“Life ain’t just about keeping what you’ve got. It’s about building something new”.
Easier said than done for a black man in Detroit in the summer of 1967. Lank (short for Langston, as in Langston Hughes) and his sister Chelle are turning the basement of the house they inherited from their parents into an after-hours club. Motown, the weather, and racial tensions are all heating up in the summer of 1967, when a mysterious white woman suddenly disrupts their relationship just as riots explode outside their front door.
Dominique Morisseau’s play won the 2014 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History. The Omaha Community Playhouse did a well-received staged reading of “Detroit ‘67” in 2015. SNAP Productions will produce the regional premiere in March. “The play is so smart,” says director Noah Diaz. “There are moments of poignancy and really, really funny moments. Funnier than we thought it was on the page.”
Raydell Cordell, who plays Lank, is also struck by Morisseau’s voice. “The way the characters interact reminds me of my childhood and how we interacted. Granted, I wasn’t alive in the Sixties but the language is so accurate to the African American culture. There were times when we (the cast) had to slow down and made sure we were saying all the words correctly, even though they are not written in ‘standard grammar.’ Once we found the rhythm, the words just naturally soared and that was the cool part; it felt right.”
When Diaz was chosen to direct the play last summer, he was already thinking about how the show would be perceived the following March. “Even back then I was thinking the show would have a different weight depending on the outcome of the election.” While the story is very clearly set in the summer of 1967, there is no escaping its contemporary relevance. “This is a play that needs to be told right now,” says Diaz. It’s an old trope, but history repeats itself.”An outstanding cast includes Doriette Jordan (Chelle), Raydell Cordell III (Lank), Regina Palmer (Bunny), Andre McGraw (Sly) and Jodi Vaccaro (Caroline). Cordell notes that the music itself is also character in the play. “If there were times when we struggled with a scene, we would listen to the song Morisseau chose for that scene and see where that would take us. We often found results; it made this play more concrete. Once your ears adjust, you will instantly be immersed in this vibrant, rich and poetic world Dominique created for us.”
SNAP! Production’s production of “Detroit ‘67” by Dominique Morisseau will run from March 10 through April 22. Curtain is 8 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Curtain on Sunday nights is 6 pm except for a closing Sunday matinee time of 2 pm. There will be a TAG Night Out on Thursday, March 9. There will be ASL Interpreters for the March 11 performance. The house opens thirty minutes before curtain. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students, seniors (55+), military and TAG members. “Throwback Thursday” shows are only $12. SNAP! Productions will again be doing the NEW FREE STUDENT RUSH TICKET program. This program is made possible by a grant from the Jetton Fund. If you have a valid Student ID, you can get a chance for one of the limited Free Student Rush tickets. Just be at the box office twenty minutes before show time to see if there are any available for that performance. They are based on availability and on a first come/first serve basis.