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By D. A. Blackburn
DETROIT – There’s no debating the divide that exists between the city of Detroit and its suburbs. Along municipal boundary lines lies a virtual chasm that’s easily crossed, physically, but wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon, ideologically speaking. With a revamped remount of one of their most widely praised productions, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit is once again opening a candid discussion about the issues that divide us, while generating some serious laughs in the process. And it’s their hope that, wherever you’re from – city or suburb – you’ll join them May 8 through 15 at the Detroit Institute of the Arts for “Crossing 8 Mile.”
“Well, first, I hope they (audiences) laugh so hard that it makes their stomachs hurt,” said Kate Peckham, Mosaic’s director of acting.
“You know, I want people to have a good time, and have that experience of the community coming together and being able to laugh at its issues. But I also hope that it sparks some discussion within our community to kind of start bridging that gap that we have between our city and our suburbs.”
Mosaic originally staged “Crossing 8 Mile” in 1996, and then again in 1999. Now, more than a decade later, the divisions that spawned the work – which is a fusion of Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors” and modern hip-hop culture – continue to be hot-button issues in Southeast Michigan.
“I think that there are enough people on both sides of 8 Mile who want to see it work, and I think what we’re seeing, more and more, is that those people are coming together and communicating,” Peckham said.
To further advance this discussion, Mosaic held an open community forum April 29 at the Southfield Public Library to coincide with the production. In addition to featuring a variety of community leaders, Mosaic’s young artists performed and participated in the discussion.
These same artists, who’ve had a strong hand in shaping the remount of “Crossing 8 Mile,” have a vested interest in shaping the regional relations of the future, and Peckham proudly notes the passion with which they approach the issue.
“I’m always excited to hear what they have to say about things, and to get them thinking about that now, and to be able to bring that perspective to what they do as young adults, that’s what’s exciting to me. And you know, they’re so fired up about it.”
While there are myriad issues at play in any discussion of the city/suburb dynamic of metropolitan Detroit, art can serve as a very unifying influence, and this is precisely the purpose of “Crossing 8 Mile” – and, in a sense, Mosaic as a whole.
“We focus on using the art as a tool for personal growth, but also as a way to make a difference in the community,” said Peckham. “I think a show like this provides a direct opportunity to make a difference in the community, and it’s really exciting to see them (Mosaic artists) realize that and become empowered by that.”
This empowerment among the young artists of Mosaic is an encouraging product of the “Crossing 8 Mile,” and it’s easy to hope that it will bode well of the region’s future.
‘Crossing 8 Mile’
Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit at the Detroit Film Theatre, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 8 p.m. May 8-9 & 15-16 and 4 p.m. May 10 & 17. $20 general, $12 students/seniors. 313-833-4005. http://www.mosaicdetroit.org