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SMC Luncheon Speaker: Sam White of Shakespeare in Detroit

On Tuesday, April 23rd, (Shakespeare’s birthday) our speaker was Sam White, the founder of Shakespeare in Detroit.

President Chris Walsh and Sam White

Shakespeare in Detroit is a nonprofit charitable organization formed in 2013. Its mission states that it “enhances and supports the culture, education and financial growth of Detroit.with professional theatre created through a conscious lens of equity, diversity and inclusion.” Its vision is that “it will produce the classics, musicals, contemporary and new works in equal measure throughout each season as the official Shakespeare organization of the city.” Since 2013, Shakespeare in Detroit (SiD) has produced 14 of Shakespeare’s plays. Many of them were presented in open-air settings, and others have been seen everywhere from a recycling center and a historical mansion to parks and an old film studio, in addition to several theaters around the city and state. Beginning by Labor Day, 2020, when their new studio has been completed near the Detroit riverfront, they will produce a musical as well as continuing their progress through Shakespeare’s canon.

Sam White is a freelance director and her credits include the prestigous 2017 Paul Nicholson Arts Management Fellowship at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is also a member of the 2017 Cohort for ArtEquity in Los Angeles, CA. In addition, White recently served as the Assistant Director for Antoni Cimolino’s The Tempest at the Stratford Festival (Canada). She will be a part of the inaugural 2019  cohort for Classical Directing Fellows at The Old Globe in San Diego, CA in addition to serving as the director of Twelfth Night at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, UT.  When asked why it is important to produce Shakespeare, she replies that ​Shakespeare is one of the few businesses with more than 400 years of successful consumer engagement.

This year SiD is working in three Detroit schools to teach Shakespeare by presenting his work, since Shakespeare wrote plays to be performed, not read, and by emphasizing the STEM aspects of theatre. They will also be reading King Lear in assisted-living facilities in a program supported by AARP. SiD attracts tourists from all over the world to see its world-class offerings of staged readings, theatrical productions and special events as a cultural force in Detroit. About thirty percent of their audiences come from Canada. Sam likes to see audiences sitting together that would never be in the same room otherwise, including children. One of her favorite venues is Marygrove College, where they performed King Lear in 2015. Sam showed us slides of many of their productions and venues that have been seen by more than 13,000 patrons.

In a question and answer session, Sam mentioned the importance of the corporate donors that support SiD. This permits them to present their open-air productions without charge. They select the plays they present based on audience surveys. For more information, see the SiD website.

Thank you Sam White, for this report on Shakespeare in Detroit,

Reported by George Arsenault and David Morrow

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