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Art imitates society’s current climate in CCRI Players’ production of Detroit ‘67

April 29, 2021

The Community College of Rhode Island Players conclude their 2020-21 season this week with a virtual production of Detroit '67, a powerful look at the impact of the infamous race riots that shook the city of Detroit in the summer of 1967.

Directed by Alexis Ingram, a Teaching Artist at The Gamm Theatre in Warwick, Detroit '67 premiers Thursday, April 29 via ShowTix4U with a 7:30 pm show, followed by additional 7:30 pm performances on Friday and Saturday in addition to a pair of 2 pm matinees Saturday and Sunday.

Written by American playwright and award-winning actress Dominique Morisseau, Detroit '67 tells the story of conflicting siblings, Chelle and Lank, who, amidst the riots that defined the period known as the “long, hot summer of 1967,” convert their basement into a small, private nightclub to make ends meet, but struggle with racial tension and economic instability. When a mysterious woman finds her way into their lives, the siblings clash over more much more than the family business. 

Their pent-up frustration inevitably erupts, coinciding with the escalating hostility between black residents of Detroit and the city’s police department that led to one of the bloodiest incidents of 1967. The Detroit riot lasted from July 23–28, resulting in more than 7,200 arrests.

Detroit ’67 has won numerous awards, including the 2014 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History. The Players' rendition of Detroit '67 stars Nyah Price as Chelle, Eddy Tavares as Lank, Abbey Pezza as Caroline, Jacob Scott as Sly, and Dinorah Best as Bunny.

Morisseau’s play remains relevant and poignant as ever in today’s current social climate; the ongoing wave of civil and political unrest over the past year has resulted in nationwide protests against systemic racism. The parallel between what happened in the summer of 1967 – most of which occurred at the height of the country’s civil rights movement – and incidents that have occurred in various cities in states since the spring of 2020 is noteworthy in the Players’ depiction of Detroit ’67.   

“I’ve never connected to a play so much before. It was super difficult to execute, but thrilling,” said Tavares, a Pawtucket native. “I’m happy to be a part of this.”

“This play really reflects these times, even though it's set in the ‘60s,” added Best, a Providence native who also starred in the Players’ production of The Shadow Box and Unity Poem: The Past, Present, and Future. “I'm honored to bring to light issues and cycles that need to be addressed through theater.”

The Players performed four virtual plays during the 2020-21 season, a schedule that also included a performance by guest artist and renowned Providence poet Christopher Johnson entitled Invoice for Emotional Labor, which premiered April 8.

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