Out of the Ashes, Detroit's Plowshares Opens Gospel Play Crowns July 23

News   Out of the Ashes, Detroit's Plowshares Opens Gospel Play Crowns July 23 With the July 23 opening of the gospel musical Crowns, Plowshares Theatre Company in Detroit is presenting its first production since a June fire destroyed 90 percent of its materials.

Gary Anderson, artistic director of Detroit's only African-American Equity troupe, said the community has reached out to help the beleaguered company. Since the June 20 fire, about $12,000 has been donated by individuals and groups in Detroit and from around the country.

Regina Taylor's Crowns, the musical play about the experiences of black church ladies and their prized Sunday church hats, is a reason to celebrate. The show has been a hit at resident theatres around the country and will likely wow them in Detroit, too, where the resident black-majority audiences may instantly recognize the church rituals, music, stories and "hatitude" offered by the play. At Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., the show was such a smash it's being revived there this summer.

The Detroit production of Crowns by Plowshares Theatre Company began performances July 21 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History/General Motors Theatre, 315 E. Warren in Detroit's Cultural District. Performances play to Aug. 7.

Crowns was adapted from the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry. The story takes place in the southern community of Darlington, South Carolina, where Yolanda, a street-smart kid from Brooklyn, has been sent by her mother to stay with her grandmother after Yolanda's brother Teddy was shot and killed by a so-called friend.

Playwright Taylor "captures the cultural heritage of Black Americans traveling through slavery in the United States and as far back to Africa," according to Plowshares notes. "'Our crowns have been bought and paid for, all we have to do is wear them,' is a phrase that describes the spiritual background of Yolanda's grandmother and church going friends who wear hats throughout the production. The hats symbolize the crowns worn by women of color, as each hat itself represents a different meaning of history and culture." Janet Cleveland directs a cast of six women and one man, including Shirley Hayden, Yolanda Jack, Felecia Taha, Danye’ E. Brown, Jahra Michelle McKinney, Kesha Waters and James Bowen.

Marvin Thompson is musical director and pianist for the show. Earl Orr, Jr. is percussionist. Stephanie Schinke is choreographer. Ron Burns is set and lighting designer.

For more information, call (313) 872-0279 or visit www.plowshares.org.

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