Hilberry’s thought-provoking ‘An Enemy of the People’ well worth seeing

By Sue Suchyta

Dearborn Times-Herald – March 20, 2015

Don't miss the FINAL WEEKEND - March 26 - 28

When should a person risk his own safety and the well-being of his family to protect the majority, people blinded by ignorance or greed, from their own folly?

In Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People,” Dr. Stockmann faces this dilemma when he discovers the water feeding the town’s health spa, which has dramatically improved the area’s economy, is contaminated with bacteria, causing serious health problems among the guests, including typhus.

Understandably, in an era when most people did not know about bacteria, tiny creatures visible only under a microscope, they do not comprehend the doctor’s concern, but they do realize what would happen to their town if they lost their reputation as a restorative destination.

To complicate matters, the doctor’s brother is the town’s mayor, and his father-in-law’s tannery may be the source of the contamination.

The town claims to embrace democracy, but they do not want to hear the doctor’s warnings, and they do not want him ruining the town’s livelihood by spreading the news beyond its borders. The majority also oppose a tax to create a new water intake and filtering facility.

Miller may have seen parallels to the McCarthy-era witch hunts when he adapted Ibsen’s play.

Brandy Joe Plambeck is tremendous as Dr. Stockmann, a man pledged to do no harm, who struggles to protect the public while his own family is threatened and vilified.


Theatre & Dance at Wayne to Host “A Conversation with Apple Award Recipient Garth Fagan”

Garth Fagan

DETROIT – Garth Fagan, Tony Award winner for “Best Choreography” in The Lion King, founder and artistic director of Garth Fagan Dance, is receiving the Apple Award from Wayne State University’s Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance.  “A Conversation with Apple Award Recipient Garth Fagan” will be sponsored by The Berman Foundation and hosted at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts on March 28 at 7:00 p.m.  Mr. Fagan will appear in an “actors studio” style interview and question-and-answer session.  Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at wsushows.com, at 313- 577-2972 at the Wayne State University or at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts Box Office.

Fagan, a Wayne State University alumni, began his career when he toured Latin America with Ivy Baxter and her national dance company from Jamaica.  Baxter and two other famed dance teachers from the Caribbean, Pearl Primus and Lavinia Williams, were major influences on Fagan.  In New York City, Fagan studied with Martha Graham, Jose Limon, Mary Hinkson, and Alvin Ailey, who were all central to his development.  Fagan was director of Detroit’s All-City Eastside Dance Company and principal soloist and choreographer for Detroit Contemporary Dance Company and Dance Theatre of Detroit.

Garth Fagan was awarded the prestigious 1998 Tony Award, England’s 2000 Laurence Olivier Award, and Australia’s 2004 Helpmann Award for his path-breaking choreography in Walt Disney’s The Lion King.  He also received the 1998 Drama Desk Award, 1998 Outer Critics Circle Award, 1998 Astaire Award, 2001 Ovation Award for his work on the Broadway production, which opened in fall 1997 to extraordinary critical praise

The Apple Award, named for Sarah Applebaum Nederlander, is given by the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University on behalf of the Nederlander family. In 2001, the Nederlander family formed a partnership with the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts at Wayne State University, establishing the Sarah Applebaum Nederlander Award for Excellence in Theatre; an annual theatre award and visiting artist fund in their mother’s name. The Apple Award brings a nationally prominent theatre professional to Detroit and the Wayne State University campus as a guest lecturer to interact with and educate the rising stars of the Department of Theatre and Dance through master classes and a question-and-answer style forum. Previous Apple Award winners include Neil Simon, Carol Channing, Stephen Schwartz, Mandy Patinkin, Patti Lupone, Marvin Hamlisch, Elaine Stritch, and Tom Skerritt.

About Theatre & Dance at Wayne

Wayne State University’s Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance serves nearly 300 students as a nexus of performance, production, management, and research. It provides a wide choice of degree programs that allow students the flexibility to study these disciplines broadly or to concentrate more specifically. The dance program is one of the longest-running in the U.S., tracing its beginning to Ruth Lovell Murray’s founding of the Dance Workshop in 1928. The theatre program is internationally recognized as a training ground for theatre professionals. The Hilberry Theatre is the nation’s longest-running graduate repertory company. The two programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre and the National Association of Schools of Dance, respectively.


“A Conversation with Apple Award Recipient Garth Fagan”

Calendar Information:

Saturday 7:00 p.m.      March 28, 2015

The Berman Center for the Performing Arts

6600 West Maple

West Bloomfield, MI 48322


The Hilberry Theatre Announces its 2015-16 Season

website banner

DETROIT – The Hilberry Theatre announced its 2015-16 Season Friday during the opening night festivities for Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama, An Enemy of the People. Season tickets are on sale now.

This season promises to offer a dazzling array of productions. The Hilberry will kick off the season in October with the Southeast Michigan premiere of One Man, Two Guvnors, a recent Broadway hit. The season will feature classic and contemporary comedies and dramas, including Inspecting Carol, a backstage holiday comedy, and the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Clybourne Park, addressing gentrification in 21st century urban America.

A new stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby will play to general audiences in the fall and additional educational groups throughout the season. The Hilberry will continue its longstanding commitment to Shakespeare with Love’s Labour’s Lost. Following last season’s comedic hit All In The Timing, the Hilberry will close the season in April 2016 with David Ives’ hysterical version of the French farce, A Flea in Her Ear.

This season will also mark the debut of the Hilberry’s new Stage Door series, inviting theatregoers in their 20s and 30s to meet the Hilberry company members at a nearby restaurant following the performance. Subscriptions to this series are now available, with an introductory event scheduled for after the Saturday, April 18 performance of The 39 Steps.

To subscribe, call (313) 577-2972 or visit the Wayne State University Theatre and Dance Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street. Subscribers are an integral part of the Hilberry community and enjoy discounted prices, priority seating, exchange privileges, lost ticket insurance, free coffee, a free subscription to the theatre’s newsletter, and an invitation to the annual Subscriber Party and Open House, which will take place on March 30, 2015.

One Man, Two Guvnors
By Richard Bean
October 2 – 17, 2015
Francis, who is easily confused, finds himself employed by both a local gangster and his upper-class criminal rival. He tries to keep his two jobs straight, despite a bad case of mistaken identity.

Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
Adapted for the stage by Simon Levy
October 30, 2015 – January 9, 2016
The thrill, glamour and decadence of the Jazz Age is exemplified in this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 masterpiece about a world of obsession, danger, and extravagance.

Inspecting Carol
By Daniel Sullivan and Seattle Repertory Theatre
December 4 – 19, 2015
An uproarious backstage comedy that highlights the joy, trials, and unpredictability of producing theatre. Calamaties surround a distressed theatre company’s catastrophic rendition of A Christmas Carol.

Love’s Labour’s Lost
By William Shakespeare
January 29 – March 12, 2016
The King of Navarre and his companions vow chastity while they complete their studies – until they meet the Princess of Aquitaine and her ladies. A gentle joust of courtly love ensues.

Clybourne Park
By Bruce Norris
February 26 – April 2, 2016
Racial tensions erupted as a black family attempts to move into Clybourne Park in the 1950’s. Fifty years later, the now all-black neighborhood is trying to hold its ground in the face of gentrification.

A Flea in Her Ear
By Georges Feydeau, adapted by David Ives
April 22 – May 7, 2016
A jealous wife is on the hunt to catch her husband in the act, after noticing a halt in his sexual appetite and receiving a pair of his suspenders in the mail from an unknown sender.

2015 – 16 at the Bonstelle Theatre:

Packages for the Bonstelle Theatre are available now at a discount for Hilberry Subscribers. The Bonstelle Theatre 2015-16 Season has a wide variety of entertaining performances, including enticing comedy and drama, superb dance performances, and a Golden Age musical. Package options are a 6-pack that includes all 6 performances, a Theatre Pack that includes three plays and the musical, and a Dance Pack that includes the two seasonal dance concerts.

By Aristophanes
October 9 – 18, 2015
The men are at war. Their wives have had enough and offer an ultimatum: war or sex. The women of Greece must help their husbands rise to a decision.

James and the Giant Peach
By Roald Dahl, adapted by David Wood
November 13 – 22, 2015
Follow young James into a land of spiders, earthworms, and one giant peach on an adventure for the whole family.

December Dance Concert
December 11 – 12, 2015
Contemporary masters, including guest artists, Wayne State dance faculty, and student choreographers, come together for one weekend only.

A Raisin in the Sun
By Lorraine Hansberry
February 12 – 21, 2016
A black family struggles to retain their dignity as they face racism in light of moving to an all-white neighborhood. Clybourne Park, appearing at the Hilberry, was written in response to A Raisin in the Sun and follows a 50 year journey of the home the family purchases.

Spring Dance Concert
March 3 – 4, 2016
The pinnacle of dance in Midtown, receiving acclaim from the national stage; highlighting international and national works from a diverse mix of artists.

Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics & Book by Oscar Hammerstein II
April 15 – 24, 2016
A handsome cowboy competes with an ill-tempered ranch-hand for the affection of a lovely young farm girl in this ideal American Golden Age musical.

About Theatre and Dance at Wayne

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 choice of degree programs that allow students the flexibility to study these disciplines broadly or to concentrate more specifically in performance or management. The dance program is one of the longest-running in the U.S., tracing its beginning to Ruth Lovell Murray’s founding of the Dance Workshop in 1928. The theatre program is internationally recognized as a training ground for theatre professionals. The Hilberry Theatre is the nation’s longest-running graduate repertory company. The two programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance and the National Association of Schools of Theatre, respectively.


Hilberry - Way of the World (4)

Brandy Joe Plambeck and Annie Keris. Photo by Bruce Giffin.

DETROIT – The Hilberry Theatre Company is delighted to announce that its critically–acclaimed production of William Congreve’s The Way of the World will be recorded for inclusion in the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. The Archive has been an integral part of theatre history and research since 1970, with a mandate to “preserve live theatrical productions and document the creative contributions of distinguished artists and legendary figures of the theatre.”

Theatre and Dance Chair John Wolf states, “The filming is an incredible opportunity for the Company to have its work preserved and available for future viewers to enjoy.”

The Way of the World is the pinnacle of Restoration Comedy,” states director Lavinia Hart, “and I am so privileged to have been given this opportunity and thrilled to have this production receive such appreciation from our audiences and from the press. Having this production accepted for inclusion in a prestigious national archive is beyond anything imagined. I am so very proud of what the Hilberry Theatre Company and I have accomplished together in bringing this beautiful production to life for Detroit, and now for generations to come, too.”

Michael Phillip Thomas and Bevin Bell-Hall. Photo by Bruce Giffin.

Michael Phillip Thomas and Bevin Bell-Hall.
Photo by Bruce Giffin

The Way of the World will return for four remaining performances at the Hilberry, March 5 through March 7. The production promises a delightful visual and literary feast, with period specific costuming and scenic design creating English homes and associated locations.

Local critics have praised the Hilberry’s production, with John Monagahan of the Detroit Free Press calling the production “an especially impressive undertaking for the Hilberry… a talented ensemble,” while Patty Nolan of the Examiner awarded the play five stars.

This comedy of manners is focused on social behavior, manipulation, and life in high society London households. The story skewers the stratified world of serving and aristocratic classes at the turn of the 18th century, with an emphasis on verbal wit and complicated romantic attractions. Such stories remain fascinating to our more democratic accessibilities, most notably witnessed in popular captivation with series including Downton Abbey.

Cast (in alphabetical order):
Bevin Bell-Hall (Lady Wishfort), Miles Boucher (Fainall), Devri Chism (Foible/Peg/Soloist), Julian David Colletta (Coachman/Footman/Messenger), Santino Craven (Sir Wilful Witwoud), Brandon Grantz (Coachman/Footman/Messenger), Logan Hart (Footman), Kyle Mitchell Johnson (Mirabell), Annie Keris (Mistress Millamant), Michael Manocchio (Witwoud), Sarah Hawkins Moan (Mistress Fainall), Taylor Morrow (Footwoman), Brandy Joe Plambeck (Petulant), Mary Sansone (Betty/Mincing), Anna Seibert (Footwoman), Mike Suchyta (Footman), Michael Phillip Thomas (Waitwell), Tiffany Michelle Thompson (Mistress Marwood).

Production Team:
Lavinia Hart (Director), Nira Pullin (Choreographer & Period Movement), Sarah Drum (Stage Manager), Lyndee Hallahan (Assistant Stage Manager), Sarah Pearline (Set Designer), Anne Suchyta (Costume Designer), Amy M. Schneider (Lighting Designer), Mario Raymond (Sound Designer), Tonae Mitsuhashi (Properties Master), Brian Dambacher (Technical Director), JP Hitesman (Publicist), Felix Li (Assistant 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.

‘An Enemy of the People’ showcases breadth and depth of Hilberry talent

Originally posted by The Examiner and written by Patty Nolan. Read the full review here

An Enemy of the People at the Hilberry Theatre. Photo by Bruce Giffin

An Enemy of the People at the Hilberry Theatre.
Photo by Bruce Giffin

One of our favorite things about WSU’s Hilberry Theatre is the fearless range of theatrical productions the graduate students inevitably participate in over the course of a three-year MFA program. This is as true for the acting company as it is for those in production, design and theatre management courses. Loyal patrons get to go along for this extended sleigh ride through a performance landscape that takes in comedies, dramas, musicals and romances across the broad and timeless expanse of the Western canon. This weekend, the course took a dramatic turn for the opening of the fifth and penultimate show in the 2014-2015 season..

This Hilberry production of Henrik Ibsen’s powerhouse play “An Enemy of the People” uses the crisp adaption by Arthur Miller. (Fun fact – the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright began his literary career as a student at University of Michigan, where he majored in journalism and wrote for the student paper, the Michigan Daily.) With “An Enemy of the People,” Miller believed in the vitality of Ibsen’s message so much that he scrupulously adapted it for fidgety American audiences. This play – which retains its setting in a small Norwegian town – poses timeless questions about what happens when truth flies in the face of power, greed, and the selfish fears of “the people.” It’s the kind of play that offers any company the chance to show off their theatrical chops – and the Hilberry Company rises to the occasion.

The unlikely hero of the story is Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Brandy Joe Plambeck), an idealistic physician who discovers that the town’s “healing” hot springs are contaminated with deadly bacteria. He is quick to share the information with his brother, the town Mayor (Brandon Grantz), so that no more people will be made ill by the infested waters. What the pure-hearted doctor fails to consider, and what the Mayor is counting on, is that the community relies on the spa for tourist dollars. Flying in the face of scientific evidence, and goaded on by the mayor, the people assume an aggressive stance of denial –attributing a variety of selfish motives to the good Doctor’s actions. The Doctor takes a stand, but when his family’s welfare is also threatened, he must choose between sticking to his principles, joining the conspiracy to keep the springs’ reputation (if not the water itself) unsullied, or packing up his family and escaping to America.

Brandy Joe Plambeck finds the right balance between idealism and naivety. His Dr. Stockman is not a man given to bravado; rather, he is baffled, dumbstruck and hurt that the townsfolk he has loved could so quickly and easily betray their better nature. It is only when they declare him an “enemy of the people” that he understands the situation. If “the people” choose to follow an evil, destructive path that will most surely end in the illness and death of innocents, he must embrace that enmity in the name of truth.

When nobody wants to hear the truth

Originally posted by Encore Michigan and written by Martin F. Kohn. Read the full review here.

Left to Right: Julian David Colettta, Michael Phillip Thomas, Brandy Joe Plambeck Photo by Bruce Giffin

Left to Right: Julian David Collettta, Michael Phillip Thomas, Brandy Joe Plambeck
Photo by Bruce Giffin

In Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People,” a dedicated physician discovers that his town’s healthful mineral baths, its big tourist draw, are dangerously polluted. The town doesn’t want to hear about it.

If it hadn’t been written in 1882, you might suspect the play was an allegory about today’s science deniers, those people who won’t acknowledge the perils of climate change, proclaiming disingenuously: “We’re not scientists, we can’t judge.”

That’s precisely what somebody says in “An Enemy of the People.” And they do judge. And what the dedicated physician learns is that the truth, which is supposed to set you free, will do nothing of the sort if it’s bad for business.

The production at the Hilberry Theatre is Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Ibsen’s play. You’re forgiven if you assumed (as I did) that Miller wrote his update in the present century, in his final years; in fact, it premiered in 1950. There’s a temptation to call it “An Enemy of the People, by Henrik Ibsen as told to Arthur Miller,” but Ibsen couldn’t have told Miller anything: he died in 1906, Miller was born in 1915.

But Ibsen certainly speaks to Miller, and both of them speak to today. It has points to make, but “An Enemy of the People” remains a human drama as well.

At first, Dr. Thomas Stockmann thinks the townsfolk will hail him as a hero for his discovery that could save many lives. But the whole town, with one or two exceptions, turns against him, led by his brother, the mayor. Even the local newspaper, self-proclaimed champion of free speech, refuses to publish the doctor’s findings.

Read the full review here.


Here’s another great preview piece on An Enemy of the People, this time from our friend Patrick Chism at Opportunity Detroit. Read the full article here.

An Enemy of the People at the Hilberry Theatre Photo by Bruce Giffin

An Enemy of the People at the Hilberry Theatre
Photo by Bruce Giffin

Before you take that next trip to the spa, have the water tested and check out the Hilberry Theatre Company’s production of “An Enemy of the People,” opening February 20 in Midtown. Adapted from a play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and written by Arthur Miller, “An Enemy of the People” is the dramatic tale of a Norwegian town with a single economical resource: a spa that is bubbling with medicinal properties. But when Doctor Thomas Stockmann discovers there are lethal diseases spreading through these healing waters, he runs to his brother, the mayor of the town, in hopes to shut the spa down. Mayor Peter Stockmann, however, knows that removing the spa would financially cripple the town, so he attempts to hide this information, going as far as to turn the town against his brother.

Surrounded by mystery and scandal, “An Enemy of the People” asks its audience to consider the ways in which leaders are perceived by their communities and how the public’s opinion can be easily swayed. Brandy Joe Plambeck, who plays the uncompromising Doctor Stockmann, explains that there’s a disconnect in the play between what’s real and what the public believes to be real. “You’ve got a tragic hero who knows the truth,” says Plambeck, “but because of certain situations, it becomes more difficult than he thought for the truth to be known.” The doctor’s goal is to make the public aware of the poisonous waters, but he is idealistic to a fault, thinking about the safety of the people without considering the town’s fatal attachment to their own prosperity. The mayor represents the other side of the spectrum, focusing on the good of the town without considering the health of its citizens. Plambeck suggests that both of the men have genuine goals to a point, “but the real enemy of the people is pride.”

This manipulation of the public opinion is a common theme throughout “Enemy of the People,” which is why Brandon Grantz, who plays Mayor Stockmann, believes that this show is still relevant today. “Like a mayor who talks to the people in public one way, but then he talks to his brother in another way behind closed doors. This happens today. And it gives insight on the difficult decisions these leaders have to make.”

Read the full article here.

Like Opportunity Detroit on Facebook.