Meet Eric Swanson

Q&A with Executive Director of the Detroit Actor's Theatre Company

Kate Opalewski
By | 2018-09-05T11:40:58-05:00 September 5th, 2018|Applause, Guides, Theater|

What is it like being the executive director of the Detroit Actor’s Theatre Company?
Well, it is a lot of work, but it is work I am very passionate about. My job is to foster growth and sustainability of the company of course, but the real purpose of my job is to create the safe space for our artists. This means hiring a strong team of people that acknowledge the voice of artists they are working with, can create works that have an impact, and foster a certain openness to each show’s creative process. It changes because the staff and the artists involve change.

How important is diversity in theater casting?
This should be a no brainer to anyone you ask but sadly, I feel some people are still coming to terms with this. It is not only important but it is in fact critical. I think we are in a Renaissance II age of theatre. All over we are seeing works written for artists of color that don’t play into stereotypes. Moreover, we are seeing even some major regional companies, cast artists of color in roles that have famously been portrayed by white actors. Take for example the recent casting of an African-American actress as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde;” a hole that no one thought could be played by anyone other than a tall, white, blonde actress.

What is one of the gay plays that changed your world?
“Angels in America.” I must have read and watched the TV special at least two dozen times. It taught me so much about the AIDS crisis, treating myself as divine, and gave me a total new look on humanity. It’s a show I would love to do someday but I am actually terrified to direct it. I feel like I need a little more time, a little more bravery, and just the right cast. In my head it would just have to perfect.

What advice would you give to young actors or industry professionals who fear their sexuality may hold them back or present a block in a highly competitive industry?
Screw them. We as an LGBTQ+ culture are by nature rebellious and different. My main advice is always to not conform or copy. You are you and that is the best you have to offer. Speak up when true injustices occur, and acknowledge when the part was just not right for you. I have been dropped from an agency before because I was too flamboyant. My response was to self submit for things and show up to auditions I had sought out. Not long after, I got a national tour on my own. This industry is what YOU make of it, not what others will

What can audience members look forward to for the upcoming season with the DATC?
This season is exciting for us in that we will likely be in our own space, hopefully before winter. Until now, we have been a portable company, going to wherever the contract or booking was. We are doing some aggressive fundraising and are very close to making our goal of having a space, thanks to our new initiative Rent Angel’s Detroit. Show-wise, this season will feature five second-stage shows and five main-stage shows ranging from Murder Mysteries, Spoken Word Cabarets, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar,” which is playing at The Whitney this September through October, in addition to two fully-staged plays and an outdoor blockbuster summer musical will be announced at the top of 2019.
For more information about shows at DATC, visit thedatc.org.

About the Author:

Kate Opalewski
Kate Opalewski is BTL's features editor and has been since 2015. She has covered a variety of topics ranging from art, politics and community outreach. Recently, she was honored by the Detroit Police Department LGBT Advisory Board for her work for the local LGBTQIA community.