Updates on AFTER/LIFE: A Detroit 67 Project, and more!
AFTER/LIFE opened July 20, 2017 at the Joseph Walker Williams Recreation Center in Detroit, MI, with an inspiring cast of nine under the direction of Kristin Horton. The two-week run SOLD OUT before it opened! Written by Lisa Biggs, the script wove oral histories with archival materials, poetry, song and dance into a one-hour performance piece that told stories of the '67 rebellion from the perspective of women and girls. After/Life was one of many community events marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit rebellion. For more about the '67 rebellion, check out www.detroit67.org.
My recently published article about women and girls in the 1967 Detroit Rebellion for The Conversation:
Kristin Horton and I interviewed each other about the process of developing and staging After/Life for Howl Round, the online theatre commons:
Lisa interviewed on WNYC radio about how Kathryn Bigelow's movie Detroit depicts the events of '67!!
Only the Blind Can See
This review of the show was written by Efren Paredes, Jr., a member of the Ionia Handlon MTU prison drama club: "Only the Blind Can See" is a play about a teenage African-American male who collapses in a town. People all over the community make assumptions about the event, including believing that he was a victim of violence. In the end it is a blind man who simply asks if anyone has checked the teenager's body for vitals. The question leads to the discovery that the teenager is still alive, revealing that many people drew wrong conclusions about what occurred... The moral of the story was the need to recognize the importance of utilizing all our conceptual tools to interpret reality rather than reaching conclusions based on fragments of information... Audience members described the play as "disciplined and heartfelt," "40 minutes of great entertainment," and "brilliantly done"... [Said one cast member as he reflected on the impact of the show], "Men came together to present a narrative about the difficulties of life and the joy that comes from triumphing over struggle." One of the youngest performers, Kenyatta Johnson, was impressed with how Dr. Biggs "continued to break down walls and barriers that the men in her class didn't even know existed"... One concept Dr. Biggs introduced to cast members was "sawubona," which she learned about while conducting a theater workshop for women prisoners in South Africa. The Zulu term inculcates the value of recognizing the inherent dignity in fellow human beings. Lessons like these and others helped the men remove their intellectual blinders, evolve into better people, and empowered them to become the torch bearers to carry on Dr. Biggs' legacy of teaching the world the vital role that story catchers play in our society. It is a legacy well-deserving of our time and dedication. And, one that will proudly be carried on." #FreeEfren #FreeAllPoliticalPrisoners
Fellowship at Grace Episcopal
Went to a beautiful church service at Grace Episcopal Church the first Sunday of Lent (March 5, 2017) and stayed for the fellowship time. I got a chance to speak with members of the congregation between bites of homemade frittata and a decadent chocolate cake. The church is 100 years old and has been in Virginia Park for 98 years. Did they have stories to tell! Some had no idea the riot was going on until people outside the city called them to check on them; they were watching the coverage on the TV and were afraid for their Detroit friends. Another women saw the 101st Airborne division drive a tank down her street and park it in front of the house. Her mother worked in the arsenal, making them tanks, but here it was parked in front of the house while her mother was at the arsenal working on them! The girl hid in the house, but saw snipers climb the nearby trees and take position. A third was working at MetLife, which stopped its representative from going door to door to collect people's $0.25 or $1 payments on their policies in the aftermath of the rebellion. This led to a promotion for her. Ass the only "colored" person,s she was tasked with opening up a new office downtown where people could carry their payments. Another woman sat up when I mentioned Bill Scott III. Her sister/friend who lived upstairs had dated him. He used to drive them around in his car and she'd always wondered what happened to him after he left for school in Ann Arbor after the unrest. Finally, another woman told me her friend was at the "blind pig" on Clairmount the night it all went down. More on that story to come! #Detroit67 #Afterlife
AFTER/LIFE featured on MSU Today (4/24/2017)
“In the ‘60s, women were largely prevented from taking public leadership roles in business and in politics,” Biggs said. “Women are always the workers, but too often they don’t get the recognition they deserve. As a result, stories of the uprising don’t represent their experiences. AFTER/LIFE is an opportunity for audiences to learn about the events that led up to the rebellion and its aftermath through the eyes of women and girls who were there.”
Catch a stage reading of the play at Michigan State University -- Friday, April 28 at 7:30 PM and Saturday, April 29 at 2:00 PM, RCAH Theatre, 362 Bogue Street, East Lansing, MI