Release Date: 
Thursday, January 18, 2024

HFC Theatre holds auditions Jan. 22 for “The Detroit Wall Project”

Event Date: 
Mon, 01/22/2024 - 4:00pm to 6:30pm
Location: 
Adray Auditorium (F-100) in MacKenzie Fine Arts Center (Bldg. F)
A section of the Detroit Wall.
The Detroit Wall was built in 1941 to separate homeowners in Detroit's 8 Mile/Wyoming neighborhood on the basis of race. Residents do not want the wall to be torn down because its historical importance would be lost. It is now covered by a beautiful mural that adds an element of hope and inspiration.

HFC Director of Theatre Dr. John Michael Sefel will hold an informational meeting and auditions for HFC’s latest play, The Detroit Wall Project, which will make its theatrical debut at the College this spring.

“This is an original theatrical production based on student research and existing archives about the Detroit Wall,” said Sefel.

Auditions will be in the Adray Auditorium (Room F-100) on the first floor of the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center (Building F on the main campus) on Monday, January 22, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Rehearsals will be on Monday and Wednesday, beginning Wednesday, January 24, through Wednesday, April 3, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The play will run during the first two weekends in April.

The Detroit Wall’s history

In 1941, the Detroit Wall, also called the Birwood Wall and sometimes Detroit’s Wailing Wall, was constructed to physically separate Black and White homeowners in Detroit’s 8 Mile/Wyoming neighborhood on the basis of race, so that a new White neighborhood could be built and mortgages granted. The wall remains in place to this day, though the neighborhoods on both sides of the wall are now predominantly Black. The wall begins across the street from the northern boundary of Van Antwerp Park on Pembroke Avenue between Birwood and Mendota. It extends north until just south of 8 Mile.

In 2006, Detroit street artist Chazz Miller and local residents painted a colorful mural across the wall’s expanse, depicting neighborhood children playing together. It also depicts key events from Black history, including:

Residents do not want the wall to be torn down because its historical importance would be lost. It serves as a reminder and recognition of history, but also of a hopeful, more inspirational future.

“History lost is history that can be repeated,” said the Director of the Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship for the City of Detroit Rochelle Riley, a former journalist and talk show host.

In 2021, the wall was named to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2022, it received a Michigan Historical Marker.

Auditions open to all students, in all programs

“This is a very important piece of Detroit history,” said Sefel. “I’m so excited to have this opportunity with the students.”

Sefel is eager to speak to student musicians, non-fiction writers, poets, artists, historians, and anyone else who cares about preserving local history. The project is open to all students at HFC (including Henry Ford Early College and dual enrolled students) and students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

“Auditions are open to all majors, not just students with acting backgrounds, but those who are interested in Detroit history, African-American history, Civil Rights history, and storytelling,” said Sefel.

For questions or information about The Detroit Wall Project, contact Sefel at jsefel@hfcc.edu.


Video: The Detroit Wall receives Michigan Historical Marker

Video: History of the Detroit Wall