Playing it strait 

Demetri Vacratsis doesn’t mind being part of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd — as long as you’re talking about the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, that is.

The 34-year-old Windsor resident is co-founder of the Breathe Art Theatre Project’s Open Borders Initiative. The goal is to unite Windsor and Detroit theater communities by presenting contemporary, socially conscious productions that transcend borders — literally. Half of the performances occur in Detroit, the rest in Windsor.

This distinctive partnership was born in 2004 after a chance meeting in a restaurant between Vacratsis and his American counterpart, Courtney Burkett. After learning they had mutual friends in the theater business in New York, the two began discussing the need for more collaboration between actors, designers and directors in their respective cities. Following a successful three-show inaugural season, Open Borders has significantly expanded for its second year.

The current season, which began in September with Stephen Belber’s Tape, continues with Angus MacLachlan’s powerful family drama, The Dead Eye Boy. The play is directed by Daniel Roth, stars Tamam Tayeh, Joseph Porter and Joel Mitchell, and runs from Oct. 28 through Nov.12 at downtown Detroit’s 1515 Broadway.

The Dead Eye Boy tells the story of a single mother, Shirley-Diane (Tayeh), and her struggle to overcome crack addiction. When Shirley meets ex-Marine Billy (Mitchell) at an AA meeting, a romance blossoms. The play explores the relationship that forms between Billy and Shirley-Diane’s 14-year-old son, Soren (Porter), who was affected by his mother’s substance abuse in utero and now suffers severe eye problems and emotional damage.

Vacratsis describes the production as a visceral, “wedge of life” drama that “serves as a constant reminder about how we pass along our qualities, good and bad.” It’s also about “the chance for redemption in recovery,” and, for Soren, the opportunity to finally embrace a father figure.

This willingness to explore the grittier side of the human condition typifies Breathe Art’s productions. While not as explicitly political as last year’s offerings (The Mercy Seat, Two Rooms), Vacratsis says this season’s lineup consists of passionate “case studies” that extend into realms unfamiliar to mainstream audiences. “We try to tell stories that a lot of people aren’t telling.”


Opens Friday, Oct. 28, with evening and matinee performances Thursdays through Sundays until Saturday, Nov. 12. At 1515 Broadway, Detroit; 313-965-1515. Call for tickets and show times.

Monica Price is a Metro Times editorial intern. Send comments to

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