DETROIT '67 Director Thomas W. Jones II on Dominique Morisseau & the landscape of American Theatre

Detroit ‘67 is written by one of the most emerging, phenomenal artists of our generation, Dominique Morisseau, who is a part of a handful of African American women who are redefining and creating a Renaissance in the theatre. Women like Dominique, Katori Hall, Lynn Nottage, and a host of women are redefining and re-establishing in the American Theatre what it is to look at the African American community. 

Dominique looks at this community going forward by going back to a time in our history when there was a great fissure in this country; when there was almost a civil disturbance that divided the country in two sides--not unlike today. Houses were divided over something called the Vietnam War, where dreams were being made, where we were growing up (because I grew up in that era) with televised assassinations, where every couple of years you sat around with your family and grieved in America over watching your heroes die. Whether it was Robert Kennedy, or John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Medgar Evers, or the students at Jackson State, or the students at Kent State, there was something that you grieved over. Where you watched on a nightly basis body bags being brought back from Vietnam and our country being divided. I went to a school in the Upper Westside of New York where a lot of students were protesting and going downtown and being beat up by construction workers because it was a country that was ravaged by this conversation. It was a world that was trying to emerge with new values, with a new consciousness, with a new way of looking at itself. 

What Dominique does very well is tell that story without overtly telling that story. She invested in the lives of 5 human beings that were dreamers. And it was Langston Hughes that said something like, “One has to hold onto dreams because if you don’t, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly”.  All of these characters in this play are men and women who are trying to take wing, who are trying to find themselves in the American landscape, who are looking at redefining the world by reinvesting in their own dreams by embracing a consciousness that is certainly not revolutionary but self-determining. 

When you come to this play, come with your heart open. Come ready to experience a journey of not just African American women but of human beings who are trying to make sense out of their lives, who are trying to take order out of chaos. There was a social critic who once said that in the lives of every African American man and woman, they will have to confront the fact that they will be perceived to be a n_____er, and it's at that point that they have to start that long, psychological climb uphill to restore order out of chaos. So I think what this play does extremely well is to show men and women who are trying to restore order out of chaos. 

Detroit ‘67 begins performances on October 23 with an official opening of October 26, and continues performances through November 10. Get your tickets here.