How Far Have We Really Come?


Written in response to Lorainne Hansberry’s classic play A Raisin in the Sun, Bruce Norris’ drama Clybourne Park examines how race relationships have and have not progressed over the past fifty years.

The first act is set in the 1950s, on the same day as the final scene of A Raisin in the Sun. Karl Lindner, the neighborhood association representative who offered the Youngers money not to move into the Clybourne Park neighborhood, arrives at the house the Youngers have purchased to try and convince the current owners not to sell to a black family. Bev and Russ, however, are determined to move out of the house in which their son Kenneth committed suicide after returning from the Korean War, and they refuse to go back on their contract now that they’ve found a buyer. Karl and the local minister Jim insist that segregation will be better for the community, but Russ throws them out of the house, noting that nobody cared about community when the neighborhood shunned Kenneth after he returned from the war.

The second act is set fifty years later, when a young white couple is interested in buying the same house in what has become an all-black neighborhood. They meet with lawyers and two African-American members of the neighborhood association to discuss the plans they have for the house: namely, that they want to tear it down and rebuild it completely. What begins as an overly-polite conversation about gentrification devolves into an explosive argument about race in what is supposed to a “post-racial” era, calling into question how much has really changed.

Clybourne Park premiered on Broadway in 2012 and won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance will present Clybourne Park at the Hilberry Theatre February 26th – March 5th, 2016, and March 31st – April 2nd, 2016. Please join us for this intense, thought-provoking drama.

A Raisin in the Sun will be presented at the Bonstelle Theatre in February. Read more about the piece that inspired Clybourne Park here.

Brush Up Your Dickens

First performed by the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1991, Daniel J. Sullivan’s madcap comedy Inspecting Carol promises sidesplitting laughs and plenty of holiday cheer!


Loosely based on the nineteenth century Russian play The Inspector General by Nikolai Gogol (whose other best-known comedy Marriage was produced at the Hilberry in 2013), Inspecting Carol follows the members of the Soapbox Playhouse as they struggle to complete a rehearsal for their annual production of A Christmas Carol. After failing to reach their subscription goal, the company is now relying on a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to stay open–and that grant is being withheld pending an inspection. The pressure is on to present the best performance in the company’s history, but matters are complicated by an overly-emotional Lithuanian director, a Scrooge who has grown so bored with his role he once did the whole play in Spanish, and a terrible new actor who has been mistaken for the inspector. The director will do anything to secure the grant money, while the stage manager would just like to make it through a rehearsal.

Inspecting Carol runs from December 4 – 19. Treat yourself to some laughter this winter. We’d be honored to share the holiday season with you!

Party Like It’s 1922

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is a literary masterpiece, and considered by many to be the Great American Novel.


When Nick Carraway moves to the East Coast after World War I, he reconnects with his cousin Daisy and becomes entangled in the intrigue of her social circle. Nick struggles to understand the carefree, fast living ways of Daisy and her husband, but the man who excites Nick’s curiosity the most is Gatsby, a millionaire who throws extravagant parties every weekend. Gatsby is also Daisy’s former lover and is desperate to win back her affection. His obsession and the carelessness of the Jazz Age combine to hurtle the play towards a shattering conclusion.

Fitzgerald died in 1940 believing himself to be a failure and sure his work would be forgotten. Simon Levy’s sparkling adaptation of Fitzgerald’s most famous novel proves just how wrong he was. Gatsby livesand nowhere is it more alive than on the Hilberry stage.

The Great Gatsby runs from October 30 – November 7, 2015 and January 7 – January 9, 2016. Student matinees will also be offered for the enjoyment of schoolchildren across the metro Detroit area.

We hope to see you at the theatre, old sport.

Summer Fun in the Sun with Thaddeus and ‘Tila

The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance is pleased to present its annual season of Summer Children’s Theatre, this year featuring a performance of Thaddeus and ‘Tila  (A Crane and Frog Tale), winner of the 2004 Macy’s New Play Prize for Young Audiences.

Thaddeus is a frog who dreams of flying. One day, ‘Tila, a teenage crane with poor eyesight, crashes into Thaddeus’ pond and a friendship quickly blossoms when he saves her life. When they find out bulldozers are on the way to clear the swamp and make way for a housing subdivision, Thaddeus and ‘Tila must overcome the bullying of fellow swamp creatures, Mos and Sala, as well as their own personal obstacles to save themselves and their fellow swamp residents. Don’t miss out on the excitement!

2015 Summer Show

Bonnie Holmes as ‘Tila (top left), Maria Simpkins as Birdie (top right), and Tayler Jones as Thaddeus (down front)

The production plays at the Hilberry Theatre June 18 – 20 and June 25 – 27 at 10:30 a.m. as well as June 20 and June 27 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 for children (up to age 12) and $8 for adults. They may be purchased by calling 313-577-2972, visiting, or visiting the Wayne State University Box Office located at 4743 Cass Ave. on the corner of Hancock St.

“My vision of the play is ‘Flying to a world of possibilities,’” says director Billicia Hines. “Even though he was bullied over it, Thaddeus held strong to his dream of flying. I hope the children of Detroit will be inspired to fly to their own world of possibilities. You may be surrounded by bad circumstances, but that should not deter you from staying positive and going after your dreams.”

Thaddeus and ‘Tila also tours Detroit Public Schools free-of-charge during the months of May and June, reaching over 5,000 students at 21 schools. This tour is part of an ongoing commitment to educational arts outreach by the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance.

The Cast (In Alphabetical Order)
Bonnie Holmes (‘Tila), Jada Johnson (Mos), Tayler Jones (Thaddeus), Michaella Mallet (Sala), Maria Simpkins (Birdie)

The Production Team
Billicia Charnelle Hines (Director), Stephanie Baugher (Scenic Designer), Anne Suchyta (Costume Designer), Mike Hallberg (Lighting Designer), Derek Graham (Sound Designer), Lyndee Hallahan (Stage Manager), Brian Dambacher (Technical Director), Jason Goldman (Publicist)

About the Hilberry Theatre Company
Wayne State University’s Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance serves students as a nexus of performance, production, and research in the fields of dance, theatre, and performance studies.  It provides a wide variety of degree programs that allow students the flexibility to study these disciplines broadly or to concentrate more specifically in performance, design, or management.  The Hilberry Theatre hosts a professional theatre company that is staffed by graduate students and runs on a rotating repertory schedule.  Each academic year, graduate students receive assistantships to work for the Hilberry Theatre and study for advanced degrees.  The company performs and produces an annual season of six plays, including high school matinees for nearly 6,000 students.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students.

Calendar Information
June 18 – June 27
Thursday, June 18            10:30 a.m.
Friday, June 19                 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, June 20             10:30 a.m. & 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, June 25            10:30 a.m.
Friday, June 26                 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, June 27             10:30 a.m. & 2:00 p.m.

‘The 39 Steps’ is must-see theatre for all who like to laugh

‘The 39 Steps’ at the Hilberry Theatre

Rating: 5 Stars

By Patty Nolan of The Examiner

The funniest play you are likely to see this spring traces its unlikely origins to the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The 39 Steps.” This Hilberry Theatre production – the season finale – should be mandatory viewing for anyone wishing to understand either the mechanics of comedy or the essentials of theatrical storytelling.

Michael Phillip Thomas and Brandy Joe Plambeck in 'The 39 Steps'

Michael Phillip Thomas and Brandy Joe Plambeck in ‘The 39 Steps’

Hitchcock based his thriller on a novel by John Buchan and reset it in pre-WWII Britain to leverage the imminent Nazi threat as a dramatic device. Playwright Patrick Barlow discovered comic alchemy by rendering the Hitchcock film, scene by scene, as a manic theatrical parody staring four hardworking actors. The hero is Richard Hannay, featuring Michael Manocchhio as the blasé Brit with a flair heroism and hilarious side patter with the audience. The Woman, played by Bevin Bell-Hall, is a brilliant send up of Hollywood’s best female stereotypes – the seductress, the innocent ingénue, and the good-hearted farm girl – in this case, one with a decidedly Scottish accent. All of the other roles are played by the two “Clowns” – Brandy Joe Plambeck and Michael Phillip Thomas – who flip characters, costumes and accents faster than IHOP pancakes, and with even similar variety. As the play reaches its climax and the chase sequences demand a larger cast of characters, Plambeck and Thomas are required to portray multiple roles within a single scene; the frantic costume changes and clever devices that make this possible give this farce its breathless charm.

Read the full review here:

REVIEW: Hilberry scores a laugh-fest with “The 39 Steps”

By David Kiley for Encore Michigan. Read the full review here. Buy tickets here!

It isn’t often a reviewer gets to say “I laughed ’til I cried,” but that is exactly what happened at The Hilberry Theatre Company’s production of The 39 Steps. At one point, I almost had to leave my seat. But since I wasn’t alone in my break-down, it was all right.

39 Steps Blog Photo

This is the third time I have seen this farce produced, and I always wonder what percentage of the audience has seen Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” film from the 1930s. The staging of the film’s story in British-farce style is extremely funny for anyone, but it is downright hilarious for anyone who is a fan of the Hitchcock film catalog and has seen “Steps” multiple times.

The play rolls out as if a drama teacher told a group of talented improv actors who had seen the film twenty or so times to stage the film using whatever happened to be in the costume and prop rooms.

It is a seven-member cast. Manocchio plays Hannay throughout with great flair and comedic timing, with his Errol Flynn-cool comedic timing and dash, and athletic maneuvering around the stage–including using the backstage ladder and catwalk as the Forth Bridge in Scotland. Bell-Hall plays multiple roles with several costume changes–from the spy to the seemingly innocent, but really very randy, farmer’s wife to Hannay’s love interest and cohort in the story. She carries a big load in the show, and is marvelous and sexy at every turn.

It is Brandy Joe Plambeck and Michael Phillip Thomas, though, billed as “clowns” who keep the audience in stitches. They do a dizzying number of character and costume changes in rapid fire, sometimes doing a scene requiring four people as they duck behind a steamer trunk and slide on a coat or beard to each play two characters, other times as when Thomas wears a trench coat half-on/half-off and just keeps turning side to side as he does a conversation between two characters both played by him. Sometimes, the changes happen so fast, it seems like a Houdini trick. It looks like an exhausting show for the two of them, but they could soar with these roles on any stage in the world, and the Hilberry is lucky to get them for this run. They do some turns in drag, and bring such gaiety to it, with touches of improved bits of business, that you’ll be laughing and tearing up the next day just thinking about it. It helps that the two of them have faces seemingly created by nature to do sketch comedy.

Three “stage-hands” are part of the on-stage ensemble–played by Devri Chism, Julian David Colletta and Santino Craven–who portray a couch, chair, a car, doors, sound effects, etc. Their presence throughout, moving set pieces around and then performing, as they do–for example, forming a car with their bodies and the steamer trunks, and then transitioning to sheep blocking the road–is all part of the wondrous cleverness of the show and excellent direction by Russel Treyz and company.

Read the full review here. Buy tickets here!

Stage Door Series, an evening for Young Professionals, debuts at the Hilberry Theatre April 18

DETROIT – The Hilberry Theatre Company is launching a program for the young professional Detroit community. The Stage Door Series is an exciting new opportunity for arts-lovers in their 20s and 30s to enjoy an evening of theatre followed by a trip to one of many great Midtown watering holes where they will mingle with the Hilberry company members along with other young professionals.


The program will kick-off at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 18th with The 39 Steps, a hilarious spoof of the 1935 Hitchcock thriller that blends frenzied performances and wildly inventive stagecraft with spies, murder, and some good old-fashioned romance!  A two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner, The 39 Steps is a serious-spy-story-turned-madcap-comedy, full of biting wit, hilarious character changes, and allusions to, and puns on, other classic Hitchcock stories.

Following the show, members of the Hilberry cast and crew will be at Tony V’s Tavern located a few blocks North of the theatre at 5756 Cass Ave., to meet and mingle with other Detroiters, promising a great night for all.

The Hilberry Theatre, part of Wayne State University, is a graduate theatre program employing more than 35 theatre professionals under the age of 35. Located in the heart of Midtown, the Hilberry Company already enjoys the nightlife of Detroit, and now they want to include you!

The Stage Door Series will continue into the Hilberry’s 2015–16 season with a schedule of six memorable shows and six lively restaurants. The 2015–16 season includes titles such as the uproarious One Man Two Guvnors and the lavish The Great Gatsby, so the Stage Door Series is guaranteed to be a fun time with good people and great conversation.

To purchase tickets, call (313) 577-2972 or visit the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street. Subscriptions to the 2015–16 Stage Door Series are on sale now. Subscribers are an integral part of the Hilberry community and enjoy discounted prices, priority seating, exchange privileges, lost ticket insurance, free coffee, and a free subscription to the theatre’s newsletter.

About the Hilberry Theatre Company

The Hilberry Theatre hosts a professional theatre company that is staffed by graduate students in Wayne State University’s Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance and runs on a rotating repertory schedule.  Each academic year, graduate students receive assistantships to work for the Hilberry Theatre and study for advanced degrees. The company performs and produces an annual season of six plays, including high school matinees for nearly 6,000 students.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 31,000 students.