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Detroit Public Theatre Brings Plays to the Neighborhood

by Imani Mixon

A facade of a one-story beige-colored building with lettering that reads "Third Ave Garage" under a stylistic logo of the Detroit Public Theatre. The photo was taken during night time, so lights are shining through the building's large square windows, and cars are trailing the foreground of the image.
Photo Credit: Detroit Public Theatre / Lumumba Leon Reynolds II
Detroit Public Theatre's new home at 3960 Third Ave in Detroit, Michigan.

Now in a new permanent space, the black box theatre wants to create a cultural anchor institution for professional theatre for Detroiters.

After spending their first five years in-residence at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Public Theatre moved to a more permanent home at 3960 Third Ave last September. Just a few miles away from the city’s other historic art institutions including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and the Detroit Opera House.  

“We wanted to stay in the cultural center and in the cultural district. We wanted to be with the big kids,” says Courtney Burkett, founder and producing artistic director at The Detroit Public Theatre. 

Nestled between other Cass Corridor attractions in a building that had been vacant for many years, its striking facade emblazoned with the theatre’s logo signals a new era for performing art entertainment in the city.  The Detroit Public Theatre’s new building ushered in the 2022/2023 season. The black box theatre boasts a box office, bookshop, rehearsal studio, and a bar. It comfortably accommodates 200 people.

A wide look at a black box theatre with seats built on its three sides.
Photo Credit: Detroit Public Theatre
The Detroit Public Theatre now comfortably accommodates 200 people, and boasts a box office, bookshop, rehearsal studio, and a bar.

“We wanted to create a cultural anchor institution for professional theatre in Detroit. 

To be in conversation with our city and to create work that people of our city can come and see and see their own lives reflected in, so they don’t have to travel to Chicago or Stratford of New York to see quality professional theatre, but they can see their theatre here in their own city,” says Burkett. 

The first show featured in the new space was Dominique Morriseau’s Mud Row which tells an intergenerational story of one family in Detroit grappling with gentrification and growing pains. Morriseau, a Detroit native and world-renowned playwright, is also a member of the theatre’s artistic leadership team. 

Passing Strange written by singer-songwriter and playwright Stew is the final show of their current season. The play follows a young musician on his journey away from organized religion and into a bohemian lifestyle fueled by rock n’ roll. It’s the biggest show to date with a seven-person cast and a four-person band.  

The theatre provides a range of community programs including Shakespeare in Prison, Detroit ‘67 in Schools and Communities, DPT’s T.A.G. (Third Avenue Garage) Residencies, Detroit Dialogues Post-Show Forums, and Pick-Your-Price Tickets. 

The Detroit Public Theatre’s next season begins in late September with Jennifer Maisel’s Eight Nights. Previews will be September 27 and 28, then opening night is September 29. 

“We built it for you. We built it for the citizens of Detroit to see their own lives reflected. We want people to be able to communicate not only with the work that’s on the stage, but also with each other,” says Burkett. 

Whether they’re portraying prominent civil rights leaders, revisiting important cultural moments or delving into the rich interior lives of generations of Detroiters, Detroit Public Theatre excels in telling stories that you can’t find anywhere else in the city and beyond.