Dr. David Magidson initially joined Wayne State University in 1991 as Dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts. After seven years and a brief sabbatical, Dr. Magidson returned to Wayne State as a faculty member. He initially taught playwriting while serving as Dean – adding directing, PhD seminars and dramatic theory and criticism in 1998.
After joining WSU as Dean of the CFPCA, he quickly joined several local boards. One of those boards was the Jewish Ensemble Theatre’s (JET). There was an ease of relationship in his appreciation of and involvement with the arts locally, and a commonality of interest in the plays he and the JET were interested in presenting. Dr. Magidson served as an informal adviser to the sitting Artistic Director and directed several staged readings of the JET’s New Play series. When the Artistic Director position became available, Dr. Magidson found himself on the short list of possible replacements.
The JET board was naturally familiar with his work at the JET, as well as at the Hilberry, Attic Theatre, and other local companies. They asked what he might bring as Artistic Director that they didn’t have before and what he wanted to change. They talked about the kinds of plays they were interested in producing and what relationship they wanted to create with the community. “The JET had gotten a bit away from their original core mission – trying to be too many things to too many people. Instead of making a bigger envelope that attracted more people, the loss of focus diluted the JET’s original mission. It was no longer special. All the people who supported it because it was special, no longer felt that they needed to support it anymore.” The new focus became addressing the core constituency; and interesting the larger community by talking about the issues that it cared about. “Underneath all the particular issues are usually some universal issues. We get to those issues by being particular.”
Dr. Magidson has helped facilitate a collaboration between the Jewish Ensemble Theatre and the Hilberry this Spring.
Palmer Park will play at the JET from April 13 – May 9 and transfer to the Hilberry for a May 21 – 29 run. In 1967 there were riots in 59 US cities, the worst of which was The Rebellion in Detroit. Over 100,000 fled the city in an exodus dubbed “white flight” resulting in plummeting property values and students suffering in overcrowded under-funded public schools. However, the upper-middle-class Palmer Park neighborhood and its highly rated Hampton School seemed to racially integrate successfully. In the play, two couples, one black and one white, rally the neighbors, desperately hoping to maintain the profile of their community and school. With shared camaraderie and pathos, “Palmer Park” explores what these neighbors had in common and reveals their differences.