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.

Ibsen’s ‘Enemy’ retains relevance in modern world

Reposted from Patrick Dunn at The Detroit News. Read the full article here.

Left to Right: Brandy Joe Plambeck and Brandon Grantz. Photo by Bruce Giffin

Left to Right: Brandy Joe Plambeck and Brandon Grantz. Photo by Bruce Giffin

Environmental political dramas may seem a relatively recent phenomenon, but Dr. Thomas Stockmann was a whistle-blower over a century before Erin Brockovich made it cool.

Stockmann is the protagonist of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play “An Enemy of the People,” which the Hilberry Theatre Company will perform in repertory beginning Friday. When Stockmann discovers that the popular public baths in his town are contaminated, he comes into conflict with his brother Peter, the town’s mayor. With a vested financial interest in keeping the baths open, Peter works to turn the local press — and the community at large — against Thomas.

Blair Anderson, director of the Hilberry production, says Ibsen has long been on his directorial “wish list” because the Norwegian playwright’s work still has “tremendous resonance to our contemporary society.” He says “Enemy” confronts the idea that majority rule is always best.

“There are times when the solitary voice is ignored,” Anderson says in an email exchange. “Whistle-blowers are ostracized as much today as they were in the 1880s. It may not be as shocking today as it was on the cusp of the 20th century, but if one does stop and think, it can still be upsetting to really see how political, economic and educational decisions are made today.”

Anderson observes that while Ibsen is most often noted for his controversial social commentaries, the truly memorable characters in his plays are often overlooked.

Read the full article here.

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

‘An Enemy of the People’

2 p.m. Feb. 21, Feb. 25 and March 28;

8 p.m. Feb. 20-21, Feb. 26-28 and March 26-28

Hilberry Theatre

4743 Cass Ave., Detroit

Tickets $10-$30

(313) 577-2972


VIDEO: “Stone Soup: A Wrap Opera” – FINAL Weekend at Hilberry!


Here is another small clip from the WSU Children’s Summer Theatre production, “Stone Soup: A Wrap Opera.” This hip-hop retelling of the classic folk tale is currently touring to Detroit Public Schools and will be having its closing weekend at The Hilberry Theatre from June 26-29! For tickets and info, go to: http://www.WSUshows.com

STONE SOUP: A Wrap Opera comes to The Hilberry June 19-29!


Here is a small clip from the WSU Children’s Summer Theatre production, Stone Soup: A Wrap Opera. This hip-hop retelling of the classic folk tale is currently touring to Detroit Public Schools and will be coming to The Hilberry Theatre from June 19-29! For tickets and info, go to: http://www.WSUshows.com

Oscar Wilde is on trial at the Hilberry Theatre

Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde

Gross Indecency - Hilberry - Production Shots (3)

by Patty Nolan
Detroit Theatre Examiner
January 11, 2014

Before playwright Moisés Kaufman developed his well-know “The Laramie Project,” he explored the institutionalized hypocrisy and bigotry that led to Oscar Wilde’s ultimate incarceration (and a sentence of two year’s hard labor) for the crime of homosexuality. The Hilberry Theatre’s production of Kaufman’s, “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” uses nine actors playing multiple roles to offer a gripping historical account of the trials that brought Wilde’s career (and in short order, his life) to an abrupt end.

Kaufman’s script is a brilliant arrangement of verbatim selections from the three different trials, embellished by the letters and writings Wilde composed in this time period, diaries and biographies written by friends and detractors, and newspaper headlines covering “the trial of the century.”

In the interest of full disclosure, we confess to being an unabashed Wilde fan who has made pilgrimages to informal shrines in Dublin and Paris that honor the great man. That said, this production should appeal to anyone who appreciates a finely paced courtroom drama. Modern audiences may learn something about the evolution of gay-identity issues and how Wilde’s highly publicized trial actually predated the use of the term “homosexual” as something one could “be” as opposed to something one “did.”

Most importantly, this play explores the themes that mattered most to Wilde, who championed the notion that an intellectual and spiritual appreciation of art has the power to elevate human beings above the muck and mire of our brutal natures. As he explained in the first trial, “In writing a play or a book, I am concerned entirely with literature—that is, with art. I aim not at doing good or evil, but in trying to make a thing that will have some quality of beauty.” The irony, of course, is that Wilde was a martyr to the cause of art for art’s sake, even while being condemned on charges of “gross indecency” by some of the grossest and most indecent rascals in London.

This compelling, well-paced Hilberry Theatre production is directed by Blair Anderson, PhD, and set entirely in London’s Old Bailey court room in 1895 (sharp scenic design by Sarah Pearline). As the play opens, Oscar Wilde (Topher Allen Payne) naively invites his own ruin by bringing a libel suit against the overbearing bully, the Marquess of Queensberry (Brent Griffith). Queensberry has accused Wilde of “posing as a sodomite” and corrupting Queensberry’s son, Lord Alfred Douglas (David Sterritt). Lord Alfred (himself a real piece of nasty work) is adored by Wilde and urges him to use the court to attack the despised father. Things backfire when Wilde loses his suit and the Crown prosecutes him for “gross indecency,” the polite Victorian euphemism for the act that every public school boy of the time knew as “buggery.”

The Hilberry cast does a fine job with this piece, especially considering that it’s a drama in which the action is intellectual and emotional; it is all about delivering and deciphering the words.

Gross Indecency - Hilberry - Production Shots (4)Only Payne, as Oscar Wilde, plays the single role, which is refreshingly unaffected considering his subject. Sterritt, as Douglas, captures the young man’s self-absorbed nature while still letting us see how and why he could attract the great man’s affection. Griffith, as Queensberry, is convincing as the megalomaniacal Queensberry, and it’s fun to watch him leap into other roles, including one of the young men called to testify against Wilde.

Given the preponderance of male roles in this play, it is perhaps inevitable that the company should require its women to portray men. What is surprising is how well this comes off, with Annie Keris delivering a brilliantly thoughtful Sir Edward Clarke and Bevin Bell-Hall filled with gruff bluster as the judge.

The gifted cast of “Gross Indecency” includes: Alec Barbour (Carson, Narrator 5), Bevin Bell-Hall (Judge, Landlord, Mary Applegate, Mavor, Narrator 4, Queen Victoria, Speranza), Miles Boucher (Moises, Narrator 1, Price, Prostitute 44, Willi Wilde, Wood), Brandon Grantz (Antonio Migge, Auctioneer, Clerk of Arraigns, Parker, Harris, Narrator 3, Richards), Brent Griffith (Gill, Lockwood, Queensbury, Narrator 8), Annie Keris (Clarke, Constance Wilde, Ellen Grant, Hotel Manager, Narrator 6), Topher Payne (Oscar Wilde), Brandy Joe Plambeck (Atkins, George Frederick Claridge, Marvin Taylor, Jurry Foreman, Narrator 2, Wright, u/s: Oscar Wilde), David Sterritt (Lord Alfred Douglas, Narrator 7).

This is a commanding production that continues to provoke relevant conversation; don’t miss it. “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” runs through March 22, 2014 in rotation with “A Doctor in Spite of Himself.” See the theatre calendar for details. Tickets range from $12–$30 and are available online, by calling (313) 577-2972, or by visiting the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street.

Gross Ind BTL Ad 2On the evening of January 16th John Corvino, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Wayne State University, will take the stage at 7:15 p.m. for a discussion on themes central to the show. Corvino has written, debated, and lectured extensively on gay rights and believes that spirited dialogue is essential to convince the wider American public of both the merits of same-sex marriage and the moral acceptability of homosexuality.

PHOTO CALL: ‘Cinderella’ on Tour!

The inaugural Detroit Youth Theatre and Dance Journey
tours to select Detroit schools this month!

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The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance has launched its inaugural Detroit Youth Theatre and Dance Journey with the children’s play Cinderella, or It’s OK to Be Different by Cynthia Mercati. Over the past two weeks, the cast and crew have toured to seven schools and one outdoor festival. The group continues on the road throughout the month but has seven performances at The Hilberry starting on the 20th of June.

In Cinderella, or It’s OK to be Different, a group of lively students discover that their familiar Cinderella story isn’t the only one – that there was a Cinderella in ancient Egypt and one among the Algonquin Indians and that there are hundreds of Cinderella tales all around the world! In an innovative, sophisticated, and theatrical style, this fast-paced, up-beat, multicultural show focuses on the universality of folk literature and finds that it’s okay to be different.
Performances of Cinderella, or It’s OK to be Different will play at the Hilberry Theatre on June 20, June 21, June 23, June 27, June 28 and June 30.  Individual Tickets are $5 for children and $8 for adults. There is a $5 per ticket price for groups of 10 or more. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at 313-577-2972, online at http://www.wsushows.com, or by visiting the box office at 4743 Cass Ave. on the corner of Cass Ave. and Hancock. The summer Box Office hours are Tuesday – Friday from 10 – 2 p.m. The box office will be open one hour prior to all performances. Performance information and tickets may also be obtained by visiting the Theatre’s websites at www.hilberry.com.

Make your reservations today as the performance at The Hilberry Theatre on June 27 at 10:30 a.m. is already sold out.

Calendar Information:

Thursday, June 20, 2013 10:30 a.m.
Friday, June 21, 2013 10:30 a.m.
Sunday, June 23, 2013 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, June 27, 2013 10:30 a.m. (SOLD OUT)
Thursday, June 27, 2013 1:00 p.m.
Friday, June 28, 2013 10:30 a.m.
Sunday, June 30, 2013 2:00 p.m.