Urban Wire Detroit: Confronting economic and societal problems onstage
Nicole Levins
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“I’m supposed to set goals and take night classes that will expand my horizons, and I guess that works, Mary, I guess so. But to be honest, I feel like the real opportunities are the ones that fall into your lap. Like winning the lottery or someone’s rich uncle needing a personal assistant. That almost happened to me once, Mary. And everything would have been different.”—Sharon, Detroit

As anyone who’s familiar with the Urban Institute’s research on the changing wealth of Americans can tell you, not every person in the United States has the same opportunity to achieve that elusive American dream. Whether due to generational challenges, race, or even their parents’ economic standing, many face significant obstacles on the path to securing gainful employment and a safe place to call home—no matter how hard they work.

Lisa D’Amour’s Pulitzer-nominated play, Detroit, touches on these issues and more. The dark comedy follows two suburban couples as they deal with job loss, drug addiction, and the struggle to make it through another day in times of economic uncertainty. After successful runs in Chicago, London, and New York, Detroit arrived at Washington, DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre earlier this month.

On Saturday, September 28, the Urban Institute is partnering with Woolly Mammoth to host a post-show discussion on the play’s major themes, including long-term employment, substance abuse, and housing and suburban issues, set to follow the 3:00 performance. Featured panelists include Gregory Acs, Director of the Income and Benefits Policy Center; Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center; and Rolf Pendall, Director of the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. Erika Poethig, an Institute Fellow and Director of Urban Policy Initiatives will moderate.

Tickets to the performance and the panel are still available to the public. For those who can’t make it in person, @urbaninstitute will be live-tweeting the discussion that afternoon. Follow along: #WoollyDetroit


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The Urban Institute podcast, Evidence in Action, inspires changemakers to lead with evidence and act with equity. Cohosted by Urban President Sarah Rosen Wartell and Executive Vice President Kimberlyn Leary, every episode features in-depth discussions with experts and leaders on topics ranging from how to advance equity, to designing innovative solutions that achieve community impact, to what it means to practice evidence-based leadership.


Tags Poverty