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The Detroit Repertory Theatre is all about producing shows that have something to say about the social, political and human climate. And boy, does their 61st season opener, Swimming Upstream, have a lot to discuss.

“It’s a very interesting, comedic drama, but there’s knowledge interspersed throughout it,” said Sandra Love Aldridge, who plays Evelyn, the main character’s mother.

DRT SU boss being bossy

The comedic play—written by Rich Rubin and making its world premiere at the Rep this month—focuses primarily on climate change, but it also looks at different types of relationships, including mother/daughter, romantic, and those between a boss and employees.

For Harry Wetzel, the show’s director and the Rep’s production manager, being a part of this production was an easy choice.

“It’s got many elements that I liked, and that we liked at the Rep,” he said.

Wetzel—who has been with the Rep for over 20 years—said the theater has an open submissions sort of policy when it comes to selecting plays for the upcoming season. If you have a script, they’ll read it, and they read lots of them every year. Ultimately, though, they selected Swimming Upstream because it fit right in with their goal of producing shows that say something. Shows that make people think.

“Some of the things that happen in the show aren’t exactly ripped from today’s headlines, but are about exactly what’s going on,” Wetzel said. 

That includes how to release information about scientific discoveries dealing with climate change in today’s political climate. 

“I think it’s incredibly timely,” said Audrey Lovy, who is making her Rep debut as the show’s main character, Jen, a marine biologist who discovers that climate change is affecting the world’s salmon. The only problem? Her boss won’t let her report her findings. 

“More people need to know that this is real, this is happening, and you can make changes,” Lovy said. “You can do things that help the planet.”

Although the show does touch on some very pertinent issues, it’s also a romantic comedy, looking at Jen’s relationship with her superhero aficionado boyfriend, who thinks the salmon’s life-story is similar to Superman. 

“It’s ultimately very sweet,” Wetzel said.

In presenting a timely and relevant world premiere, do the actors in Swimming Upstream feel a different kind of pressure? Nah, this is simply another show.

DRT SU salmon“It doesn’t make me more nervous,” said Aldridge, who has been in a few world premieres before. Aldridge has been with the theater for nearly 25 years, making her one of the show’s veteran actors. “I’m always trying to get to the storyline, and my character, and just wanting to do the best job possible. It doesn’t worry me that it’s a world premiere.”

Wetzel and Lovy feel similarly.

Wetzel said he approaches every show he’s a part of as a first-time experience, as each show is a first for him. The biggest thing is making sure that he can make it the most successful and enjoyable portrayal of the character as possible.

“If there is a pressure, it’s that you want to make the playwright’s work sing so that the playwright loves it,” he said. “You hope you’ve taken their work, their baby, and put it through its schooling in a way that they will love it as well. It’s so much fun.”

Lovy wants to make sure she’s able to bring every element of Jen to the stage, making her come to life off the page. This is who the character is right now, in this moment, and then eventually, a different actor will take her and remix her into her own, much like she did.

For Lovy, this moment is not only her first world premiere and debut at the Rep, but it’s also a full circle one. As a kid, Lovy’s grandpa used to take her to shows at the Rep, a place she fell in love with theater at an early age.

“To be back in the city, and to be back at a staple in the theater community is exciting,” Lovy said. “To go from being the little Audrey in the seats to the little Audrey on the stage, I think is really cool. I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity.”

Swimming Upstream runs through December 23rd at the Detroit Repertory Theatre. To purchase tickets, click here.