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Paul Robeson production takes on Detroit Riot of 1967

In the summer of 1967, the simmering tension and anger that had defined life for Detroit’s black residents for decades finally reached a boiling point. The city broke out in a violent riot, that by the time it was over had killed 43 people, caused untold amounts of property damage and cemented Detroit’s post-boom image as a place where nightmares are made.

It is against this violent backdrop that Dominique Morisseau’s 2011 play “Detroit ’67,” which zooms in on a few specific Detroiters affected by the city’s hostile racial climate and the riot’s buildup and aftermath, unfolds. The show, directed by Paulette Harris, opens Friday in the Paul Robeson Theatre at the African American Cultural Center (350 Masten Ave.).

It concerns the story of two siblings running a basement bar in their parents’ house, with aspirations for a better business and a better life, who are bound to be frustrated.

In an interview with the website ARTSATL, Morisseau said the play has a striking, if disappointing resonance for today’s theatergoers.

“It’s a statement about how little things have changed since 1967 that you can draw so many parallels between my play and what’s happening in Ferguson and New York,” she said. “The play should have never been this current.”

Tickets are $22 to $25, with more info at 884-2013 or

– Colin Dabkowski