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'Paradise Blue' to launch Detroit Public Theatre 2019-2020 season

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News
Jessica Frances Dukes (left) and Michelle Wilson in the 2016 Detroit Public Theatre production of "Detroit '67," the first in Dominique Morisseau's trilogy on her home town. "Paradise Blue," the third in the series, will kick off the theater's 2019-2020 season.

"Paradise Blue," the third installment in Dominique Morisseau's series about her hometown Detroit, will open the 2019-2020 season at the Detroit Public Theatre. The play will run Sept. 25-Nov. 3.

In 2016 and 2017, DPT, located in the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, produced the first two works in Morisseau's Detroit cycle, "Detroit '67" and "Skeleton Crew," respectively. 

Other DPT productions this season will include "Temples of Lung and Air," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Cost of Living." Season tickets are available now; single tickets go on sale July 15. 

"Paradise Blue" (Sept. 25-Nov. 3) is set in 1949 as the doomed Black Bottom neighborhood waits to be leveled to make room for the Chrysler Freeway and other "urban renewal" including Lafayette Park. The play premiered four years ago at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in western Massachusetts. 

In 2018, Morisseau, based in New York, won a MacArthur "genius grant." Like all the playwright's work, said DPT founding co-producer Sarah Winkler, "'Paradise Blue' is an intimate, personal story with huge cultural, economic and social ramifications -- a tale of what you lose and what you might gain at a time of great transition in the city."

"Temples of Lung and Air" (Nov. 14-Dec. 8) by hip-hop and spoken-word writer and performer Kane Smego is a one-man production that PlayMakers Repertory Company premiered last year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

"Kane grew up in the south," Winkler said. "He's a white man whose father figure growing up – his mother’s partner -- was an African-American professor of history. The play is journey through his childhood, but really a journey through race in America and how we talk about it."

Winkler watched a video of the performance, she said, "and was blown away. Kane is a virtuosic solo performer."

The announcement that DPT will do Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Feb. 6-Feb. 29), Winkler said, elicits one of two reactions: "I've seen it 20 times and can’t wait to see what you do with it," she said, or "I've never seen it and I can't wait." 

Both, Winkler added, warm a theater producer's heart. "We all love 'Hedwig,'" she said, "and will be taking it off campus to do it in bar-like atmosphere" -- location yet to be determined. 

"Cost of Living" by Martyna Majok (April 30-May 24), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama last year, pairs two mismatched individuals -- a quadriplegic and a young man with cerebral palsy. 

The playwright requires those roles be played by actors who are themselves disabled in some fashion, though not necessarily like their characters in the play. 

"This is a thrilling, exciting work to produce," Winkler said. "We read it and laughed and sobbed. It's spectacular."

And in a first, DPT will collaborate with two other local theater organizations -- Broadway in Detroit and The Hinterlands -- in presenting, respectively, August Wilson's "Jitney" and the Double Edge Theatre's "Leonora and Alejandro." 

"Jitney" will be staged at the Music Hall, and "Leonora and Alejandro" at Jam Handy on Detroit's east side. 

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

Detroit Public Theatre 2019-2020 Season

"Paradise Blue" - Sept. 25-Nov. 3

"Jitney" - Nov. 12-1

"Temples of Lung and Air" - Nov. 14-Dec. 8

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" - Feb. 6-29

"Leonora and Alejandro" - April 2-5

"Cost of Living" - April 30-May 24

Tickets: Season subscriptions are available now; single tickets on sale July 15 

(313) 576-5111