Naptown African American Theatre Company is coming in hot as they premiere “Detroit ‘67” as the second show of their inaugural season.

Written by African American playwright Dominique Morisseau, “Detroit ‘67” tells the story of five dreamers as they attempt to restore order to chaos along the backdrop of the 1967 race rebellion in Detroit, Michigan. “Detroit ‘67” will run at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Center from Aug. 24 to Sept. 10, said LaKesha Lorene, producing director and founder of NAATC.

“It’s a play by Dominique Morisseau, who is an amazing, Tony-Award nominated playwright and also a fellow midwestern hailing from Detroit,” Lorene said. “This play is all about love, family and the quest for more all set to the tunes of Motown in the city of Detroit.”

The NAATC production of “Detroit ‘67” is directed by D’yshe Mansfield, who said the play is a story about hope — one that takes the audience on a journey through the painful events going on in Detroit during that time.

A rendering of the set of “Detroit ‘67,” which premieres at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Center Aug. 24 through Sept. 10. (Photo/Jordan Leigh Artistry)
A rendering of the set of “Detroit ‘67,” which premieres at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Center Aug. 24 through Sept. 10. (Photo/Jordan Leigh Artistry)

“[Morisseau] wanted the audience to feel the soul and the heart of Detroit and to tell our story the way we want to tell it and the truth of it and not what people perceive Detroit to be during that time,” Mansfield said. “It’s a beautiful story, and it lives.”

During initial rehearsals, Mansfield sat down with the cast to read through the text together and engage in discussion about how certain elements made them feel. Allowing actors to unpack those feelings and break down the messages is what she said makes the show all the more tangible.

“We need the message; it feels right on time for this city, with Indianapolis being so deep into music as well,” Mansfield said. “This play is not only going to be a representation of how Detroit ‘67 was but also it’s going to feel like home too.”

Because for Indianapolis, Lorene said bringing stories like this one to the stage has not been easy. It is not only important to the NAATC to produce shows that reflect the world they live in — from the actors on stage to the directors and everyone behind the scenes — but that speak to the palette of a city that continues to grow culturally, Lorene said.

“We had to listen to what people were saying and also recognize that there’s a part of Indianapolis that has had a resurgence in a motivation to do works like this now,” Ms. Latrice Young, director of community engagement strategy, said.

Daniel A. Martin, who plays Sly in the production, said although this is not his first time acting in one of Morisseau’s plays, this is a first for Indianapolis that he is excited to be a part of — especially since it is “being designed specifically by and for” the Black community.

“It gives you pride to be out on the stage and showing your craft,” Martin said. “Being the ideal of what’s to come, you know, that’s why I’m participating … I want to help water this seed to help it blossom into a beautiful flower.”

Martin said his role requires very little acting, as the things the characters go through is something everyone has been through or can relate to; while Shakespeare “feels foreign,” he said “Detroit ‘67” is almost natural.

“Everything they’re going through — the struggles they’re going through, I’m going through. I’m in character naturally,” Martin said. “It’s about four lovely people who love each other dearly, and they have each other’s backs no matter what, so you feel that in these characters; you want to see them succeed.”

The cast of NAATC’s “Detroit ‘67” sitting for the first table read. (Photo/Jordan Leigh Artistry)
The cast of NAATC’s “Detroit ‘67” sitting for the first table read. (Photo/Jordan Leigh Artistry)

Young said she hopes audiences take away the idea of not only Ujima and collective work — a core theme of NAATC — but the way it manifests in the play and how it can be positive and life altering.

“I hope that when people see this play it puts in front of their face the choices they have to either continue cycles or end them,” Lorene said. “There’s so much joy, life and love in this play, so I want that to be the guiding light for people but also … be cognizant and warned of the choices they make.”

However, Mansfield said she hopes after seeing the show, audiences will give themselves permission to dream and leave asking themselves what they can do better as a community.

“It’s hard for Black people to feel like they can dream, that we can do it, we can have something,” Mansfield said. “I want the audience to sit with that and … know that it is okay to live and also to know there’s hope in having strong community. We can lean on each other; we can trust each other.”

“Detroit ’67” premieres at the Naptown African American Theatre Company Aug. 24 through Sept. 10. Aug. 25 will feature a Soul Train Dance party from 7-7:30 p.m. before the production, and Sept. 9 will honor the Divine Nine. Tickets start at $15 and are on sale now at For more information, visit or contact

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848 or Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.