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Detroit Activist Stars in New Play at the Berman Center

'Passing,' starring Mayowa Lisa Reynolds, opens Thursday at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts.

Issues of race, ethnicity, identity, class and interracial relationships come to the forefront in the latest production at West Bloomfield's Berman Center for the Performing Arts, the one-woman show Passing.

Inspired by the true story of Minerva Roulhac, the play opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, with additional shows scheduled all weekend long.

Written by Dara Frazier-Harper and starring Detroit-area activist Mayowa Lisa Reynolds, the play follows the life of Roulhac, a woman adopted by a former slave in 19th century Florida. Though she's light-skinned — and her brother passes for white — Roulhac is raised in a close-knit African American community and goes on to live to 100 and raise eight, college-educated children.

Dealing directly with issues of race and whether African Americans could "pass" for being white, the play first premiered off-Broadway to sold-out audiences.

"Passing was very common in those days," Frazier-Harper said. "If your skin was light enough and you had keen features, it gained you access into a world without prejudice, even if it meant denying your roots."

"What makes Minerva so unique is that she could have passed for white, but she was courageous enough to live as a black woman in the segregated south," she added.

At the center of Passing is Reynolds, a dancer, choreographer, educator, community activist and associate minister at Fellowship Chapel in Detroit.

If you go:

  • Where: Berman Center for the Performing Arts
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21; 10 a.m. Feb. 22; 8 p.m. Feb. 23; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Feb. 24
  • Cost: Tickets are $26 for adults, $21 for a JCC member and $16 for groups. To buy tickets, visit www.theberman.org.

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