There’s a double-header in Midtown, with George C. Wolfe’s satirical “The Colored Museum” opening at the Hilberry Theatre, and the annual student Heck Rabi Playwright Festival at the Studio Theatre.
“The Colored Museum,” directed by Billicia Hines, satirizes the stereotypical misconceptions about the African-American experience, from slave ships to celebrities. By relegating stereotypes to a museum, where objects from history are displayed, Wolfe banishes them to the archives to make room for future change.
The play runs 8 p.m. Feb. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17; 2 p.m. Feb. 3, 7, 10 and 17; 7 p.m. Feb. 8 and 3 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass, Detroit. The show runs 75 minutes with no intermission.
Hines said she is excited to direct one of Wolfe’s plays.
“I love the way that he grapples with such serious subjects in a satirical way,” she said. “This celebration of African-American culture, from the Middle Passage to today, unveils the real history of America.”
The first “exhibit” is “Git on Board,” where a flight attendant welcomes the audience to a “celebrity slave ship” complete with a “fasten shackles” sign. The sketch critiques history from the slave trade to the modern basketball superstar.
“Cooking with Aunt Ethel” is a cooking show with a singer instructing how to “bake a batch of Negroes,” followed by “The Photo Session,” a shot at the narcissistic, superficial world of Ebony photo shoots.
“Soldier with a Secret” reveals through a monologue the thoughts of a deranged African-American soldier who sees the painful future of his peers and decides to spare them the agony by killing them.
“The Gospel According to Miss Roj” focuses on a transgender woman who looks beyond the nightlife glitter to see a race debased in gay nightclub culture.
“The Hairpiece” takes a humorous look at a woman facing an identify crisis with two wigs – an Afro, and a long, flowing wig, both of which come to life and represent different times in her life.
“The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” satirizes the black drama genre with a weary mother and her suffering son, and goes from overacted melodrama to an all-black Broadway musical number.
In “Symbiosis” a man confronts his childhood self while trying to rid himself of his past, only to find out his inner-child is not going down without a fight, while in “LaLa’s Opening” a singer is confronted by her childhood self, a persona she thought was long gone.
“Permutations,” or transforming, told in monologue by young Normal Jean Reynolds, talks about her “giant egg filled with babies,” which looks at how black people can break out of oppression and still embrace their black culture – they don’t have to live up to white expectations to be successful.
“The Party” is the closing exhibit, both a celebration and a symbolic exorcism in which Aunt Jemima and Angela Davis break bread and debate, and slave rebellion leader Nat Turner sips champagne with singer Eartha Kitt, merging past and present in a logic-defying fantasy.
The cast, who play multiple roles, include Ernest Bentley, Faith Berry, Cam Blackwell, Antonia LaChe’, Breayre Tender, Jasmine Walker, Tobias Wilson and Brandon Wright.
For tickets or more information, call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.com.
HECK RABI FEST SPOTLIGHTS STUDENT PLAYWRIGHTS
The Heck Rabi Playwright Festival, a tradition since 2000, features three Wayne State student playwrights each year. The festival has gained a reputation for presenting well-written new plays, directed and performed by student talent.
This year’s new plays include “Lucida” by Cody Robinson, “Steps” by Wesley Cady and “Orange-Ade” by Kayla Von Mundy.
The shows runs 7 p.m. Feb. 1 and 8 p.m. Feb. 2 and 3, in the Studio Theatre, in the lower level of the Hilberry.
“Steps,” directed by Michael Vultaggio, features Cammie McGillis, Tori Miller, Hannah Snow and Olivia Johnson.
“Lucida,” directed by Lauren Valice, features Bridget Wilkin, Monica Brady-Bernard, Matthew Woods and Andy Yerby.
“Orange-Ade,” directed by Patrick Roach, features Rachael Ann Smith, Kiarra McLellan and Josue Camarena.
Tickets are $5, with open seating. The Studio Theatre is accessible only by stairs. For more information or to order tickets, call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.com.