is the work of a very promising young writer named Dominique Morrisseau, offers some provocative insights into how the past has informed a bankrupt present. I was struck by how engrossed the Northlight audience seemed during this piece.
Tyla is excited to be making her Northlight debut and to be working with her friend and mentor Ron OJ Parson, with whom she recently worked as Assistant Director for A Raisin in the Sun (TimeLine). An actor and writer, look for her around Chicago performing the third installment of her stand up series, Naked & Raw. Regional theatre credits: Asolo Repertory, TimeLine, Goodman, Court, Portland Stage Company, Pittsburgh Public, Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, AWCCT, St. Louis Black Repertory, Victory Gardens, Chicago Shakespeare, Studio Arena, Onyx, and Coronet. Film & television credits: Crisis,The Poker House, Mob Doctor, Chicago Code, Detroit 187, The Beast, ER, and AMC’s new hit series Low Winter Sun. Tyla is a graduate of Columbia College with a BA in theatre.
Cassandra is delighted to be performing at Northlight for the first time! Chicago credits: The Tempest, Richard II, King John and Short Shakespeare! productions of Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth (Chicago Shakespeare); Arcadia, Hamlet (Court); Memory House (Victory Gardens); Mary’s Wedding (Rivendell – Jeff nomination, Best Actress); In the Blood, Measure for Measure(Next). Regional credits: Much Ado About Nothing (Great Lakes/Idaho Shakespeare Festival); My Name is Asher Lev, In the Next Room (Milwaukee Repertory);Memory House, In the Next Room (Actors’ Theatre of Louisville); Pride & Prejudice,Noises Off (Cleveland Play House); Crumbs from the Table of Joy (Renaissance Theaterworks); and six seasons at Peninsula Players in Door County, WI. Cassandra is a proud member of Actors’ Equity and holds a degree in Gender Studies from the University of Chicago.
Kamal Angelo Bolden
Kamal is beyond thrilled to make his Northlight debut. His recent theatre credits include The Misanthrope and Jitney (Court – Jeff Nomination, Best Ensemble), Short Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare), Bud, Not Buddy (Chicago Children’s), The Opponent (A Red Orchid Theatre – Jeff Nomination/Black Theatre Alliance Award Nomination – Principal Actor), Immediate Family (Goodman/About Face), The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity and We Are Proud to Present… (Victory Garden), and The Island (Remy Bumppo – BTAA Winner, Outstanding Leading Actor). Film & television credits: Low Winter Sun, Betrayal, Chicago Fire, Boss, Lights Out, and The Row. An ensemble member at A Red Orchid Theatre, he is represented by Paonessa Talent.
Coco is an actress, musician, playwright, screenwriter, and poet. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing and was published before graduation. Her voice can be heard in the permanent museum installationSkywatchers of Africa. Her voice is also in the Saint’s Row video game Ever Quest II, and Watchdogs. Coco’s one-woman show You Can’t Hide debuted at MPAACT’s solo jam series. She has appeared in The Old Settler, Shakin the Mess Outta Misery, and Hydraulics Phat Like Mean. Coco was also a featured musician in the book Black Women and Music: More than The Blues and the film Jazz: A Documentary. She has performed with the Great Black Music Ensemble in Pisa, Italy. Coco’s poetry is in 99 New Poems: A Contemporary Anthology, and inAmerica is … Personal Essays for Social Justice. She is a member of SAG, AFTRA, AEA, AFM, and the AACM.
Kelvin Roston Jr.
Kelvin Roston Jr is an actor/singer/musician/writer. He was last seen on Northlight’s stage as Reggie in Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew and before that as Sky in Detroit ’67 by the same playwright. Pre-pandemic, he was last seen in Day of Absence, Congo Square Theatre, and before that as King in King Headley II and Oedipus in Oedipus Rex, Court Theatre. Kelvin is the playwright and performer of Twisted Melodies, a look at mental illness through the eyes of legendary soul singer and musician, Donny Hathaway, which has toured nationally, including a stop at New York’s Apollo Theater. Chicagoland theaters: Congo Square, Court, Paramount, Marriott-Lincolnshire, Goodman, Eta, Writers, Black Ensemble, Timeline, Northlight, Steppenwolf, Pegasus, Chicago’s Children’s Theatre. Regional: The Black Rep (St. Louis, MO), Fulton (Lancaster, PA), New Theatre (Overland Park, KS), MSMT (Brunswick, ME), BCS (Baltimore, MD), Mosaic (WASHINGTON DC), Apollo (New York, NY). International: Orb (Tokyo, Japan), Festival Hall (Osaka, Japan). Television: Chicago Med, Chicago PD, KFC, Instant Care, Ace Hardware. Film: Get a Job, Princess Cyd, Breathing Room. Awards: Jeff Award, 3 BTA Awards, 2 Black Excellence Awards, NAMI Award, Court Theatre’s 2019/20 Nicholas Rudall Classic Artist Award. Kelvin is a proud member of AEA, a Congo Square Ensemble Member, and represented by Paonessa Talent.
Dominique is the author of The Detroit Project (A 3-‐Play Cycle) which includes the following plays: Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and NBT). Additional plays include: Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre); Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre) and Follow Me To Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). She is also the book writer on the new musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Berkeley Repertory Theatre). Dominique is alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop and has developed work at Sundance Lab and Eugene O’Neil Playwrights Conference. Her work has been commissioned by the Hip Hop Theater Festival, Steppenwolf Theater Company, Women’s Project, South Coast Rep, People’s Light and Theatre, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Penumbra Theatre. She recently served as Co‐Producer on the Showtime series “Shameless”. Awards include: Stavis Playwriting Award, NAACP Image Award, Spirit of Detroit Award, Weissberger Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-‐Cooper New American Play Prize, TEER Spirit Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama (Detroit ’67), Audelco and OBIE Award (Skeleton Crew).
Ron OJ Parson
Ron is a native of Buffalo, New York and a graduate of the University of Michigan’s professional theatre program. He is the co-founder and former Artistic Director of the Onyx Theatre Ensemble of Chicago, and a co-founder and co-director of Ripe Mango Productions. Ron currently resides in Chicago and is a Resident Artist at the Court Theatre. Since moving to Chicago from New York in 1994, he has worked as both actor and director. Chicago theatres Ron has worked with include The Chicago Theatre Company, Victory Gardens, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Dramatists, Northlight, Court, Black Ensemble, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, Writers, Congo Square, and Urban Theatre Company. Regional theatres include Virginia Stage, Portland Stage, Studio Arena, Studio, Roundabout, Wilshire, Mechanic, Center Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Rep, St. Louis Black Rep, South Coast Rep, Pasadena Playhouse, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Alliance, Signature, and Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. An accomplished actor, TV and film credits include ER, Early Edition, Turks, American Playhouse, Vamping, Ali, Barbershop 2, Primal Fear, Drop Squad, and most recently, Starz Network’s Boss. Ron is a proud member of AFTRA, SAG, AEA, and SDC.
Jack most recently designed Discord and Mothers and Sons at Northlight. Recent Chicago and regional design credits include Other Than Honorable (Geva Theatre), Evita (Kansas City Rep), The Flick (Steppenwolf), Rapture Blister Burn (Goodman), The Who and The What (Lincoln Center Theatre-LCT3 and La Jolla Playhouse), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Court), East Texas Hot Links and The Diary of Anne Frank (Writers), South Pacific (Clarence Brown Theatre), Man of La Mancha and The Mousetrap (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre). Ten Jeff Award nominations include designs for The Diary of Anne Frank (Writers) and Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Court). Upcoming projects include A Flea In Her Ear (American Players Theatre) and Fences (Kansas City Rep). Jack lives in Chicago and teaches design at The Theatre School at DePaul University. www.jackmagaw.com
Nan is delighted to be at Northlight Theatre. She has designed costumes for over a hundred productions (theatre, feature film, opera, dance, and television) both in the U.S. and abroad. She has designed for Broadway and is very active at numerous regional theatres across the nation such as Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Rep, Goodman, The Public, Shakespeare in Central Park, Alliance in Atlanta, Hartford Stage, Alley in Houston, American Rep at Harvard University, Court at the University of Chicago, and the Kennedy Center and Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. She is the recipient of the nationally acclaimed Michael Merritt Award for Design and Collaboration. Ms. Cibula-Jenkins is a Professor of Costume Design at The Theatre School.
Northlight credits include The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Relativity, By the Water, Charm, Shining Lives, Outside Mullingar, White Guy on the Bus, Detroit ’67, The Odd Couple, Ten Chimneys, Season’s Greetings, A Life, Grey Gardens, The Retreat From Moscow, Lady, Stella & Lou, The Outgoing Tide, Better Late and Chapatti (the last four also at the Galway International Arts Festival, Ireland). Other work has been seen at Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, About Face, Remy Bumppo, Writers, Steppenwolf and Walkabout. JR designed lighting for seven years of the Steppenwolf TRAFFIC Series, and five Steppenwolf performances in Chicago’s Millennium Park. He has served as head of the Lighting Department at Steppenwolf since 1995.
Nick is thrilled to be working with Northlight for the third time after Lost in Yonkers and Detroit ’67 last season. Nick has designed over 125 shows in the Chicago area, including shows at Court (Sizwe Banzi is Dead, The Illusion, The Piano Lesson), Next (Everything is Illuminated, End Days), Millennium Park (Guerra: A Clown Play), Neo-Futurists (The Sovereign Statement), Rivendell (These Shining Lives), A Red Orchid (The Iliad, Not a Game for Boys), and New Leaf (Arcadia, The Man Who Was Thursday, Touch, The Dining Room). He recently served as associate sound designer for Smokefall at Goodman. Nick teaches sound design at DePaul University and serves as a digital and web experience designer for a number of Chicago theatres, including the Neo-Futurists and the Paramount in Aurora.
Production Stage Manager
Malcom spent last year stage managing the Tony Award-winning revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway. He has been one of the resident stage managers at Steppenwolf since 1987. Over the years he has stage managed well over thirty productions for the company as well traveling with Steppenwolf projects to Great Britain, South Africa, and Australia. Also on Broadway, he was the PSM of Grapes of Wrath (1990 Tony Best Play), The Song of Jacob Zulu, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, and The Capeman. Regionally he has worked at Arena Stage, Berkeley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Long Wharf, and Goodman. A graduate of Amherst College, he returns every summer to Vermont to direct at the Weston Playhouse.