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Shakespeare in Detroit

Detroit, MI 48226

Sam White

If there is any city that can relate to Shakespeare, it's Detroit. That's what Sam White, founder of Shakespeare in Detroit, claims.

The startup theatre company performs Shakespeare outdoors in different locations across Detroit, bringing the arts to the parks. Sam White says she chooses plays that relate to Detroiters. The first performance this past summer brought around 500 people to Grand Circus Park downtown for Othello, a play White says was relevant to our current mayoral election.

"There was a parallel between Othello's character and the mayor candidate," White says. "The main character in Othello was questioned for his legitimacy, too."

White has always been interested in the arts. She began participating in plays at just 3-years-old. As an adult, she continued to perform and traveled to many large Shakespeare festivals. It was at these festivals where she saw many cities held frequent outdoor performances. Detroit did not.

White also knew Detroit had plenty of resources for outdoor venues, including the recently revitalized downtown parks. It seemed like an ideal choice for a new type of theatre program in Detroit.

After graduating from TechTown's First Step program, White was able to create a business plan and begin her company. She raised her initial funds from the Detroit 300 Conservancy, and held her first local performance this past summer. Now, she's raising $20,000 through a Kickstarter campaign for her 2014 theatre season. The money will help purchase supplies and hire employees for the shows.

The 2014 season will host three different performances at locations across the city, including "Antony and Cleopatra" at Recycle Here in the New Center, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Grand Circus Park, and "The Temptest" at Belle Isle. All of the company's actresses and actors are from southeast Michigan.

For the upcoming seasons, White says she aims to hire 60 new cast members.

Right now, Detroit has few Shakespeare performances, mostly held at universities. White believes that her company can bring arts to a larger crowd and inspire more people to explore and visit Detroit.

"We will go to where people live, work, and play," White says. "There are so many different beautiful historical places in the city that this inspired me to want to Shakespeare in unlikely places."

While businesses help create new jobs, White believes the arts and culture of a city help retail talent in an area.

"The thing about Shakespeare in Detroit and all arts is that it brings people together. It brings people together who otherwise might not engage with each other," White says. "Everyone enjoys music, art, and theater in a city. It's the one opportunity that people can come together and be united."

- Written by Amanda Lewan

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