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March 23, 1990 - Image 87

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Talk to Us members address social issues on stage.

Theater Troupe Urges
Audiences To 'Talk'

MELANIE KOFF

E

Special to The Jewish News

/even members of the
University of Michi-
gan theater troupe,
Talk to Us, surround their au-
dience, alternately shouting
remarks: "She doesn't shave
her legs: she must be a les-
bian," and "I'm not a racist;
it is just that white people get
on my nerves" or "Hair clips,
Benetton anything and dad-
dy's gold card, what else can
you expect from a Jewish
girl?"
Through discriminatory
statements such as these,
Talk to Us has pioneered a
powerful format that
challenges its audiences to
look inside themselves and
reevaluate their own actions
and statements.
Jeff Olds, U-M senior and a
second-year member of the
troupe, says, "Our goal is
awareness — to open the eyes
of the audience and make
them think about what they
see. We don't claim to have
the answers. These issues you
can learn about from text-
books or see on television, but
it is not interesting. When
you see it and enjoy the show,
it gets the message across."
Talk to Us was developed in
1987 by Scott Weissman,
after he graduated with a
master's degree from U-M.
"I didn't want to go the
traditional route. I wanted to
create socially relevant
theater," says Weissman, the
troupe's artistic director.
Weissman was working in a
U-M dorm when he began to
develop the idea for Talk to
Us. He approached the cam-
pus B'nai B'rith Hillel with
the idea, and after receiving
initial support from the Max
Fisher Foundation of the
United Jewish Charities,
Michigan B'nai B'rith Hillel

and the Detroit Jewish
Welfare Federation, Talk to
Us took off.
After its first year, Talk to
Us was awarded the William
Haber award from the na-
tional B'nai B'rith Hillel. The
annual award recognizes
campus Hillel groups that
provide innovative program-
ming to strengthen the quali-
ty of Jewish life on campus.
Today, Talk to Us has two
separate troupes, each with
10 student actors and one
director. Talk to Us is spon-
sored jointly by the Michigan
B'nai B'rith Hillel fund and
the U-M Housing Division.
Campus-wide auditions are
held at the beginning of each
school year. Last fall, 80
students auditioned for 14
available spots. "The troupe
members are mostly non-
theater people who have a
sincere interest in social
issues," Weissman says.
The student actors repre-
sent a cross-section of the
campus. The troupe present-
ly is 30 percent Jewish and
has a few minority members.

Members make a commit-
ment for the academic year
and attend rehearsals twice a
week in addition to a weekly
evening performance. One
troupe performs each Tuesday
evening and the second
troupe performs the following
evening.
Talk to Us tailors its perfor-
mances to issues and con-
cerns relevant to its audience.
The troupe already has
developed a repertoire of 50
scenes. The material is large-
ly targeted to college
students, with most perfor-
mances taking place at U-M
dorms or for U-M student
groups. None of the student
actors are paid and the troupe
performs free of charge at U-
M. Although the perfor-
mances address serious

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