BEFORE HE WAS MALCOLM X,
HE WAS DETROIT RED ARTSEMERSON PROUDLY PRESENTS
THE WORLD PREMIERE OF
A WILL POWER AND ARTSEMERSON PRODUCTION
FEBRUARY 01 – 16, 2020
EMERSON PARAMOUNT CENTER ROBERT J. ORCHARD STAGE
ArtsEmerson is thrilled to announce the World Premiere of Detroit Red by internationally renowned playwright Will Power. This theatrical exploration of the life of Malcolm X as he dwelled and came of age in the Roxbury section of Boston, plays the Emerson Paramount Center Robert J. Orchard Stage February 01 – 16, 2020.
The world forever knows him as Malcolm X, but when he lived in Roxbury, he was dubbed “Detroit Red.” Will Power, along with director Lee Sunday Evans, shine a light on a pivotal coming-of-age moment in the celebrated, controversial civil rights leader’s life in this world premiere piece. Boxed in by race and class in 1940’s Boston, “Detroit Red” (Eric Berryman) transformed from a rowdy teenager into a street hustler. Detroit Red vividly brings this world to life, depicting a brutally honest, human portrayal of the future activist as he navigates the criminal underworld, taking the first steps in his quest to define the type of man he would eventually become.
A potent, heart-wrenching deconstruction of a future American hero in turmoil, Detroit Red features three shape-shifting actors who create a deeply dramatic and surprisingly funny theatrical experience. The production offers a radical take on traditional theater, illuminating an iconic African-American figure and the community and circumstances that helped form him.
“It’s been a joy working with Will Power, Lee Sunday Evans, Eric Berryman and the community of Roxbury dramaturgs on the development of Detroit Red,” says ArtsEmerson Artistic Director David Dower. “When Will first described what he was aiming to do in this play we were immediately hooked. I loved that he wasn’t setting out to stage Malcom X’s biography. That story is told. I admired that he wanted to create this play in a deep collaboration with Roxbury itself.”
“Will has found a surprising and explosive point of entry through the story of teenage Malcolm Little’s days in our city,” continues Dower. “The entire play is set in a single moment of epiphany trapped in a moment of reckoning — the sudden, impulsive moment of letting go of one story to make the space for the new story to unfold. The media is filled with stories of people who confronted this type of moment of reckoning, gun in hand. This play is about the moment Malcolm Little put his gun down, and let drop the story of Detroit Red. He changed his own narrative and, as a result, changed the world. Will and his team have zoomed in on that split- second decision, unpacking it for us on stage. And so we get to sit inside Malcolm’s head as he stood inside that Roxbury jewelry store at a life and death crossroads.”
“I am fascinated by Malcolm’s time in Boston,” says Detroit Red playwright Will Power. “It is an unexplored period in the trajectory of a future world leader, a period that, when you include both his time as “Detroit Red” and his time incarcerated, adds up to almost a dozen years in which he lived in the state of Massachusetts. Malcolm X came to Boston as a skinny, countrified teenager (a “hick” as Malcolm describes it), and left Boston as the man known to the world as Malcolm X. In some ways, like Malcom, the city of Boston is iconic onto itself-it represents both the achievements and the complexities that exist in America. I can conceive of no other place that this play could’ve originated in other than right here in Boston.”
Detroit Red plays for two weeks, February 1 – 16, 2020, at the Emerson Paramount Center Robert J. Orchard Stage. Tickets may be purchased at ArtsEmerson.org, by phone at 617.824.8400 or at the box office.