It’s the summer of 1967 and the songs of Motown are breaking records and breaking barriers.
In Theatre Arts’ new production, “Detroit ’67,” by Dominique Morisseau, main characters Chelle and her brother, Lank, are running an unlicensed after-hours juke joint out of their basement. It’s a risky business, especially during a brutal police crackdown that sets off riots throughout the city. When Lank offers refuge to a mysterious stranger, he and Chelle clash. Pent-up emotions erupt, and they navigate the chaos both outside and within.
“Detroit ’67” is directed by Johnny Jones and runs Thursday, Jan. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 2 in Thrust Theatre, with a community night on Thursday, Jan. 30, which features a talk back and all tickets are discounted to $10. Click here for specific dates and times.
The play is a part of Morisseau’s “Detroit Project,” which explores the complicated yet hopeful history of her hometown. While her other plays, “Pipeline” and “Skeleton Crews,” have been staged in Louisville, “Detroit ‘67” has not. This is its Louisville debut.
Jones, who also directs UofL’s African American Theatre Program, said the play touches on universal themes of family, love and survival. Detroit, the quintessential American city, falls apart, but the people there live on.
“Detroit is never the same after the riot, that neighborhood is never the same, but you still have the people survive it. What we all want to believe is that we can all overcome situations and challenges,” he said.
Mutiyat “Tia” Ade-Salu, a graduate Theatre Arts student, is playing Chelle for her thesis role. She recently corresponded with UofL News about her experience.
UofL News: What made you choose UofL’s Theatre Arts program?
Tia Ade-Salu: I was extremely attracted to the Graduate Certificate in African American Theatre and its inclusion of African theatrical practices. Based on my past experience as an actor, I knew that it was important for me to receive advanced training that included techniques and theories related to my cultural heritage.
UofL News: What do you like about the role you’re playing? What attracts you to it?
Tia Ade-Salu: One thing I love is that Chelle and I have so many similarities. We’re both the eldest siblings in our families, stern, sentimental, afraid to let go of people and objects that are familiar to us, and careful planners. Another thing I love is that the playwright (whose also a fellow Michigan alumna) made sure the character had complexity. Even though Chelle is wise and able to judge people, she still has a few blind spots of her own.
UofL News: What do you think audiences will take from the show?
Tia Ade-Salu: There’s nothing wrong with dreamin’! I believe that’s the biggest message from the play. No matter how many deaths, disappointments, or destruction occur in one’s life, dreams are necessary for renewal and growth. Without them, there is no reason for living. For Chelle, in particular, the dream of undying love, is what will keep her going.
UofL News: What do you plan to do when you graduate?
Tia Ade-Salu: I plan to continue exploring new theatrical works and film that illuminate my heritage. As a first-generation Yoruba-American I’ve had a long road towards discovering my true identity and how to use it in my artistry. With my own acting studio, The WAY, I will help other actors specify their identities and use them to deepen their craft as well.
Click here to purchase tickets to “Detroit ’67,” which runs Jan. 26-Feb. 2 in Thrust Theatre.
Click here to see pictures of the show.