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Theater Talk: “Motown,” “Bird,” & “Screw It!” take the stage

Apr 18, 2017

There's a lively professional theater scene happening in Michigan.

With that being the case, Stateside is launching a new regular segment on the show called Theater Talk. It will turn the spotlight on different companies, keeping you up to speed on productions.

David Kiley is the perfect person to do that for us. He's with Encore Michigan, a web-based publication focused on Michigan's professional theater community and industry.

The site is really a one-stop shop for anyone interested in professional theater in the state, but with this being the launch of a new bi-weekly segment (every other Tuesday), let's define "professional theater."

"There are equity theaters, and that would include the Meadow Brook [at Oakland University] ... and The Purple Rose in Chelsea, and they have to pay their actors on a very rigid scale, that's set by the union," Kiley said. "Other theaters are considered professional because they pay all their actors but they pay them stipends."

There's a variety of pay scales, but it's above community theater, where you might see some top-notch productions, but the actors are volunteers. 

One of the big headlines in the state is the return of Motown: The Musical. The Broadway hit, which has returned to Detroit before, is back in the Motor City at the Fisher Theatre through April 30.

The play tells the story of the Motown record label from its founding by Berry Gordy through its glory years with the discovery of artists such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson.

"It isn't all just a lovefest," Kiley said. "It is a jukebox musical, but you also get shades of some of the darker stories of [Berry] Gordy's relationships with his female performers, people who felt they were wronged in the deals they signed, and of course, the eventual exit from Detroit to L.A., which was very traumatic for Detroit. But, it is a can't-miss night of entertainment if you love the Motown sound."

Listen to the full interview above to hear about another play based on a true story. It's entitled Bird. You'll also hear about a one-person show in Detroit called Screw It: Doin’ Time on the Line.

Support for arts and culture coverage comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

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