Detroit — November 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Shakespeare in Detroit has big dreams, and you can help them last longer than midsummer


All the world’s a stage. Or at least Detroit will be if Sam White has anything to say about it.

Sam White, founder and artistic director of Shakespeare in Detroit, has always had big dreams. This particular dream started with the successful production of Shakespeare’s Othello she produced and directed this summer in Grand Circus Park.

But her dreams keep getting bigger. White wants to produce three Shakespeare plays in 2014, but she needs the community’s help to do it. She has faith that people who love the arts will come through to support her Kickstarter campaign. And she’s got determination to spare.

I know this not only because White is a friend, but because of her passion for starting and sustaining a Shakespeare company in Detroit.

I kept hoping someone would start a Shakespeare company in the city — especially with the city’s many cool parks, not to mention Belle Isle. When it didn’t happen, I decided to put on my big girl panties and start it myself.

With some mentoring from TechTown Detroit and funding from the Detroit 300 Conservancy, White and her company presented one performance of Othello in August 2013. She was proud of the production, but didn’t know how Shakespeare in the park would play in Detroit.

I was so afraid the audience would just be me, my mom and a couple of stray cats. Because the play has five acts, people came and went, but 400 of them stayed for the entire production — and at peak time, there were 500 people in the audience. Looking at their faces that night, I became convinced there’s a thirst for this in Detroit.

White acquired her addiction to Shakespeare as a young girl, when her mother forbid her to listen to rap music. Instead, her mother handed her a book: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. That “smelly old book,” as White calls it, was a catalyst.

At first, I didn’t know what he was saying. But by the time I was a senior in high school I fell in love with the lyrics in the works. I never in a million years thought I’d have my own company, but that’s where it all started.

White’s plans for a 2014 season are ambitious, with a concept that brings Shakespeare to three different Detroit locations. The season would open with Antony and Cleopatra, performed at Recycle Here! using recycled items to create costumes and set pieces. Next up, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which White hopes to present in Grand Circus Park. The season would conclude with the biggest of its shows: The Tempest presented on Belle Isle, a proposal White is working on with the Belle Isle Conservancy.

It will take $20,000 to produce all three shows, a modest budget for such an undertaking — and one that would create paying jobs for about 60 local cast and crew members. White chose Kickstarter over other crowdfunding sources because “it’s all or nothing,” she says. If she can’t raise the full amount, the season won’t happen.

But she has faith that people will support the dream of Shakespeare in Detroit. You can contribute to the Kickstarter fund HERE. The deadline is December 22.

White is devoted to Shakespeare in Detroit not only because of her love of theater, but for what it means to the city, and the entire state.

People move to a city for the jobs, but they stay because of arts and other experiences they can enjoy where they’re living there. Detroit needs to invest in the arts to maintain the quality of life. ArtServe Michigan says the arts, including ad agencies and such, contribute more than $550 million to Michigan’s economy. Artists are part of keeping the economy thriving.

Still need convincing? See White’s commitment to this project for yourself in this short video:

You can also follow Shakespeare in Detroit on Facebook.

[Photo courtesy of Sam White.]