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"Detroit" to be completely produced, performed by students

  • The cast of "Detroit" performing during a dress rehearsal.
  • The cast of "Detroit" performing during a dress rehearsal.
  • The cast of "Detroit" performing during a dress rehearsal.

Posted on February 16, 2017

Robbie Bell has dreamed of working for the Walt Disney Company since his childhood.

"Ever since I discovered my true passion for theater, I decided that I could combine the two," he recalled. "I would love to be a show designer or director for one of the Walt Disney theme parks, or maybe even Disney on Broadway."

Bell, a senior majoring in theater, is taking one step closer to achieving his dream by sitting in the director's chair for the first time for the Theater Department's upcoming production of "Detroit."

The production is a part of the department's annual Performance Studio Series, which gives upper-level theater students the opportunity to use the practical skills they have learned in the classroom. During P.S. Series productions, students have creative control over directing, acting, backstage production, set design and costume design.

"Detroit," a play written by Lisa D'Amour that, ironically, has nothing to do with Detroit, depicts Mary and Ben living in a suburb near an unnamed mid-sized city. Mary and Ben are hosting new neighbors, Sharon and Kenny, who live next door in a rented house, for a friendly backyard barbecue. The gathering spirals into a deliriously dangerous revelry when themes of suburban troubles related to upward mobility, spousal relationships and economic anxiety take over.

Bell said he chose "Detroit" because it takes place in the unique and intimate setting of a backyard, but also for its message.

"I love this play because it is genuinely funny, but, most importantly, I chose 'Detroit' for its message that everyone has a secret struggle that they're dealing with," he explained. "This is what I believe makes us all the same on some level, and you really cannot judge a book by its cover for this reason."

"Detroit" will not be Hannah Frank's first time acting as stage manager for a Grand Valley production. She filled the same production role for 2016's "Six Characters in Search of an Author," and 2015's P.S. Series production of "Café Murder."

Frank said she enjoys "Detroit" for its dynamic cast of characters.

"I love the complexity of 'Detroit.' You think you know who the characters are, but by the end of the show, you're questioning them," said Frank, a senior majoring in theater. "I love how crazy the characters are and how much they contrast against each other."

Performances of "Detroit" will take place February 17 at 7:30 p.m., February 18 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and February 19 at 2 p.m. in Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Performing Arts Centers. Tickets are $6 for general admission. For more information, call the Louis Armstrong Theatre box office at (616) 331-2300.