Detroit in Summertime
June 2018 - Artist Residency at Popps Packaging - Detroit USA
I was born in Detroit and lived there until I was aged 8. In 1970 my family migrated to Australia and in 2018 I'll be returning for a month's residency. Despite decades of separation, I've maintained an on-going relationship with Detroit. It remains on one level, 'home' in that it's the place where my earliest memories are located and one fundamental part of my identity was formed. It is where my accent comes from. Of course I'm aware that this place I hold in my memory no longer exists. Detroit isn't the same, indeed the world isn't the same, as it was half a century ago. I have a 'relationship' with a phantom Detroit that exists only in my mind. I wonder whether that makes it any less real?
In the residency, I plan to research a play for children concerning the nature of 'home'. What do we mean by 'home'.
I am now halfway through the residency and it's been a very enjoyable and thought-provoking experience. Everyone here at Popps Packaging have been very hospitable and it's been a pleasure staying here and equally returning to Hamtramck. (The photo above was taken in Hamtramck. I went around to the old house but it evoked no memories. However I did buy a Polish donut from an ancient bakery and that instantly took me back in time. Clearly you can guess what was important for me as a kid! Lovely also to catch up with the family, including the boy and lady from the photo.)
I've been working on an idea for a play but I don't know about it anymore. I see the structure and think it would technically create a strong three act structure, but I don't know what I'm trying to say by it.
I imagined a tree with many animals living in it when it suddenly begins to drop its leaves in summer. At first the animals don't know what to do or whether the situation is temporary however as the leaves keep dropping, it becomes clear that there's a big problem. Some birds/animals move away but others stay either because they can't or won't leave. One family of Cardinals is determined to stay - this is their home. The tree continues to die, food is becoming scarce, snow is beginning to fall and the predators are out. On the tree everyone is struggling to get by and thinking only about themselves and their families - except for the youngest Cardinal. He/she figures out that the only way to save themselves is to save the tree. But can he/she get them all to cooperate? And how can they save the tree?
This allegorical story stems from my memory of the Dutch elm disease that killed the tree in front of our house in Detroit just before my family left in 1969. I've changed the tree to a Shagbark Hickory mostly because I like the look of them and their name is fun to say.
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