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Angles of Detroit

By John Pietrowski
March 8-9 at 2024 7:30pm

Swain Hall Black Box Theater

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Angels of Detroit is based on the life of Philip Levine and his profound connection to the auto workers of Detroit. John Pietrowski’s new play takes us to 1972, when Philip, a newly-minted professor and celebrated poet of the “voice of the working man” returns to his hometown of Detroit on a book tour, where he will present a reading at his alma mater, Wayne State. Prior to the reading, he meets in a bar with colleagues who worked with him on the assembly line in Detroit when he was a young man, one of whom thinks his poetry is terrible and untrue. Based on the poem “Angels of Detroit” from the book “They Feed They Lion”, and other Philip Levine poems, with guest appearances by John Keats, among others.


Process Series artistic director Joseph Megel is excited to welcome John Pietrowski to the Series. “John has been selflessly devoted to the development of new work for the entirety of his long and distinguished career and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him for a few of those years. It is a pleasure to get to work with him this time on work of his own, work which echoes our focus on poetry this season. The sense of being transported to a very different world—working class Detroit in 1972—is dizzying and I can’t wait to see what Pietrowski does with us.”


Megel has assembled a stellar cast including former both hands theatre founder, and current artistic director of the Chatham Arts Council, Cheryl Chamblee; Boston-based actor and former North Carolinian who has frequently appeared with StreetSigns, Gabriel Graetz; founding member of Black Box Theatre, Alfredo Hurtado; Broadway, Regional, TV, and film actor, known locally for his Galileo at PlayMakers, Ron Menzel as Philip Levine; and Broadway luminary known for his work on the plays of August Wilson and for his film and television work, Keith Randolph Smith. Frequent Process Series artist Jalen McKoy reads stage directions.


John Pietrowski is looking forward to the chance to hear his play-in-progress. “I may not have been prepared for the seventies language that has been emerging from these characters and the way their fierce and unapologetic embrace of their ethnicities feels very distant in time to us now. But mostly I’m just glad they keep talking and I get to transcribe what I hear. The opportunity to be in a room with these wonderful theatre artists and engage with these characters is crucial to the development of this piece and I am eager to see what we will make of it.”


John Pietrowski served as artistic director of Playwrights

Theatre of New Jersey for more than thirty years and developed

and directed more than thirty world premiere productions there,

including plays by Russell Davis, Richard Dresser, D.W. Gregory,

and Tammy Ryan. His other plays include: A Better Bill of Rights,

Polaroids Before the Fall, Dura Mater, and Unknown Knowns.

Regional directing credits include NJ Rep, Shadowland Stages,

Oldcastle Theatre, and Dreamcatcher Rep. For Fellowship for the

Performing Arts, he directed productions of Acts of the Apostles,

Mark’s Gospel, and Genesis, the latter moving to productions at

the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland and the Lamb’s Theatre

in New York City. He directed two radio plays for the WNYC Radio

Stage Consortium, both of which later aired on National Public Radio.

He has received two Playwriting Fellowships from the NJ State Council

on the Arts and had a poem nominated for a Pushcart Award. As an

actor, he has performed at Shadowlands Stages, Dreamcatcher Rep,

Writers Theatre, NJ Rep, and InterAct. He teaches theatre history at

Fairleigh Dickinson University. He holds a BS in Performance Studies

from Northwestern University, an MPA in Nonprofit Management from

Seton Hall, a Masters Certificate in Creative Placemaking from the

Bloustein School at Rutgers, and an MFA in Playwriting from

Goddard College. Pietrowski previously served as the NJ Regional

Representative for the Dramatists Guild and was the Program Coordinator

of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Theatre Program for Teachers and

Playwrights from 1988-94.


Keith Randolph Smith’s Broadway credits include

Jitney (NY Drama Critics Circle Special Citation),

Fences (starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis),

King Hedley II, Piano Lesson, Come Back Little Sheba,

Salome (starring Al Pacino), and American Psycho. He

has also worked Off-Broadway on such productions as

Night of the Iguana (La Femme Productions), What the End

Will Be (Roundabout Theatre-World Premiere), Paradise Blue

(Signature Theatre/Drama League Award for Distinguished

Performance Nominee), Lockdown (Rattlestick Theater/World

Premiere-Audelco Award Winner for Best Actor), The

Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d (Playwright’s Realm

Theatre-World Premiere), among many. 


Keith has also acted on stages across the country such as

The Goodman Theater in Chicago with How to Catch Creation,

The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove, Jitney; Seattle Rep, La Jolla

Playhouse, Baltimore Center Stage, Cleveland Playhouse,

Arena Stage in Washington DC, Miami New Drama, Actors

Theater of Louisville, Hartford Stage and in London with Jitney

at The Royal National Theatre (Olivier Award Winner for

Best New Play).


Television and film work includes: “The Good Fight;” “Onion Sportsdome;” “Law and Order;” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent;” “Law and Order: SVU;” “Cosby;” “I’ll Fly Away;” “NY Undercover;” “Malcolm X;” “Girl Six;” “The Warrior Class;” “Dead Dogs Lie; “Path to Paradise: The Untold Story of the World Trade Center Bombing;” “Anesthesia;” “Steve;” “Journeymen;” and the animated feature “My Love Affair with Marriage.”


Keith trained as an actor at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC and was awarded the Angel Award upon graduation. He is a company member of New York’s Actors Center and QuickSilver Theater Company. He has been named a Fox Foundation Resident Fellow in Acting and also received the

celebrated Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship for actors.



Ron Menzel’s credits include:


Broadway: Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Booth Theatre),

Parisian Woman (Hudson Theatre).


Regional: Guthrie Theatre: ten productions, including

Pericles in Pericles and Vito Marcantonio in The

Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and

Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures (World Premiere),

Shakespeare Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, South

Coast Rep, Geva Theatre, City Theatre, Philadelphia

Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, Ten Thousand

Things, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Huldufolk Theatre,

PlayMakers Repertory Company (Galileo in Life of Galileo).


Film/TV: “Imprisoned,” “Cryptos,” “Anonymous Content,”

“Vernie,” “Fall into Me,” “Elementary,” “Blindspot,” “Numb3rs.”


Our Sponsors

Our 16th season is based in the Department of Communication, supported by StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance, and is co-sponsored by The College of Arts and Sciences, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Arts Everywhere, and these UNC Departments and Programs: American Studies, Art and Art History, Communication, Creative Writing, Dramatic Art, English and Comparative Literature, and Music. Some projects were supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Affairs, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Chatham Arts Council; and the Manbites Dog Theater Fund.

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