We value those who take pride in their work, but what happens to those people when that work is taken away? That question is at the center of playwright Dominique Morisseau’s story “Skeleton Crew.” That crew is a makeshift family of Detroit auto workers who learn that their factory is about to be shut down.
Actor Enoch King, who plays the plant’s supervisor, Reggie, describes his character’s inner-struggle as “a lot of frustration.”
“[He’s] trying to maintain the course of production,” King tod “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes. “He’s trying to hold his family together, he’s trying to hold his makeshift family together. He’s trying to do right by his workers, but he’s also trying to make sure that he gets taken care of himself. We see what happens to a person, to their essence, their energy, when they’re pulled in so many directions.”
That “makeshift family” has the character of Faye at its center — a tough-talking gay woman in her 50s who has been working on the line just shy of 30 years (“The walls talk to me,” she says at one point, “I’m in the vents. I’m in the bulletin boards. I’m in the chipped paint. Ain’t nobody can slip through the cracks past me up in here).”
“When we think about the blue collar worker, I think if most Americans close their eyes, they have a certain picture,” True Colors artistic director Jamil Jude says. “And I think what Dominique has tried to put into the American public is that the backs of black women are what we built our country on.”
“We have that Rosie the Riveter character,” he said. “I think when we look at it and really start thinking about, if we’re completely inclusive and really honest about what that character looks like, it looks like Faye.”
The play is part of Morisseau’s “Detroit Trilogy” of stories about the playwright’s hometown. Set in 2008 around the time of the recession, the show meditates on the power that capital has, not only over our ability to make a living, but over entire communities.
“A lot of times, when we think about jobs, we think ‘eh I lost a job, I can go find another one,'” King says. “For a lot of these people it wasn’t as easy as that. Getting a factory job [in Detroit] was big time, it was important. When the factories close, it’s so big and so painful. We saw what happened when the auto industry left Detroit and what it did to the community. When we’re doing this show, I think about that weight and I think about that pressure.”
True Colors Theatre Company’s production of “Skeleton Crew” opens Feb. 12 at the Southwest Arts Center and runs through March 10. There will be a Cast Talk Back at 5 p.m. Feb. 24. There will also be a Deep Dive moderated conversation with the artists on Feb. 27 to learn more about the work and hear some unexpected stories behind its creation.