Dominique Morriseau’s Detroit ‘67 is set to stream from the Knickerbocker on February 26-28 and March 4-6. This piece was originally presented as a staged reading for the inaugural season of the Many Voices Project and will now be a fully-realized production. Co-sponsored by the Theatre Department and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Many Voices Project seeks to expand the repertoire of voices heard on the stages of Hope College. By transferring Detroit ’67 to a main stage production, the Theatre Department is amplifying its intent of bringing these voices to the forefront and marking a new intentional wave of inclusion of underrepresented voices at Hope College.
As anticipated from its title, this play is set in 1967 in Detroit against the backdrop of the Detroit Riot, also known as The Great Rebellion. Motown music runs through the veins of the characters whom Tia Hockenhull ‘23, Ka’niya Houston ‘23, Rubben Jerome ‘23, Alex Johnson ‘22, and Elayna Sitzman ‘23 bring to life. The music is a binding force when siblings Chelle (Hockenhull) and Lank (Johnson) come into contact with the outsider Caroline (Sitzman). As racial tensions run high around them, the siblings must find ways to balance their individual desires with the community and time they live in.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Alex Johnson and the stage manager Lydia Konings ‘24 about their experiences and thoughts surrounding this important production.
Johnson is no stranger to the Theatre Department’s main stage, previously appearing in Into the Woods and The Shakers of Mt Lebanon will Hold a Peace Conference This Month. However, Johnson confessed: “I don’t think I have ever been as connected to a character as I have for this show. There are so many parallels between Lank and me, especially the way he approaches music.”
This link to his character comes from Johnson being a musician at Hope. He is also excited that “the whole cast from the reading is the cast for this show, and it has been so cool to see us grow from the reading to now, especially in the physicalization of characters.” However, there is no need to worry if you watched the staged reading because this upcoming production is a completely new experience. Alex ensures that “being without a script is so different from the staged reading and helped us actors make new choices and made everything more dynamic and organic.”
Making her Hope College debut as a stage manager, Konings describes her experience as a “whirlwind to be SMing in Covid-times that has been a good learning experience.” She describes her journey with stage management as “Bob Ross’ happy little trees” — an accident that now seems like it was always supposed to happen. She is especially excited to call the light and sound cues for a live-streamed production.
Additionally, she has found herself engaged in the fact that “everyone involved feels the weight and responsibility of the message this play is putting out into the world. I think the Hope Theatre Department is working towards producing more diverse playwrights which I appreciate as a person of color.”
Both Konings and Johnson stressed how this is a must-watch production. The former honed in on the fact that “the ramifications of what happened in 1967 are still very real, especially with everything that’s happened this past year. It’s been really exciting and also a little scary to tackle a production of this nature.”
Johnson reciprocated her views as he highlighted the fact that “[Detroit ‘67] is a fictional story, yet it is so realistic in the context of that time and also the context of this time. When you look at the rebellion and protests that happened in Detroit and other cities during the late ’60s, there are a lot of parallels between them and the protests happening this summer. Obviously, there are different circumstances, but unfortunately, a lot of the same stuff is going on.”
So, listen to these talented members of the cast and crew and mark your calendars and register for free tickets for Detroit ‘67 at tickets.hope.edu.