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Curtain Calls

By |2002-03-10T09:00:00-05:00March 10th, 2002|Uncategorized|
Theater profile: The African Renaissance Theater
Detroit’s rebirth includes new award-winning theater company

When Oliver Pookrum talks about Detroit’s renaissance, he gets excited. But unlike many who simply sit back and watch the rebirth from afar, Pookrum returned to his hometown two years ago and quickly became an active force for change within his beloved community.
So much so, that his initial effort – the multiple award-winning production of “Jesus Hopped the A Train” this past spring – took the town by storm, and got thespians and theatergoers alike talking in awe about his first-hit wonder, The African Renaissance Theater.
“I’ve always loved theater,” Pookrum recently told BTL. “I studied theater in college, so I might as well use my college education for once.”
Like many young actors with stars in his eyes, Pookrum initially headed east to New York shortly after graduating from Wayne State University with a degree in theater. The lure of roles in film and television eventually took him to Los Angeles, and that’s where he made an amazing personal discovery.
“That’s when I really started to love live theater, because I saw how devoid film and television was of the art I came to know as acting and live entertainment,” he recalled.
The call to come home and help revitalize Detroit hit Pookrum hard, however, after helping start a theater company in Los Angeles.
“I’m sitting there thinking: ‘Why am I doing this here when I might as well be doing this at home?'”
So Pookrum came back home and quickly reestablished himself within the local professional theater community. It wasn’t long for his dream theater to take shape; it took even less thought to decide what its name should be.
“I very rarely hear the word ‘African’ in Detroit, considering it’s 80 percent African American. It’s so weird that you never hear that.
“Also, I thought the city was going through a Renaissance, and hopefully people’s ideas are going through a Renaissance – and theater needs to go through a Renaissance probably as much as the City of Detroit. So I thought it would be a great name; it says this is a better way of thinking and looking at the arts and feeling about ourselves, not only as African Americans, but theater people of all races.”
Pookrum’s next effort, “The Trip,” should also get audiences talking.
“I love the story,” Pookrum said. “I love the idea of doing plays by women and starring women. Considering that women make up the bread and butter of the theater audience, they should be catered to and put on a pedestal; let’s tell their stories.”
Pookrum – who is directing “The Trip” – describes it as a “girl’s night out” play about four middle-aged girlfriends who take a cross-country drive that challenges their friendship and changes them forever.
“It shows how important friendship is, how important love is and how unimportant all those other ‘things’ that we often make a big deal about are. It’s a comedy that’s gonna leave people walking out of the theater thinking, ‘this play is too much.'”
Pookrum cautions that “The Trip” is not just for women.
“It’s a great play to take a woman to. It’s like being in a woman’s locker room – it’s fun to hear how girls talk and how girls act when [guys] aren’t there,” he laughed. “It’s a bunch of women being women with no holds barred.
The Trip Presented Friday through Sunday by the African Renaissance Theater at the Hastings Street Ballroom, 715 Milwaukee, Detroit, Oct. 10 – Nov. 2. Tickets: $20. 877-865-6818.

Detroit’s crown jewel sparkles for 75 years

DETROIT – Detroit’s crown jewel, the fabulous Fox Theatre, began as one of the most spectacular movie palaces in the world in 1928 and to this day stands as one of the most glorious theaters in the world. The Fox Theatre in Detroit reached a milestone this year that few theaters ever see: It celebrated its 75th anniversary on September 21.
The Fox Theatre has a rich history of hosting spectacular entertainment events, from motion pictures to concerts to Broadway shows featuring generations of singers, actors and performers. From 1920’s movie palace to fabulous concert and theater venue of the 21st century, over the past 75 years, the Fox Theatre has cemented its place as the crown jewel of theaters in Detroit.
“It is a proud moment for us to help celebrate both the 75th anniversary of the original opening of the beautiful Fox Theatre, as well as mark our 15th year in this Detroit gem following its extensive renovation and reopening in 1988,” says Michael Ilitch, owner of the Fox Theatre and chairman of the board of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. “The Fox is a great beacon in the Sports and Entertainment District downtown, and it is wonderful that so many people have found something special to enjoy in this historic theatre.”
As the largest surviving movie palace of the 1920’s, the Fox Theatre continues to draw patrons from all over the country. The diamond anniversary celebration will certainly spark fond memories of patrons past and present with an impressive list of past performers, including stars from Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. to Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. Not limited to just musicians, Broadway shows, including “Cats,” “42nd Street,” “Phantom of the Opera” and the family favorite returning for its seventh consecutive season at the Fox, “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular” starring the Radio City Rockettes, have helped establish the Fox Theatre as the architectural crown jewel of Detroit and a legendary national entertainment landmark.
In honor of the fabulous Fox Theatre’s 75th anniversary, Olympia Entertainment launched the inaugural season of “Broadway at the Fox.” The series kicked off the 75th anniversary year on Sept. 30 with “The Sound of Music,” followed by “CinemaShow” Feb. 24-29, “Miss Saigon” March 23-28 and “Oklahoma!” May 4-9. “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” another tradition at the Fox Theatre, returns to Detroit for the seventh consecutive year Nov. 28-Dec. 27 with three magnificent new scenes in honor of the 75th anniversary.
Detroit’s crown jewel will continue to celebrate its spectacular history with guests all year long and additional details will be forthcoming throughout the fabulous 75th year.
The Fox Theatre is managed by Olympia Entertainment, a division of Ilitch Holdings, and is located at 2211 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201. For show information please call 313-471-6611. For more information on Olympia Entertainment events, please visit us online at www.OlympiaEntertainment.com.

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