Like a lot of great plays, it’s taken years for Detroit Public Theatre to find a stage of its own. This month, that will change as the homegrown company run entirely by women opens its very own doors to the public for the first time.
Detroit Public Theatre will launch its eighth season inside its own digs at the historic Third Avenue Garage in the city’s Cass Corridor, joining a busy block that includes the Selden Standard restaurant and the popular Barcade. It will be Detroit Public Theatre’s first season outside of its former home, Robert A. & Maggie Allesee Rehearsal Hall at the Fisher Music Center, where the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performs.
Its building dates back to 1927 and has been updated with state-of-the-art amenities. The black box theater will seat about 200 patrons per show and have seating designed to move around and accommodate each production’s unique set designs. A new lobby, box office, and bar called the Green Room will round out the additions to the space.
But what are fancy new accommodations without shows to match? Detroit Public Theatre will open its latest season with Mud Row (Sept. 21-Oct. 30), written by Tony-nominated Detroit playwright Dominique Morisseau, who also serves as the company’s executive artistic producer.
The play tells the story of two sisters forced to confront their shared heritage after one of them inherits their grandmother’s house.
“It’s got some really interesting things to say about inheritance, legacy, and place and how we are defined by our homes and the places we live,” says Courtney Burkett, one of three producing artistic directors and co-founders of Detroit Public Theatre. “It’s really interesting to be opening a new space in Detroit and to have that conversation about who these buildings and the overall community belong to.”
It’s rare in almost every industry to see women running the show (all three producting artistic directors are women), and “theater is no different,” says Burkett, who adds that diversity on stage and in the offices of independent theater is growing but not quite where it needs to be yet.
But starting Detroit Public Theatre from scratch nearly a decade ago has allowed Burkett and her team to play by their own rules.
“One of the great things about building this company from the ground up is that we don’t have to do things the way they were always done,” she says.
In addition to Mud Row, Detroit Public Theatre will also stage Noura by Michigan-born Iraqi American playwright Heather Raffo starting on Nov. 6. For the full fall season, visit detroitpublictheatre.org.
This story is from the September 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.