Profile: Amyre Makupson

Former TV news anchor rekindles love of theater, stars in world premiere at Detroit Rep

By Donald V. Calamia

Life has come full circle for Amyre Makupson, and the recently retired Emmy Award-winning television news anchor couldn't be happier.

"I'm having the time of my life," Makupson said of her latest gig - starring in the world premiere of the comedy "Here and There" at the Detroit Repertory Theatre.

A native Detroiter who now resides in Southfield, Makeupson lived for most of the first 30 years of her life on the corner of Boston and Woodrow Wilson, right down the street from the venerable theater company. And although she hadn't attended the Rep for many years, an invitation this past January from a friend to see the production "No Niggers, No Dogs, No Jews" rekindled her relationship with the 46-year-old neighborhood institution and its Artistic Director, Bruce E. Millan.

It also reignited her passion for the stage.

"I was so impressed by [the show]," Makeupson recalled. "I saw Bruce there, and talked for a minute, and I said 'I really liked this, and I'd like to help you.' So I became a supporter of the theater. And then I said, 'Anytime you have auditions, let me know. Maybe I might try out for something.'"

So when an audition notice arrived in the mail a few months back, Makupson decided to give it a shot.

"You know what? I could do this," Makupson told herself, never thinking she would get into the show. "I honestly did not. And so I was surprised and so thrilled when they called and asked me if I would take this role - which is the lead role."

Although she is best known for anchoring the WKBD-TV "Ten O'Clock News" - and later, the 11 o'clock news on sister station WWJ-TV - and hosting the station's "Straight Talk" series, Makupson earned a bachelor's degree in speech and dramatics from Fisk University in Nashville and a master's in speech arts from the American University in Washington, D.C.

"I was always interested in drama," Makupson said. "I think I was in every school play from second grade through college, but I also always had an eye on television. And when I got out of school, it just seemed to me that television was the more reasonable thing to do."

A 25-year career as a television journalist - and two children to raise - kept Makupson off the legitimate stage, however, until her life took an unexpected twist late last year: WKBD went out of the news business, and Makupson's evenings suddenly became much more flexible!

"If they hadn't gone out of the news business, I'd still be there. Sometimes maybe you don't make a decision and it's made for you, and it winds up being the best decision," she reflected. "I don't mean to sound hokey, honest to God, but it's like a life moment!"

Whether you call it fate, karma or kismet, Makupson is relishing the chance to once again share the stage with fellow thespians; it hasn't been an easy transition, however.

"This is one demanding, consuming, but exciting adventure. If I had thrown myself into my schoolwork like this, I'd be president of the U.S.A. by now," she laughed.

Used to working with a teleprompter, Makupson has found learning her lines to be the most difficult part of the process.

"I've been eating, drinking and sleeping with my book. Television is different. It's very controlled. And you don't have to memorize a book! I had some serious doubts, but I kept working on it," she chuckled.

"It's a lot of fun, and I'm loving every second of it. [The Rep] is a beautiful place, a beautiful theater. It's another of Detroit's hidden jewels."

Makupson portrays a widow who very much misses her husband.

"It's about how to deal with grief, how to let go and how to move on."

In yet another twist, it's also similar to an unrelated project of hers that's nearing completion.

"It's funny how art imitates life. I was trying to finish this book I've been working on for two years, and it's about life after death. It just amazes me!"

With the show's opening weekend - and demanding rehearsal schedule - now behind her, Makupson will fill her days with numerous speaking engagements and projects with the many boards and committees with which she's heavily involved.

She is also encouraging those who haven't sampled live theater in a while - especially those who don't venture south of Eight Mile Road - to give "Here and There" a try.

"Theater is a nice outlet. It's fun. It's a mind expanding thing. So do yourself a favor and come visit the Detroit Rep," she said.

Makupson might even entertain yet another shot at fame and fortune under the spotlight.

"Unless I just fall on my face and have to jump off a bridge, I want to go back, you know?"

"Here and There" An unsentimental comedy about love, decency and undying friendship that proves humor is a potent tool for coping with lifeÉand death! Presented Thursday through Sunday at Detroit Repertory Theatre, 13103 Woodrow Wilson, Detroit, through Dec. 28. Tickets: $17. 313-868-1347. www.detroitreptheatre.com. See Curtain Calls XTRA for a review of this show.

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