Shakespeare in Detroit

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.

William Shakespeare -Julius Caesar

Throughout the years the theatre has been a place of social gathering. As early as 6th century B.C. Ancient Greeks would line the rows of the outdoor amphitheater to be entertained by talented thespians. To this day we still seek amusement through the emotional gauntlet of humanity.  As the lights slowly dim around us we sit in our seat with the anticipation of the pending performance. We wait for an experience that will change us.

There is one man who compiled a series of words to express who we are like no other. His timeless work portrays humanity that still exists today. William Shakespeare, through prose and verse, has been entertaining the masses since the 1590s. His work allows a younger generation to make it their own. That is exactly what Sam White, founder and artistic director of Shakespeare in Detroit, is doing.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.

-William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Detroit is a city that has seen some very hard times. Jobs have moved and with them, the spark of the motor city has been dimmed. With a thick cloud looming over the place Sam White calls home, she and her diverse troupe take to the streets to raise the spirits.

Armed with the eloquent lines of  Shakespeare they perform in unique places all around the city, such as an unheated recycling warehouse, historical homes and public spaces throughout Detroit. There they brought the great and inspiring works of a 16th century poet to a new audience and to inspire a younger generation

It‘s a commitment to my city and using what I have to help grow the city. I’m using what I have, and what I have is Shakespeare.

Sam White, founder and artistic director of Shakespeare in Detroit

Shakespeare in Detroit creates dynamic performances with a diverse cast and audience. They strive to be approachable and accessible. That can be hard to accomplish but with Sam’s vast knowledge she is able to make the classics relatable, new, and exciting.

I live for the days the audience shows up and they see the show we have been working on for months or a year and they laugh or cry or shout or complain or rejoice.

Sam White

Shakespeare in Detroit continues to grow and a new building to house the troupe is in the works. The former Stone Soap Building on the Detroit Riverfront is the location of their new home. The grand opening is planned for 2020. So in the meantime, Sam will be planning, figuring out the right shows and people to bring it to life.  She hopes to create a place that will continue to be inclusive and allow the whole city of Detroit to fall in love with Shakespeare.

Southwest The Magazine: Shakespeare in Detroit

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

In the fall 0f 2014, the Crisman team headed to Detroit to spend a week working with a group of artists and actors who make up Shakespeare in Detroit. Founded in 2013, Shakespeare in Detroit is a site-specific Shakespeare company that performs throughout the city of Detroit. From the costumes to the actors, the staging and their props – every piece of the SID productions are sourced and based in Detroit. They’re an amazing group of people who are breathing life into the city, and we couldn’t be happier to tell their story.

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

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For this shoot we wanted to bring the characters of Shakespeare to life in real locations that spoke to the city of Detroit. The first and most obvious thought would be do go down the route of ruin and shoot inside the crumbling remains throughout the city – but this is a misstep. The true Detroit, the 2015 Detroit is not a crumbling remain, it is a city in rebirth, a thriving city which plays just as an important role in this project as the characters we’ve staged in front of the lens.

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

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Art, culture, food, it’s all there in Detroit. And it’s growing – faster than you may image. From city institutions like Coney Island hot dogs to brand new craft distilleries and burgeoning restaurants, there couldn’t be a better city to stage this performance in.

Not happy with just shooting stills, our team also captured motion for this project, including this video interview with the founder and director of Shakespeare in Detroit, Sam White. Although our photos may shed some light into the amazing production she founded, Sam shares the story of SID in a way that only she can.

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

Can’t have a shoot without some light tests and BTS coverage. We kept our kit pretty small and mobile since we were shooting at least 2 locations a day and sometimes more.

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

One of the most unique and most distinctively Detroit locations was The Heidelberg Project, a large scale outdoor art exhibit that spans an entire city block.

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

And then I got stuck in a fish tank. Well – not really… we did shoot at the amazing Belle Isle Aquarium, a historic building designed by the legendary architect Albert Kahn.

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

Aside from being the stage for our scenes photographed from Othello, Slow’s Bar Bq serves some damn tasty BBQ and is a must visit if you’re in the city.

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

We owe a big thank you to our editors at Southwest magazine for trusting us to bring this wild story to life. We also owe a thank you to Sam White and the entire acting company at Shakespeare in Detroit – we couldn’t have pulled this off this without all your help! Last but not least, we owe a thank you to the city of Detroit – the other character throughout this series of photos – quite possibly the most appropriate backdrop for these images.

chris crisman editorial photography Southwest Airlines Shakespea

And last but not least here’s a photo of Jared asleep while sitting in for a light test. Yup – it was definitely a long week.

Thanks for reading – make sure to check us out at @crismanphoto on Instagram and /crismanphoto on Facebook.