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Skeleton Crew

By Gary Wien

originally published: 06/23/2017

Skeleton CrewThe issue of automation is one that politicians have a tendency to avoid.  It’s easy to tell people that factories making outdated equipment like typewriters and rotary phones are no longer needed, but it’s far more difficult to let people know that most jobs can be replaced by automation.  Automotive plants were among the first to have employees work side by side with robotic technology, and the evolution of the technology and the changes it has meant to the industry is the focus of Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau.

Set in Detroit in 2008, the play is a portrait of American workers struggling to hold on to their jobs against the tide of technology.  In the play, ambitions, secrets, and conflicted loyalties threaten to destroy an automotive plant’s status as a sanctuary in a rough city. Faye, the matriarch of a small family of line workers, gives her all to keep her team employed.

Premiere Stages at Kean University presents the New Jersey premiere of Skeleton Crew from July 13 to July 30 in the Zella Fry Theatre.  Directed by John J. Wooten, the cast includes Patricia R. Floyd (Faye), Daniel Boisrond (Dez), Kristen Adele (Shanita), and Shane Taylor (Reggie).

“The play centers around four workers in an auto stamping plant in Detroit in 2008,” explained Wooten.  “It’s right before the economy goes south. What’s so intriguing about it is that even though it takes place just less than 10 years ago, there’s a lot of things that are still happening that haven’t been solved. The unemployment rate today may be under 5%, but the people that lost their jobs haven’t come back.  One of the questions that comes out of that is if the unemployment number is back to where it was before the recession, how come these people are still unemployed? How come they haven’t gotten their jobs back?”

Skeleton Crew is the third play in a trilogy by Morisseau called The Detroit Project. An ode to her hometown, the trilogy includes Detroit ‘67, which takes place during the race riots of 1967, Paradise Blue, set in a small jazz club in Detroit’s Blackbottom neighborhood, and Skeleton Crew. One of the most celebrated playwrights of the day, she is a two-time NAACP Image Award winner, Steinberg Playwright Award Winner, and recipient of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama.  She’s also frequently compared to legendary playwrights like August Wilson and Arthur Miller, good company for any writer.

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Wooten says he can see why people reference her work with those playwrights, noting her strength of characters and stories that contain important messages.  As Wilson turned Pittsburgh into something of an everyday town in America, Morisseau has done the same for Detroit.  Her trilogy not only points out changes in the Motor City, but changes in the country has a whole. Automation is one such example.  While Detroit has been on the frontline of the automation revolution, it is spreading throughout other industries and across the country.

“I think that’s one of the biggest challenges facing blue-collar workers in America right now,” continued Wooten.  “Technology has replaced so many of those jobs that the future is more about retraining the workers and reacclimating them to the jobs of tomorrow.  That’s what most intrigued me about Skeleton Crew. I think, in some ways, the biggest issue facing the modern American worker is that technology is only going to continue to get better and better; and, as it gets better and better, the need for human workers to do what technology and robots can do for a lot cheaper is going to continue to be a challenge and an issue.”

Another reason Skeleton Crew appealed to Wooten was the opportunity to stage Morisseau’s work again.  Back in 2011, Premiere Stages presented Follow Me To Nellie’s, which was the first professional production of the playwright’s career.  Since then, she has quickly established herself as one of the leading playwrights of her generation, winning awards, and making American Theatre’s list of the 20 most-produced playwrights for the 2015–16 season.  She’s also branched out into work for television (serving as Story Editor for Showtime’s hit show, Shameless) and is working on a screenplay.

Skeleton Crewremiere Stages was waiting for the right play and the right time to bring her back to their stage, and Skeleton Crew was a wonderful fit to the the company’s mission and approach to theatre. As with August Wilson’s work, Wooten believes Skeleton Crew and the other two plays in the Detroit trilogy can all stand on their own as individual stories.

“I hope that the audience leaves not just saying, ‘That was a good play, what’s next?’ I hope the audience leaves and are still talking about it the next day,” said Wooten.  “I hope they’re still talking about what is the future of the American worker.  Of course we want to embrace technology; it’s the future and you can’t work against it, but, at the same token, we all need to be smart and think about how we can incorporate technology and be something that complements the American workforce and doesn’t replace it.  In addition to being a topical play, it’s a powerful human story about hopes and dreams and four people who have a lot at stake.  I think from an emotional standpoint and a gut level, the play is going to linger and resonate with people.”

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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
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American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.

Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
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Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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