As the Detroit Repertory Theatre celebrates its 60th year, the IFLC is proud to honor its founder, Bruce Millan, with the Community Service Award at the year’s annual awards dinner on October 5.
Millan’s passion for art and the importance of its role in a functional society has been the driving impetus behind the Millan Theatre company in 1956 and then the Detroit Repertory Theatre in 1966.
“I’ve been a crusader of sorts,” says Millan. “I believe that art can be instrumental in changing the world.”
His concern has, he says, been “justice and equality and the things we value as a country. My concern was that everything in this society would work right. Obviously, I felt that there were things that could be done better.”
With degrees in sociology and the sociology of art, he has made it his crusade to democratize the arts, to create art in an impactful way that reaches beyond an elite core of theater-goers.
“What I’ve been doing all my life is trying to reach those that are un-reached,” says Millan. “If you shut the door on masses of people or don’t try to open the door to those who are outside it, you can’t change the world. I’m trying to find the best way to change the world.”
As a student, he didn’t become involved with theater until he had a roommate who was in it. His concern was more with the nature and quality of life than the depiction of it.
“I was really involved in this art of living and that’s where my thinking was. I became interested in theater as one of the domains that dealt with the question of ‘what is the art of living?’ I tried to find what was the best way for the society to function. Theater addresses all kinds of questions that have to do with living,” says Millan. “I’ve always felt that we all create and contribute to the art of living. Democracy and the way our society is organized and functions is to help find the best way of living for all people.”
In order to have an impact on society’s most important questions, the arts, says Millan, need to be created with the kind of devotion and quality only attained by professionals who spend their lives developing the necessary skills and mastery.
“I feel that the artist has an important role to play in any functional society. And making a living for artists is very important for the art of living.”
The Detroit Repertory Theatre is a professional union theater with 194 seats that stages 4 shows per season and performs to an annual audience of approximately 60,000. Its mission has been to be a positive social, cultural, and artistic force in the community. And it is known for a history of interracial casting and community outreach.
It is a non-profit, partially funded by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. It also receives funds from the Kresge Foundation, Erb Family Foundation, the Schubert Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund and numerous corporations and individuals.
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