Citywide SOUP Winner – January 2014
Have you ever watched A Midsummer Night’s Dream while sitting in a lawn chair with the threat of a rainstorm looming overhead and classic architecture framing the stars? That’s the kind of opportunity that Shakespeare in Detroit (SiD) brings to the city with each performance. Samantha White, the creative director and founder of the theater company, explains that SiD performs in the places that people live, work and play. Each of their performances utilizes a different public space in Detroit, and Samantha approached the idea of tapping into Detroit SOUP’s resources following a failed Kickstarter campaign.
Recycle Here! is a community recycling center located just outside the Midtown area and Samantha had the vision to transform it into a space for performance. Kickstarter is all or nothing, so at this time in the theater company’s development they were not sure how they were going to make Antony and Cleopatra happen. That’s when Samantha decided to present at Detroit SOUP. She explains, “People really loved the idea of Shakespeare in the middle of a recycling center with repurposed or recycled materials, AND they even came out and saw the show.”
SiD is more than a project; it is a movement. Cities need art in order to thrive, and that is why Samantha and her team are committed to creating a world-class Shakespeare company in Detroit. They are hoping to one day join the ranks of companies like Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford Fest and The Globe, even if that kind of prestige takes years and years to reach. To SiD, cities need more than just jobs to sustain a thriving economy and Shakespeare is one of the ways to bring art and life to the city. Not only are they concerned with the people that live and work in Detroit, but they are also hoping to attract tourism. She explains, “Shakespeare has centuries of proven consumer engagement, all over the world, and could serve as great international bait in getting people to the city who may not otherwise come.”
So far, SiD has had performances in some of the most celebrated parts of Detroit such as Grand Circus Park, Recycle Here!, and New Center Park. There are plenty of other smaller performances in other corners of Detroit, as well. Samantha wants to bring Shakespeare alive for Detroiters, people from the suburbs, and visitors from all over. Many of the performances have been sold out or reached capacity because Detroit is supportive of this idea and art in the city.
Shakespeare has a long history in Detroit, but SiD is the first group to perform outdoors with an all-local cast. For years, Wayne State University students have done Shakespeare productions as well as some other troupes that have ventured to the city for special performances. Samantha is proud of the audience that follows SiD, she explains, “We were proud to bring a local production to the city, under the stars, in the middle of the city’s landscape and engage with a beautifully diverse group of people. I am SO proud of our audiences. Dare I say, it is one of the most eclectic theater audiences in this city.”
To find out about SiD’s upcoming season visit their website: www.shakespeareindetroit.com
– Joanna Dueweke