DB Schroeder is a man on a mission. DB, founder and owner of Puzzle Piece Theatre
, Kiva Detroit funding recipient, and Michigan Corps member, has always had a heart for the performing arts. DB argues that he is “just hard-wired to produce in the performing arts field,” explaining that his business, Puzzle Piece Theatre has forever been a part of his life. “In the fifth grade, now 20 years ago, I created a neighborhood haunted house in my basement and kept that going all through high school, gradually moving to larger venues.”
Before establishing Puzzle Piece Theatre, DB co-founded a theatre in Chicago that he managed for five years. “When I stepped back to assess my next career move work life balance was vital, claims DB. In addition, DB and his wife, Sarah, wanted to be closer to family. Since Sarah is from Detroit, they started exploring Southeast Michigan for a place to launch Puzzle Piece Theatre. Metro-Detroit turned out to be a natural fit. DB incorporated Puzzle Piece Theatre in the spring of 2011, began their community programming in the summer of 2012, and launched their main-stage programming last February.
DB explains that Puzzle Piece Theatre is unique; “we re-imagine the theatrical experience, finding new ways to draw the audience into the plays we present. Our guests can expect bold, provocative stories presented in intimate ways.” Like Michigan Corps, Puzzle Piece looks to build community through bringing people together. With Puzzle Piece, you can always expect a unique surprise.
DB gains motivation from knowing that people from all walks of life love theatre, even if they may not have discovered it yet. “Everyone has personal preferences in finding art that speaks to them in meaningful ways. Providing people with new ideas of what performance can be is very satisfying.” Running a theatre is not just ponies and rainbows though. DB described the struggle of finding performance space and funding for the cause. “When people think of theatre, images of a big ornate room with a stage hidden behind a curtain, like some of the downtown venues, tend to come to mind. Puzzle Piece Theatre works in a drastically different way.” Because of their unorthodox concept, there are not many venue options that fit their needs, so the search for performance space is a never-ending battle. The hope is to find a place “to put down roots so we can be a positive force in the community, and strengthen our brand by making it easier for people to find us.”
DB made sure to stress his use of the words “re-imagine performance”, making it clear that Puzzle Piece does just that. “Going to potential investors and communicating an idea for a production concept that hasn’t been experienced is challenging to say the least.” Puzzle Piece Theatre’s work includes a lot of risk taking, but to keep going, they depend on individuals who support the vision of Puzzle Piece. “We have found some wonderful people that fit this bill and the funding from Kiva Detroit
[an initiative of Michigan Corps] was huge for us.” Not only did Puzzle Piece Theatre secure a $5,000 interest-free Kiva loan
to launch its first mainstage production, but the Kiva initiative itself offered a great way for DB to build relationships with his 47 investors. Through Kiva Detroit, DB has rallied an amazing community of supporters around his business.
Through all of the trials and tribulations launching a social enterprise, DB has been able to draw inspiration from many different people over the years. Among these are “parents and family who believed in me from the beginning, teachers that forced me to expand my established ways of thinking, the amazing artists I have been fortunate to create with, [and] my loving wife who is my biggest champion and our children who possess imaginations that know no bounds. They are my rock.”
DB had some great advice to give other Michigan Corps members that are looking to make a difference: “Don’t let your fears stop you. Your ideas might not hit the mark the first time, but keep at it. You will find your way. I see this in action every day. The people of Detroit know this [the importance of taking action] on a deep and personal level and find ways to make a difference.”
Get connected with Puzzle Piece Theatre, and consider becoming a season ticket holder! Next in the line of productions is Talley’s Folly, by Lanford Wilson, making its debut in October! We can’t wait.