Blackfriars presents “Detroit ’67”


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The sounds of Motown, racism, and the struggles of a family are at the heart of the new Blackfriars Theatre production.

“Detroit ’67” will be on stage in Rochester from October 18 to November 3. Director J. Simmons and actress Melanie McBride, who plays Caroline, discussed the show and its themes Wednesday during News 8 at Noon.

“It is about so much,” said Simmons of the play. “Just to start off with, it is the first of a series of the Detroit Project, that was written by Dominique Morisseau. It centers around the Detroit riots. That is pretty much the backdrop for the story. What is actually happening within the story is a lot of sociopolitical, also family – we’re talking a lot about relationships, gentrification, and then obviously Motown and the Motown music, the Motown sound.”

Little is known about McBride’s character who plays an integral role in the story. “Caroline is more of a mysterious character,” she said. “I can’t tell too much. But she’s essentially found in downtown Detroit in a bad state. She seems bruised, she’s kind of stumbling. She looks like she’s about to pass out. So the brother and his friend pick her up and bring her home so that they can take care of her because she’s clearly not doing well. She wakes up in the home and you kind of slowly figure out more about her and what her story is and what happened to her. That’s all part of the mystery of the show. It’s been very exciting to get to know her. She’s a very dynamic character. We’ve talked a lot about how Dominique Morisseau writes really strong roles for women. And all of the women in the show are very, very different and complex and bring a lot to the table. It’s been fun to figure that out and see how that relates to the other women in the cast. It’s been really rewarding.”

Although the story is set in 1967, the themes and its connection to Rochester make it relatable today. “The concepts and the things that everyone is dealing with at that time are things that we deal with right now,” noted Simmons. “Racism, police brutality, the idea that we’re still in somewhat of a class-based society, a lot of those things that were going on then, are what is going on today. Also, there’s an interesting tie to Rochester as well with Rochester having its own history of riots – actually being only 3 years apart from the Detroit riots – and the idea of racial issues and how we relate to each other and get over our racial issues. I think it’s also interesting just with Rochester’s own history between Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony and what they strive to do. So a lot of these topics we think are old, are still here and still things that we are dealing with and having to overcome.”

For tickets to see “Detroit ’67” call (585) 454-1260 or visit the Blackfriars website.

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