Clarence Brown Carousel Theatre - 2019
Written by: Dominique Morisseau
Director: Lisa Gaye Dixon
Scene Design: Katherine Stepanek
Lighting Design: Jordan Vera
Costume Design: John Merritt III
Sound Designer: Chandler Oppenheimer
Photographer: Kenton Yeager
Set in an illegal, after-hours bar in a basement, Detroit ‘67 explores the turmoil the family experiences during an explosive and decisive moment in America, the Detroit race riots. The Poindexter family lives in the Near West Side of Detroit, which was the center of upheaval in July of 1967.
This basement is is being set up for the reopening of the bar at the beginning of the show. The characters decorate the space with what money they have, showcasing posters with a black power theme, including MLK, Malcolm X, and various Motown artists. A tacky neon sign and strings of Christmas lights bring some color into the space, while record player and 8-track player vie for musical dominance in the space.
The architecture of the space is a combination of the foundation walls and the drywall common to unfinished basements. The 2x4 supports make the drywall more dynamic, while the brick accents add texture and an earthy vibe. The space under the stairs has been converted to storage for the family, filled with boxes, cleaning supplies, an old fridge, and a washing machine, among other household items.
The looming ceiling pieces bring a dynamic aspect to the set, emphasizing the overwhelming oppressiveness of the situation that the characters find themselves in, while firmly setting the space in a basement and maintaining reality. The characters use the support poles as dance partners and as the base of many unique movements.
Detroit '67 is set in this secluded basement while the world outside falls apart. The scenery for this show mimics this idea, with the whole set enclosed by graffiti walls. These walls are based on the 8-Mile Wall in Detroit. In the ‘60s, this wall was a segregation wall, which ran along 12th street, separating the black neighborhood from the white. This wall turned into a base for graffiti, focusing on the Civil Rights Movement of the time. Combining this graffiti with the art from Raeford Liles’ Riot paintings, which themselves are based on the real Detroit race riots, a mural was crafted. With quotes and images applicable to the civil rights movement of the 60’s, as well as modern issues, these graffiti walls make the concerns and issues of the play relatable to the modern day audience.