Penumbra has produced several of Morisseau's work recently, including Detroit '67, which, along with Skeleton Crew, is part of the cycle of plays she's written about her hometown called The Detroit Project (we just need someone to produce Paradise Blue to complete the trilogy). Detroit '67 explores the devastating riot of that year through music, while Skeleton Crew is a more modern story about the closing of auto plants in Detroit during the recent recession. The playbill has some interesting and relevant information about the Great Migration, in which millions of African Americans left the South for jobs in the North in the last century, specifically for jobs in Detroit's auto industry, meaning that the decline of those industries in this century hit the African American community in Detroit particularly hard. As director Austene Van puts it in a note in the playbill, this play "puts living, breathing flesh on the dry, bare bones of catastrophic statistics that reveal the devastating loss of employment and livelihood for far too many African Americans working in the auto industry."
|line workers gather in the break room (Jamecia Bennett,
Mikell Sapp, and Nadége Matteis, photo by Justin Cox)
|tensions arise between supervisor Reggie (Darius Dotch) and
line worker Dez (Mikell Sapp, photo by Justin Cox)
The entire play takes place in the factory break room, well represented by Nicole DelPizzo's scenic design of industrial gray, complete with lockers, a bulletin board littered with signs, and even a working coffee pot. Scene changes are made more interesting by the use of music and repeated sounds, and lighting effects which turn windows and doors into boxes in which we see the robotic dance-like movements on the line. Characters are dressed in traditional working clothes - jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, with supervisor Reggie sporting an array of ties and sweater vests. (Sound design by Jeff Bailey, lighting design by Courtney Schmitz, costume design by Samantha Fromm Haddow.)
Head on up to Osseo this Black History Month to see this compelling and common story of working class people living through changes in our economy that threaten their way of life.