Michael Lluberes, FIM Flint Repertory Theatre Producing Artistic Director, has dramatic offerings both new and old in the theatre’s engaging winter line-up.

This month, audiences can look forward to another Flint Rep world premiere, Into the Side of a Hil, running from Feb. 2–18. As March ends and April begins, theatergoers can anticipate the riveting performance of the classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, running from March 22 to April 2.

Into the Side of a Hill, by James Anthony Tyler, came out of the Flint Rep’s 2022 New Works Festival. The play takes place at a historically Black university in 2004, where six fraternity brothers rehearse for a homecoming step show. As they rehearse, mental illness, toxic masculinity and war bring all the young men into battle with each other, and their brotherhood is tested.

“James Anthony Tyler, the talented playwright behind Into the Side of a Hill, is a captivating, emerging voice in American theatre,” shares Lluberes. “We’ve been nurturing this play since the New Works reading, and we are absolutely thrilled to present the world premiere production of it this month. It is a poignant exploration of the experiences of young Black men in America and what it truly means to navigate this journey. The play is thrilling and funny and features highly energetic step dance routines.”

Tyler, an accomplished playwright, has garnered prestigious awards such as the third-annual Horton Foote Playwriting Award and was the first playwright to earn an Audible commission. With an impressive academic background, including a Master of Fine Arts in Film from Howard University and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, as well as being a graduate of the Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program, his qualifications are exceptional. His professional experience as the staff writer for OWN Network’s “Cherish the Day” and his current role as the story editor for a new Apple drama series underscore his remarkable storytelling ability.

Another drama coming to the Flint Repertory Theatre is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, from March 22-April 2. The play focuses on a bitter, aging couple, who, with the help of alcohol, use their young houseguests to fuel anguish and emotional pain toward each other over the course of a distressing night.

The play is classic American theatre repertoire, and Lluberes lights up when talking about the story.
“This play is an actor’s dream— a dark, comic masterpiece. The two lead roles are truly delicious, offering a remarkable opportunity for our veteran performers, Janet Haley and Rico Bruce Wade, to dive deep into their characters.”

Haley is especially excited to play the role of Martha. The wife of George (Rico Bruce Wade), the character is defined by her sharp wit, intelligence, and an abrasive and confrontational demeanor. Martha is a professor’s daughter, and she compensates for her husband’s lack of career success by wielding her intellectual skills as a weapon in their tumultuous relationship.

“Interestingly, I played the role of Martha in college. It was directed by Carolyn Gillespie, whom audiences may remember from Death of a Salesman at the Flint Rep in Fall 2022. But I was 20 years old, never tasted gin…never tasted human behavior such as this play examines. Now, at mid-life, I can identify some of the motivating values of the characters that drive their actions.”

Martha uses her cutting humor and provocative behavior to expose the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of those around her, forcing everyone to confront their own insecurities and the illusions they have created.
“I believe a common experience for the human condition is the struggle between truth and illusion,” says Haley. “Martha and George’s marriage has certain co-crafted illusions, which hold them together against the harsh truths of their existence.”

Brace yourself for these remarkable and thought-provoking dramas this Winter. And do not be mistaken though written a half-century apart, these works have more in common with each other—and their audiences—than you might expect.