Defining Moment in Detroit History Inspires Drama
Just as the Trayvon Martin case in Florida has raised a range of issues -from racial profiling to definitions of self-defense - the drama, Palmer Park, paints a complex portrait of a Detroit neighborhood, and revisits the issues of that were forefront in 1968. The show runs May 11-20, at the Baldwin Theatre on the 2nd Stage, 415 S. Lafayette in downtown Royal Oak.
The play’s namesake, Detroit’s stately neighborhood, in the aftermath of the 1967 riots that devastated the city is the setting for this provocative exploration of social class, community and race. The author, Joanna McClelland Glass says, “Palmer Park isn't so much about race as it is about the educational gulf between the haves and the have-nots.” Told with sensitive artistry and keen insight, this moving story still reverberates throughout the neighborhoods of Detroit and its suburbs today.
When Martin and Kate Townsend (Lee Taylor of West Bloomfield and Rita E. Smith of Royal Oak, respectively) move their family to Detroit for his job at the local university, they are pleasantly surprised to discover their dream home for less money than they ever imagined. But the house is only the beginning of their new life. With it comes a dynamic neighborhood full of idealistic young professional families, both black and white, determined to stem the flight of white residents and maintain racial integration in their upscale neighborhood and its local elementary school as unrest chips away at the city around them.
All with school-age children in common, Kate and Martin are quickly drawn into a whirlwind of parties and school fundraisers with a diverse mix of other neighborhood parents: Fletcher and Linda Hazelton (Randy M. Stewart of Ferndale and Mycky Mylls of Detroit, respectively), Sol and Harriet Rifkin (Daniel` Fuller of Ferndale and Ellie McIvor-Baker of Detroit, respectively), Ron and Alice Marshall (Drew Hall of Detroit and Sammie Edwards of Beverly Hill, respectively) and Phil and Gretta Lamont (Daniel T. Muldoon of Madison Heights and Julie Fuller of Ferndale, respectively).
Life in Palmer Park seems like paradise until parents from an adjacent working-class neighborhood look to Palmer Park’s school to relieve overcrowding, a move that the Palmer Park residents fear threatens to unravel the neighborhood’s hard-won but fragile racial balance and high quality of life.
“Palmer Park is about Detroit, yes, but even more the play is about dreaming of the possibility of a better world. The five couples in the play are dreamers, activists, committed parents and lovers of the city that was struggling in 1968 much the same as it is struggling today,” says director Tom Krell of Royal Oak.
“Many of us of a certain age -- my wife Sandy and I included -- will see themselves and their friends in this show. We feel that many others will be enriched with a better understanding of those tumultuous years in Detroit,” says Krell.
“Even though the five couples' dreams about maintaining integration in their neighborhood and school seem to fail in the end, they each in their new worlds attempt to hold the dream alive in their hearts. Ultimately a message of hope comes through in the friendships and the community spirit that are established by these five brave couples,” he says.
Palmer Park’s first presentation was at the Studio Theatre at the Stratford Festival during its 2008 season.
Post-show talkbacks have been scheduled for the May 12th and May 19th performances. Guest speakers include John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press Business and Architecture writer (May 12th) and Dr. Nat Pernick, Detroit College Promise CEO (May 19th). In honor of Mother’s Day, all women attending on Sunday, May 13th performance will receive a fresh flower.
Advance tickets for regular performances are $14. Tickets may be purchased online at www.stagecrafters.org or by phone at 248-541-6430 using Visa and MasterCard. All seats are reserved. If shows have not sold out, tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performance for an additional $2.00 per ticket. The 2nd Stage is a black-box theatre located in the former balcony of the Baldwin Theatre.
Show dates and times follow:
Friday, May 11 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, May 12 at 8:00 pm
Sunday, May 13 at 2:00 pm
Thursday, May 17 at 8:00 pm
Friday, May 18 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, May 19 at 8:00 pm
Sunday, May 20 at 2:00 pm