By Gerald Lemmons and The Black Artists Manifesto At the Midtown Theatre, May 28-30
Located at Third and Canfield near the Wayne State campus in Detroit, the historic Midtown Theatre has seen many different uses. Originally a showcase for movies and occasional vaudville-type shows, the Midtown was reopened briefly in the mid-sixties as a concert hall for the Motor City's first 'taste of "psychedelic folkrock" - venerable guitarist Ted Lucas, percussionist Muruga (Steve Booker), and underground radio innovator Larry Miller all played together there in a band called The Spikedrivers. In the years since, the Midtown has been used for faith-healing sessions and Sunday services for a variety of neighborhood churches-when it wasn't closed altogether.
The Midtown opened again last month-and it promises more than ever to become a center for contemporary artistic life in the city. A series of serious plays by indigenous theatre groups is planned for the old palace, which will be under the direction of a certain highly-respected Detroit playwrite and director (more on that in our next issue).
Bringing the initial set of good vibes to the Midtown on May 28-30 was Gerald Lemmons' Black Artist Manifesto presentation, "Louis." A humorous story of tour blacks and a chicano and the intrigues they find themselves involved in while doing time in prison, "Louis" is energetic, up-to-date, and entertaining.
Louis (played by Warren Jackson) is an educated, conscious blackman who got framed on a rape charge as a result of his activism and visibility in his old neighborhood. His cellmate Ernest (Lee Hunt) is a two-faced "brother" who turns to dope-dealing to satisfy his needs. Percy (M.L. Perkins) is a homosexual who gets snitched on by a supposed friend tor soliciting. Richardo (Gregory Williams) is attacked by a guard and is charged with assaulting an officer and inciting a riot.
"Louis" heats up when a guard, Sam (Dennis Reynolds), discovers a little black book containing the names of top dope dealers in and out of prison. Ernest manages to get the book, which implicates the warden, other prison officials, and several guards in the rampant corruption. The book is passed to Richardo in the hopes he can use the scandaleus information to gain leniency trom the parole board.
Sam confronts Louis and accuses him of taking the book. A scuffle ensues, Sam pulls his gun, a shot goes off. . .
This original play by Gerald Lemmons holds you to the end. We're anxious to see more by The Black Artists Manifesto (who continue to work and produce in Detroit) and much, much more high-quality work like this at the Midtown Theatre.