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April 16, 1993 - Image 73

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-04-16

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

Julie Nessen is
feeling at home
while backstage
at JET.

SUZANNE CHESSLER

SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

ulie Nessen, who teaches act-
ing techniques for song at the
University of Michigan, is in-
troducing her full-production
directing skills to audiences
of the Jewish Ensemble The-
atre (JET) as she takes on
Grown Ups, a family satire
written by Jules Feiffer.
Describing her stage style
as eclectic, she explained why
she considers this project a
special challenge.
"It's very funny and also
very poignant," said Ms.
Nessen, who has assisted a
series of top-rung directors in
New York. "Legend has it
that the play is autobio-
graphical, with the play-
wright perhaps losing some
perspective on his family.
"Yet what lies underneath
is a tremendous love, and the
great challenge is to reach for
that and find it."
Since moving to Michigan
almost three years ago to be-
gin her first association with
academic theater, she has
reached for different kinds of
local stage experiences.
"There is a tremendous ad-
vantage to community the-
ater," said Ms. Nessen, who
periodically works with her
husband, lighting director
Victor En Yu Tan. "It's the-
ater that's generated by the
community to meet the needs
of the people within the com-
munity, which large road
shows cannot do."
She has found that her di-
recting with one organization
has led to engagements with

another.
"I got involved with the
Purple Rose Theatre (in
Chelsea, Mich.) because I
found it was there, and I ap-
proached them," said Ms.
Nessen, who also approached
JET to discuss work
prospects. "The artistic di-
rector of Purple Rose came
to see a staged reading I
was directing at Wayne
State University through
a Michigan Council of the
Arts grant.
"He liked it, and we be-
gan talking about my
working there. We
moved Ties That Bind
there."
During the run of
Ties That Bind, heri,
work was noted by JET artis-
tic director Evelyn Orbach,
who invited her to direct
staged readings before as-
signing her to the April/May
production of Grown Ups.
"There isn't a significant
difference between directing
comedy and drama because
what you're doing is working
with the people," she said.
"Grown Ups is a great exam-
ple because in Act I, it is bona
fide comedy, but in Act II, the
same people are not quite as
funny. By Act III, they're
amusing, but it twists a little
bit.
"Musical theater is an en-
tirely different creature be-
cause you're dealing with
music and dance at the same
time. The whole process is
different, and the pacing and

movement are different be-
cause you're constantly build-
ing toward song or dance."
As Ms. Nessen builds her
career, she traces her inter-
est in theater back to her
grandmother, who was a pro-
fessional actress. Using the
stage name Norma Gay, her
grandmother also was the
first female interviewer ever
syndicated on radio.
Although Ms. Nessen at-
tended Williams College in
Massachusetts and New
York University, she believes
she really learned her craft
by assisting directors like
George Abbott, Steven
Schwartz and Jo Sullivan
Loesser and watching them

apply their knowledge at Mu-
sical Theatre Works in New
York.
"They all would have their
own style and approach," she
said. "With each of them, we
were working on new musi-
cals. These were pieces that
would have very different is-
sues, problems and demands
associated with them so the
problems would be tackled as
they presented themselves."
From her professional
links to a great variety of per-
sonalities, she formed her
own outlook.
"I'm not wedded to any
style," she said. "The director

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