Stage and television (MADAME SECRETARY, THE BLACKLIST, ELEMENTARY) actor Andy Lucien wasn't even born in 1967 when the Detroit riots made headlines, but from experiencing Watts and later Ferguson, he has been able to dig deep and get into character for DETROIT '67.
DETROIT ’67, a 2013 play by Dominique Morisseau presented by Chautauqua Theater Company, takes us back 50 years to the summer of 1967 when, to a soundtrack of Motown music, Chelle (Michelle) and her brother Lank (Langston) who have inherited some money and a house from their parents are trying to earn some extra cash by turning their basement into a "blind pig" - a place for folks to drink and dance after licensed bars have closed. Lank and his friend Sly (Sylvester) have big dreams to own one of those bars. Chelle is not so sure that this is a safe plan. In the play, but also in "real life," a police raid on another after hours joint is the spark that begins the Detroit "riots." As the play progresses, we in the audience are whipsawed back and forth between a sweet domestic drama involving a black family and friends and the violence on the streets just outside their home. That violence is brought into the theater through sound effects and video splased across the stage. In a dramatic moment during a recent "talk back" it was revealed that while early on in the play the videos displayed were from newsreels about Detroit in 1967, later on, as the video scenes became more intense, what the audience sees is actually footage from the Ferguson, Missouri unrest in 2014.
Directed by Steve H. Broadnax III, DETROIT '67 stars, among others, Equity actor Andy Lucien, who plays Sly. Lucien spoke at length with WNED|WBFO about three topics:
Is acting on the stage different from television acting (he has appeared on MADAME SECRETARY, THE BLACKLIST, and ELEMENTARY)? Lucien says no, it's all about drawing the audience in and says that acting is not like putting on layers of clothing; it's more about removing layers to find out what's been hidden inside of you.
Actor Andy Lucien discussed the question: What is a "riot?" What is a "rebellion?" He says that the ensemble discussed this at length and felt that at certain times in history, oppressed people felt that they had no choice but to make an impact any way that they could. While a riot may have no purpose, a rebellion hopes to change things for the better.
And, finally, Lucien looks forward to different allies coming together in the years ahead to become involved and more active. As he says:"An ally is great, but what I'm looking for is an accomplice."
Remaining shows are Friday and Saturday, 7/28 and 7/29 each at 2:15 p.m., and twice on Sunday, 7/30, at both 2:15 and 8:00 p.m. All shows are at the Bratton Theater on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution. For tickets and information call (716) 357-6250 or visit www.ciweb.org/chautauqua-theater-company And, by the way, your ticket to DETROIT '67 allows you access to the Institution for four hours before and also after the performance. Run time is a little over 2 hours with one intermission.