By Face Off Theatre Company
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The nation has not been able to get a handle on the trend of students pushed out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. But one distraught African-American mother, herself a schoolteacher, tries when her son finds himself in trouble in Dominique Morisseau’s “Pipeline,” the next production of Face Off Theatre Company, Kalamazoo’s premier Black theater group, and it pulls on our heartstrings.
The story centers around Nya, an inner-city public high school teacher whose only child, a son, Omari, is full of rage following her divorce. She’s committed to her students, but desperate to give him opportunities they'll never have.
However, when she sends him to a private school, he gets swept up in a controversial incident that threatens his future there, sending Nya into an emotional breakdown. Will she be able to reach him before a world beyond her control pulls him away?
'Affects students of color'
“’ 'Pipeline’ is a very important play for 2021, and the reason is because we are having conversations about racism and inequities in this country; and it has been proven by studies that there is a school-to-prison pipeline, and it directly affects students of color,” says Artistic Director Marissa Harrington, who is directing the piece.
Harrington says data shows there’s over-policing of student behavior in America's classrooms.
“So, this play, while wonderful and poignant and powerful, it’s unfortunate that this play is still relevant in today’s society. My hope is this play will spark conversations in our community about how we can make the educational system more equitable for all students.”
Coming in July
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. July 16-17 and 2 p.m. July 17-18 at Dormouse Theatre, 1030 Portage St., Kalamazoo, at Lake and Portage streets. We use a pay-what-you-can model. Scroll down for the link for tickets.
It's our second live performance since last year (all others have been virtual).
Also noteworthy is this is our third time staging a play by Tony award-winning, Detroit-born playwright, Dominique Morisseau. The others were “Detroit ’67” in 2017 and “Sunset Baby” in 2018. (Read on for her bio.)
Face Off Theatre Season Stage Manager Shea-Lin Shobowale-Benson, an actress and playwright, will take centerstage as Nya. Playing her son is Delanti Hall, and her ex-husband, Xavier, is Yasir Muhammad.
The other experienced thespians in the cast include Mikaela Johnson (Jasmine), Michael Davis Arnold (Dun) and Sandy Davis (Laurie), with Face Off Theatre Brand Marketing Manager/Playwright/Director/Actress Earlene McMichael as assistant director.
About Face Off Theatre Company
Face Off Theatre Company was founded in 2015 in Kalamazoo by six African-American women with theater and playwriting degrees from Western Michigan University. It is devoted to thought-provoking Black theater and the development of playwrights, actors and directors of color, drawing audiences from throughout Southwest Michigan to its performances. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for show updates.
For more: faceofftheatre.com
About the playwright
Dominique Morisseau wrote the book for the musical “Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations,” which opened on Broadway in 2017 and marked her Broadway debut for which she earned the Tony Award for Best Book for a Musical; she was the first African-American woman to do so. Other honors include the Obie Award Special Citation for Collaboration in 2016, the MacArthur Fellowship (a.k.a. "Genius Grant”) in 2018, and two NAACP Image Awards. Currently, she works as the story editor and a co-producer of the television show “Shameless” on Showtime. Morisseau received her bachelor’s in fine arts from the University of Michigan.
Photo credit: Dominique Morisseau, below (dominiquemorisseau.com)