Plowshares Theatre Company, Detroit's only Actors' Equity-affiliated African-American theatre troupe, will not return to its two-season home in the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in fall 1999.
Plowshares artistic director Gary Anderson told Playbill On-Line the museum wanted the 317-seat space freed up for additional programming beyond the African-American plays presented by Plowshares. The museum's decision to book film, dance and other shows leaves the company homeless, at least for now, but Anderson promises a new season and is looking for a venue or venues for 1999-2000.
"The issue is trying to find the best place that my audience will go to and would help me build an audience," Anderson said.
Anderson's mission is to stage works of black writers with black performers for and near a black audience. Since the Plowshares move to the museum, scores of new, Detroit-based subscribers signed. In 1998-99, about 8,000 more theatregoers attended Plowshares shows than the season before.
Anderson said he has no wish to relocate to a suburb that doesn't have a significant African-American population. Asked if he might move to an outlying suburb such as Pontiac, where there is a black community, Anderson admitted, "I don't know how many of my Detroit members will drive out to Pontiac." Since the company had graduated to a modern venue in one of the nation's newest museums, Anderson said he will not go back to playing scrappy, gritty 100-seat spaces.
The Plowshares season was to begin Sept. 30 with John Henry Redwood's The Old Settler. Other plays announced for 1999-2000 are Full Circle, a new play by Detroiter Jeffrey Chastang, Mule Bone by Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, A Soldier's Play by Charles Fuller and Jazz Set by Ron Milner.
Anderson's company has moved six times in nine years, scraped for money and suffered the slings, arrows -- and, more recently, enjoyed the laurels from -- Detroit critics.
In a theatre community that regularly sees its artists leave for opportunities in other cities, Anderson says he is not giving up: "We need to have arts here and I want to be a part of making the culture different around these parts. We want to be part of the group who will change people's impression about Detroit."
For information about Plowshares Theatre Company, call (313) 872 0279.
-- By Kenneth Jones