Although the Detroit Repertory Theatre packs plenty of laugh-grabbers and tear-jerkers into each season, its artists have more on their minds than just entertaining theatergoers. The actors, playwrights, producers, and directors of the Repertory want to unite all Metropolitan Detroit communities under a banner of creativity. It's a lofty ambition, but the theater hasn't lost focus on that goal since it first opened in 1957. As the oldest non-profit professional theater company in the state, it prides itself on having weathered storms economic, social, and literal, and continues to produce four shows a year that remind audiences of the power of live performance.
Those shows often feature scripts from the most promising talents in the Midwest, and aim to be as thought-provoking as they are engaging. The theater follows practices of ethnicity- and gender-blind casting whenever possible, ensuring that the people on stage represent the range of people in the audience. And that dedication to community extends beyond the footlights?the theater welcomes play submissions from local writers, and displays pieces from Michigan artists in the lobby.
The Detroit Institute of Arts takes the “s” at the end of its name seriously. The immense Beaux Arts building on Woodward Avenue isn’t only a setting for a top-tier collection of visual works that include Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescoes, a van Gogh self-portrait, and ancient sculptures from Africa and Asia. It also opens the doors of its lecture halls, event spaces, and auditoriums for craft workshops, wide-ranging talks from historians and people who know how to draw really good cubes, film, and music. The latter two art forms find a home in the Detroit Film Theatre, a gilded, neoclassical auditorium that preserves a sense of coziness amid the grandeur.
Since 1936, the historic Gem Theatre has moved movie lovers to laughter and tears with films in an elegant, comfortable single-screen vintage theater. Peruse current showtimes and choose a first-run film, which may include a romantic romp, a superhero adventure, an independent feature, or Casablanca II: Electric Boogaloo. Guests pick up their sodas and popcorn at the concessions stand in the carpeted lobby, whose ornate table lamps cast soft light on potted plants and flowers. In the red and gold 916-seat amphitheater, upholstered floor seats beckon audience members and balcony perches provide a sky-high view behind marbled wood rails. Before the film, guests watch wrought-iron vines curl around colorful birds in sculptures flanking the screen. Sumptuous gold curtains hide the big screen until showtime, allowing staff members to finish reenacting each film’s climactic scene in private.
During its 20th season of socially engaging theater in southwest Detroit, Matrix Theatre Company continues to create challenging and visually compelling work that includes the community it calls home. The year of six plays begins with Southwest Story (October 14–November 13), a Detroit take on the story of Romeo and Juliet that explores the conflict between African-American and Latino cultures but fails to solve the mystery of how Shakespeare kept his goatee so pointy.
Since 1963, more than two million guests that have passed through the Hilberry Theatre and been inspired by the passion and portrayal of the human condition they have seen on stage. Every year, audiences at the Hilberry laugh, cry, engage, question, applaud and cheer.
When it comes to classic date ideas, it’s hard to top a trip to this historic movie theater, which was first built in 1928 and still features live organ music 30-minutes before each show. Dates can share popcorn (with real butter!) while watching classic films, like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Singin’ In the Rain.