Award-winning theatre publicly launches $5 million capital campaign
Six years in the making, a dream is becoming a reality. Detroit Public Theatre (DPT) is establishing its own home in the heart of Midtown, Detroit’s cultural district, further securing its position as a fixture in Detroit’s cultural community. The local theatre with national significance has publicly launched a $5 million comprehensive campaign to build a new performing arts hub, with the adaptive reuse of a building at 3960 Third Avenue, originally built in 1919. The campaign coincides with the young theatre’s remarkable feat: the announcement of its first commissioned play heading to Broadway (in spring 2022).
Having raised more than $2 million in the quiet phase of its comprehensive campaign, DPT will raise an additional $3 million to cover capital costs; capacity building, including hiring three new full-time staff members; and investment in artistic excellence and organizational sustainability, including resources for new commissions, artists and residencies, community accessibility and building and cash reserves. Public and private funding sources committed during the initial phase of the campaign include a transformational grant from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, and generous grants from Artspace (through the Kresge, NEA and Mellon-funded Immersion Program), the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, The Forbes Company/Somerset Collection & The Detroit Shoppe, the Marjorie and Maxwell Jospey Foundation, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, TCF Bank, and numerous leadership gifts from individual donors. A crucial and generous construction loan to bridge multiyear pledges to the campaign was made possible by David T. Provost and the team at TCF Bank.
“There’s something magic and organic that happens at Detroit Public Theatre — and this new permanent home will help expand our impact and reach. The magic happens when our audiences experience Detroit Public Theatre’s riveting stories on stage — stories that speak to all of us, stories that represent us in all our complexity, stories that make our city more connected,” said Detroit native and DPT Executive Artistic Producer Dominique Morisseau, a 2018 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and writer of Broadway’s Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations. “In addition to housing our work, this building will support a thriving theatre community in Detroit by providing residencies so other companies and artists have a place to create and present their work.”
DPT’s future home is the 100-year-old former garage, which at one time operated as a Bays English Muffins factory. The developer is 3 Mission Partners. With the expertise of G Fisher Construction Company (general contractor), Dash Marshall, LLC (architect), Dr. Louis Prues (owners’ rep) and a space committee led by DPT Board Secretary David Jaffe and comprised of community stakeholders and DPT board members, the building will be transformed into a state-of-the-art, 7,000-square-foot facility boasting a 200-seat flexible black box theatre, a lobby and bar, drama bookshop, rehearsal space and dressing rooms.
The exterior renovation of the building has been completed and the next phase of construction is set to begin this summer. The theatre is slated to open in spring 2022.
Founded in 2015 by theatre veterans Courtney Burkett, Sarah Clare Corporandy and Sarah Winkler, and a dedicated board, DPT has gone on to present 20 productions in residence inside the Robert A. and Maggie Allesee Hall at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and six productions and festivals in communities across Detroit. The theatre now reaches more than 10,000 audience members annually and employs seven full-time staff and dozens of artists and technicians on a contractual basis each year.
In November, the trio was joined in leadership by Morisseau, a New York theatre favorite, who has been involved in DPT since before its inception as an advisor and thought leader and later as a board member and regularly produced playwright.
In March 2022, Noah Haidle’s Birthday Candles — a play that DPT commissioned and presented the world premiere of in May 2018 — will premiere on Broadway, starring Debra Messing (Will and Grace).
“As a decades-long theatre professional both on Broadway and off, I have been delighted to be a part of the growth of DPT,” said DPT Board Chair Nina Essman. “This new step will further establish Detroit Public Theatre as a leader in the regional theatre community and allow us to continue to provide an artistic home to remarkable local and national artists.”
Essman added, “This building will be a place where world-class artists ply their craft and delight and challenge audiences both regionally and worldwide. We hope that people will join us in our efforts to amplify the voices of Detroit artists at home and across the country.”
DPT’s community activities include its Shakespeare in Prison (SIP) program, which has operated in multiple Michigan correctional facilities and uses Shakespeare to empower incarcerated individuals to reconnect with their humanity in places where they are often referred to and looked at as a number. Once home, participants may take part in Shakespeare Reclaimed, a post-release extension of SIP providing ongoing mentorship, support and opportunities for personal and professional growth.
A generous grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is allowing DPT to develop a residency program for other performing arts companies to produce their work in the new space. DPT hopes to assist other arts organizations in the same way the DSO provided performance space and crucial resources to DPT in its founding years.