A night of collaborative, site-specific performances

Arts / Article

On a clear and crisp late summer night last Saturday, I was treated to a spectacular collaborative performance by The Hinterlands Ensemble and Power House Productions. The event was one of many that took place in numerous venues over the weekend as part of MicroFest USA: Detroit, which was put on by the Network of Ensemble Theaters. This particular event happened in North Hamtramck, and was staged at four separate locations that were rehabbed or built by Power House Productions, including three formerly abandoned homes and a very impressive skate park.

A sign detailing the night’s performers.

In the yard outside of the Power House, this boat/sculpture became a stage.

Richard Newman sits with Athina Akram outside of the Power House.

Although I’d heard a great deal about Power House Productions, I’d yet to see any of their work in person, and it definitely exceeded my already-high expectations. One of the homes (the actual Power House), which is being converted to a studio space for visiting artists, is entirely off the grid and features solar panels and a wind turbine, and on top of that is aesthetically innovative and eye-catching. It’s an exceptional re-activation of a formerly blighted space, and it played a huge role in bringing together two busloads of MicroFest participants, along with members of the community who came out of their homes or off their porches to watch as the first performance kicked off.

Richard Newman prepares to kick off a scene from “Voice of the City.”

A scene from the performance by Tzarinas of the Plane.

The Hinterlands staged a few scenes from “Voice of the City,” a show I had the pleasure of seeing at its inaugural performance a few weeks back, but the diverse, open-air venues charged the experience with a palpable, anything-could-happen kind of excitement. Along with The Hinterlands, Athina Akram of the Bangla School of Music performed a song in the Bangla language, Jon Brumit performed experimental music at the Sound House, Tzarinas of the Plane put on a costumed show that was both intense and indescribable, and Haleem Rasul of Hardcore Detroit kicked some awesome Jit style dancing in the skate park.

And just when we thought it was over, as darkness had settled over the neighborhood and the gathered crowd began to think about the rest of their evening, the Detroit Party Marching Band busted onto the scene out of nowhere and took the night to a whole new level. It was truly a fantastic experience, and I wish I could individually thank each person that made it possible, because it was a shining example of what makes the Motor City such an exciting and inspiring place to live.

The Detroit Party Marching Band enthusiastically capped the night.