A-list actor Blair Underwood joined a pop-up panel conversation in Detroit last month at the Charles H. Wright the Museum of African American History on the topic of “Capturing Detroit: Owning the Narrative of Our City.” The panel was moderated by legendary poetess jessica Care moore and was joined by fellow actors Andre Holland (Selma, Cinemax’s “The Knick”); Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Lackawanna Blues, Selma); and native Detroiter and award-winning playwright, actress and television writer Dominique Morisseau.
The topic of discussion revolved around Morisseau’s cycle of Detroit plays, titled The Detroit Project. The first of the anticipated plays in the cycle is DETROIT ’67, about the 1967 uprising and riots, and is premiering in Detroit May 13-June 5 with the Detroit Public Theatre at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music. Marlowe Stoudamire, a representative from the Detroit Historical Society, also joined the panel to bring factual insights on behalf of the DHS from the 67 riots.
The panel held an open dialogue and interactive conversation around Morisseau’s work, discussing her nationally acclaimed cycle of Detroit plays, and the impact that these stories and others have on shaping the narrative of Detroit and writing our own history.
Blair spoke very highly of Morisseau and her inspiring plays. “As a man, and a Black man in 1949 Detroit, she just understood that. And when I read her words, I could relate to that. I think any artist — especially an artist of color — can relate to that. Then you put it in the specificity of a Black man trying to find your dignity in a world that doesn’t necessarily allow you to breathe, and live, she spoke to all of that,” Underwood said in praising Morisseau.
Underwood was speaking of his character, Blue, in one of Dominique’s previous plays, Paradise Blue, that also starred Andre Holland and was directed by Santiago-Hudson. Blue was a gifted trumpeter who contemplates selling his less-than-flourishing jazz club in Detroit’s Blackbottom neighborhood in order to better his life. It was a dynamic and musically-infused drama that shined the light on the challenges of building a better future on the foundation of what our ancestors left us.
If Detroit ’67 is anything like Paradise Blue, it’s a play that you won’t want to miss. Even though Underwood, Holland and Santiago-Hudson won’t be starring in or directing the play, it’s still sure to be a hit based on the impact of Morisseau’s previous work.
Photo gallery credit: Porsha Monique for Steed Media Service