Detroit Blaze Destroys 90 Percent of African-American Troupe's Properties and Materials

News   Detroit Blaze Destroys 90 Percent of African-American Troupe's Properties and Materials A five-alarm fire in Detroit that destroyed a building June 20 took a piece of automotive history — and pieces of a Detroit theatre company's history.

The century-old, four-story building near Piquette and John R in Detroit's New Center Area was once home to the Wayne Automobile Company and Studebaker, The Detroit News reported. In its shadow was the derelict building where Henry Ford's Model T was mass-manufactured; it was unharmed despite flying embers.

In recent years, the now-decimated Piquette building was where Plowshares Theatre Company had stored 15 years' worth of materials that could be recycled for productions by the state's only African-American Equity company.

"Unfortunately, this was the building Plowshares used for storage of our physical assets," said Plowshares spokesman Walter Lindsey. "All sets, hand props, lighting equipment, flats, stage covers, masking, costuming and antique furniture that has been used in shows over the past 15 years are now gone."

Among items lost was a 1923 piano bought for $250 that was used three times — for Plowshares productions of The Piano Lesson, Ain't Misbehavin' and It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues.

Piquette Storage, one of the businesses in the building, was home for 90 percent of what the not-for-profit company had amassed over the years. According to Lindsey, "By reusing these items from season to season we were able to save money on production costs. That won't be possible now."

"At least we don't have to worry about storage space in our budget," laughed beleaguered Plowshares artistic director Gary Anderson in between heavy sighs about what was lost. "In these days when you're always looking to save a dime or two, having material that you acquired over the years is vital to continuing to have quality work on stage."

He said about 10-15 percent of Plowshares stock is placed in another facility that was not near the fire.

Plowshares is making a plea to the community to donate to the company, whether monetarily, or in goods, materials and storage. Donations are tax-deductible.

Plowshares Theatre Company is celebrating its 15th anniversary and will present Regina Taylor's Crowns this summer at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (July 21-Aug. 7).

Donations may be sent to Plowshares Theatre Company, 2870 E. Grand Blvd. #600, Detroit MI. 48202. For more information, call (313) 872-0279. Visit www.plowshares.org.

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