Detroit has many great conversation starters these days: Belle Isle. Lena Dunham. Robotic coffee shops.
Here’s another one to add to the list: How do you know someone is your soul mate? Can you be in love with more than one person at a time? How do you handle friendships, family and fond feelings for the people who populate your life?
Those are some of the questions “Soul Mates,” a play starting Friday at Detroit’s Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, may bring to its viewers. Although it cannot promise to answer all of those queries, the thought-provoking play will run through Feb. 23 at the Abreact Performance Space in Detroit.
Frannie Shepherd-Bates, the Giraffe’s executive artistic director, also directs this performance. She describes it as a light-hearted play compared to some of the more serious pieces the Magenta Giraffe has previously performed. And that made it a perfect selection to do during February, when Michigan’s gray skies clash with the rosy glow we all get around Valentine’s Day.
The play’s central story line – Can a person have more than one soul mate in a lifetime? – is told through a series of vignettes. It a story told with sweetness yet it creates serious conversations among its audiences, Frannie said.
The Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company has a magnificent mission statement. Its goal is to “act to eliminate apathy, violence, prejudice and barriers to education through theatre productions, projects and programs; and further acts to reestablish and expand Detroit’s theatre district.”
Local playwright Kirsten Knisely, who was raised in Northville, attended the University of Michigan and now lives in Dearborn, wrote “Soul Mates” at the perfect time in her life as well – she was young and looking ahead at her artistic career. She was pondering some of the larger issues of adult life just as she was saying farewell to her careless teenage days. Searching for connections, she found more questions than answers…and this cathartic play was the result.
The cast includes Jonathan Davidson (Detroit), Julia Garlotte (Chelsea), Matthew Turner Shelton (Grosse Pointe) and Jaye Stellini (White Lake). Gwen Lindsay exhibits her scenic design; costumes by Lauren Montgomery.
Frannie co-founded the theater group in 2008, starting it with LG. (LoriGoe) Pérez-Nowak and Kevin Beltz. While still students at Wayne State University, the three realized that Detroit was losing many of its finest talent to the bigger cities (Chicago and New York). So they agreed that when the timing was right, they’d start their own non-profit organization that would promote theater, discussion as well as social and economic change.
“We felt that theater could do more than just entertain. We wanted a company that wasn’t strictly activist, but starts constructive conversation and gets people thinking. We also wanted to provide another place for artists to work here,” Frannie said.
As for the name…well, glad you asked. According to those in the know, “LoriGoe chose ‘Giraffe’ because of a giraffe’s ability to see over all obstacles; its presence as a gentle yet majestic giant; and because by natural design, the giraffe is so completely unique. Kevin jokingly, but enthusiastically tagged ‘Magenta’ on to the front of that and the three founders had a good laugh about the image. However, they later discovered that a magenta aura is characteristic of someone who is an artist, actor, author, costume or set designer – and that sold them on the combo ‘Magenta Giraffe!’”
Reservations are highly recommended as the performance space is intimate (also known as cozy, so be prepared to enjoy live theater in the way it was supposed to be seen – up close and personal). The conversation therein is a bit adult; Frannie would rate it PG-13, so older teens are cool (little tots, probably not). It runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. There is one matinee at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17.
Tickets are $18 per person or $15 for students or seniors. The Giraffe takes cash or check only. And if you don’t have the dough this month, don’t sweat it. In order to make theater available to everyone, there is a “pay what you can” policy. So if you have the cash, cough it up. If you can’t, come on down any way and get your poetry on.
Its next production, “The Maids,” by Jean Genet, will run from April 26 through May 11. Each spring, the Company also does a Stage Reading Festival where Michigan playwrights (here and ex-pats) get to hear their stories performed aloud. The public is invited…check back here and on its site for times and dates.
For more information, contact the Magenta Giraffe at (313) 408-7269 or www.magentagiraffe.org. The Abreact Performance Space is located at 1301 W. Lafayette, Suite 113, in Detroit.