Detroit : Organisational Themes
The piece has several levels of thematic organisation.
The most obvious one is that, in almost every scene the action occurs either inside, or in front of, the same house–which is owned by the three families of characters. So the house acts as a silent character in its own right. Its changing condition is a proxy for the changing health of the city.
Another layer is the three sets of owners. At bottom, Detroit has been a city based on commerce; repeatedly reinventing itself by establishing leadership in a key emerging industry. And each generation brings a different batch of immigrants to feed that industry. Grandfather represents the Irish immigration before the turn of the century that became a prominent business class. Stanley and Irene are the Eastern Europeans that came after World War I and became the original auto workers. Eddie Powell and the Little’s represent the black migration from the South after World War II when the auto industry exploded.
And a third layer is the three long drives Grandfather makes during the performance. These are the only stagings away from the house. On the first drive Grandfather takes us around Detroit in its glory. His story is Detroit’s story: optimism. The second drive, which opens Act II, is the Son; a guy who had his father’s optimism but then came back from the war damaged. He will never stop feeling cheated as all the opportunities evaporate. But he will never show it. And the final drive, which ends the opera, is for Grandson–the next generation. His generation has only grown up with a failed city. In past generations, Detroit was always able to re-invent itself when a new industry appeared. Will his generation be able to do that? Or is this truly the end of the line.
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- Act I
- 1Overture To Act I
- 2Who Do You Think?
- 3March To War
- 4New Song
- 6Tear Down The House
- Act II
- 7Overture II (Dancing In The Streets)
- 10Joy, Joy, Joy
- 11Hold You Nightly
- 13I Fall Down
- 14Wrecking Ball
- Act III
- 15Overture To Act III (The Electric Twist)
- 17The Gang's All Here
- 18We Don't Build Great Things Anymore
- 19Never Thought I
- 20Hey Johnny!