Earlier this year we saw MacArthur Award winning playwright Dominique Morisseau’s new show, Confederates, at the Rep. At that performance they gave a shoutout to the Black Rep’s upcoming production of Skeleton Crew, which we saw last night. That’s right folks, back-to-back theater performances, first Murder on the Orient Express on Thursday and then Skeleton Crew. My, didn’t we feel all bon vivant when we bumped into friends at last night’s show. Skeleton Crew is a play set in an auto factory on the brink of closure in 2008 Detroit. It is the third play in Morisseau’s Detroit Project. This four-character play is set entirely in some nameless auto factory’s breakroom. Three UAW members and their shop supervisor go to work every day, during the Great Recession, wondering how much longer they will manage to keep their jobs. Factory after factory has already closed and theirs is the only one left still standing in the city of Detroit. Distrust abounds. To make matters worse, someone is stealing parts off the line. Looking for any excuse to let someone go, already management has whittled down their shop’s workforce to a skeleton crew that still continues to strive to keep the line open, all the while with one eye over their shoulders.
Fresh out of high school, I started as a UAW member. After only one summer of oily clothes and metal splinters, I was more than ready to leave the line and go off to college. After school, I ended up working at Chrysler in Michigan, as a contractor, a scab. There I witnessed quite a bit of auto part theft. Parts lying on the grass, just outside the fence, next to the employee parking lot. At Chrysler times were bad, the company almost went bankrupt while I was there. So much of what Morisseau had written about was part of my everyday factory life there.