The Detroit Projects

by Northlight Theatre

Playwright Dominique Morisseau

Dominique Morisseau’s three play cycle, The Detroit Projects, explores the city of Detroit in three different eras. The first of the trilogy is Detroit ’67, which depicts the eruption of Motown and the race riots in 1967. In 2013, Ron OJ Parson directed Detroit ’67 here at Northlight. The second play is Paradise Blue, about a struggling jazz club in 1949. This was recently produced at Timeline Theatre. Skeleton Crew is the third play of the cycle, about a failing auto plant during the Great Recession in 2008 which is now being produced on our stage. Morisseau was inspired to write this cycle, in part, by August Wilson. August Wilson is known for his ten play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, which depicts the African-American experience over ten different decades. Famous titles from the Pittsburgh Cycle include FencesThe Piano Lesson, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.

The following is an excerpt of Dominique’s comments on Wilson’s influence:

“..the way he captures the jazz, and the way his people spoke in Pittsburgh. I thought how affirmed they must be when they read his work; they must feel so visible. I wanted to do that for Detroit, mostly because I felt that the narrative I know about the city is not visible. And I want to address the stuff that has been a conflict for us in the way that August Wilson did, and be a griot, a storyteller for them.

I definitely think people come in with assumptions about Detroit… Detroiters know that people feel negatively about the city, so theyre very particular about whos going to write us. When I tell people from Detroit that Im writing about the city, the first thing they say is, ‘Okay, make us look good now.’ And Im like, ‘Why? Thats not an interesting play!’ Im not going to do that. But what I promise is: Im not going to make you look bad. Im going to make you look human. Because thats what we are.”

Read the latest issue of American Theatre Magazine  to read about Dominque’s most recent play, Pipeline.