Host Stephen Henderson speaks with Samantha White the founder of Shakespeare in Detroit about the group’s current project, Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear, and what plans she has for the future of her theater company.
Click the audio link above to hear the full story.
White inspired her community to embrace an idea: a site-specific and affordable theater company intended to inspire and educate Detroiters.
Whether performed at a recycling center or a park, the company is a prime example of the creative class repopulating the city. Shakespeare In Detroit’s adaptation of King Lear began April 9 at Marygrove College in Detroit, and “so far, so good,” according to White. “It’s exciting to be right there in a neighborhood,” she says of Marygrove’s location.
White tells Stephen she first caught the bug for The Bard during her teenage years. “[Shakespeare] was a punishment for listening to rap music,” she says. But, later on that punishment transformed into an interest in bringing Shakespeare to the city of Detroit. White says when she decided she wanted to do something in the city, she thought about what she already knew. “I knew a lot about Shakespeare and I love theater,” she tells Stephen.
“If there’s any place in the world that’s perfect for Shakespeare, it’s Detroit because the city is filled with so many stories that often parallel Shakespeare’s work.”
Yet, even more than the city relating to Shakespeare’s plays, White also points to the things in our own lives that relate to these timeless works. The themes of loss and family turmoil in King Lear for instance, are part of why she selected the play as the company’s latest production. And while there’s room for humor, White says these universal themes of the human experience are most evident in Shakespeare’s tragedies.
White, who is a TechTown entrepreneur, says initially it was difficult to get people to invest in the project. “It’s my mission to get people to love it as much as I do,” White tells Stephen. Even though she tells Stephen she also knows the city has many other things to work on. Yet culture is part of improving the quality of life in any city, and White says she leans on The Bard’s “centuries of proven consumer engagement” to continue her mission.
Shakespeare In Detroit is also going to be part of the Detroit stop for NPR Presents Michel Martin this summer.