By Terri Lee Sylvester

DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s the “little theatre that could.” The Detroit Repertory Theatre, which has been located in an inner city neighborhood since 1964, is one of Detroit’s cultural gems.

While the not-for-profit theatre does rely on financial support from community-minded corporations and foundations, Marketing and Development Director Leah Smith says the theatre also depends to a large extent on the support of individual donors. Their dollar-a-week pledge program, for example, is supported by much smaller donors numbering in the tens of thousands.

“That breaks down to $13.00 every three months or $52.00 a year, ” Smith said. “(The program) has recently reached the miraculous milestone mark of a million dollars.”

With so many people working long hours, and a number of other attractions vying for audiences’ attention, what’s the secret to the theatre’s longevity?

“Our patrons, number one,” Smith answered. “Number two, the mission, and the patrons appreciate the mission. We are a true Detroit arts institution. That mission, that it’s not enough just to produce professional theater, but it’s to produce theater relevant to the neighborhood in which it lives in.”

Smith says that mission includes casting regardless of race, and sometimes gender, unless absolutely germane to the play, something she says audiences appreciate.

“Because they come to the theater knowing they’re gonna see stories, they’re going to be moved by stories about people, as opposed to different races or cultures. They’re going to see the true heart of the story and that is we are all people. And we all love, we fear, we fight, we question, we grow, we sometimes go backwards; we learn about ourselves when we come to the theatre.”

Smith says in 2017, audiences are in for a treat. There are two world premieres scheduled between January and mid-May, one of which will be directed by Smith, who’s also a longtime actor.

“I’ve been here for 12 years. I started here as an actor and fell in love with this theatre.”

Scene from "The Realization of Emily Linder, currently in performance at The Detroit Repertory Theatre. Courtesy, Detroit Repertory Theatre.

Scene from “The Realization of Emily Linder, currently in performance at The Detroit Repertory Theatre. Courtesy, Detroit Repertory Theatre.

For more information on the theatre, current and upcoming performances, and details on how you can lend your support, click here. As the Detroit Repertory Theatre points out on its website, tax exempt donations will help “make sure Detroit’s pioneer professional theatre stays alive and well!”

Follow Terri on Twitter @TerriJLee

Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA)
Detroit Film Critics Society (DFCS)
African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA)
Digital Arts, Film & Television (DAFT)
National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Watch & Listen LIVE