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February 23, 2012 - Image 58

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-02-23

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arts & entertainment



William Steig's Shrek has transitioned
from children's book to animated films
and, finally, to the musical theater stage.


Lukas Poost as Shrek, Andree Jordan as Donkey and Liz Shivener as Princess
Fiona in Shrek The Musical; the family show includes pop culture and Broadway

references that adults will enjoy.

Suzanne Chessler
Contributing Writer

"Bill liked doing Shrek. He said he had
never done a book about a monster so he
thought he would. I remember that he said
hrek, William Steig's celebrated
a monster should be green and ugly but his
monster character originally created would be funny — because everything he
for a 1990 children's book, has one
did was funny.
Jewish connection. Shrek is the Yiddish word
"Bill laughed his way through it and
for fear.
finished very quickly. He loved the ending.
The name, certainly asso ciated with reac-
Shrek, thrown out of his house by his family,
tions to monsters, also has
went on to great adventures
come to public attention
and married the woman of
through four films and now
his dreams, someone just as
the stage. Shrek The Musical
ugly as he was:"
runs Feb. 28-March 11 at
The musical, with
Detroit's Fisher Theatre.
book and lyrics by David
Jeanne Steig, widow of
Lindsay-Abaire and music
the writer-cartoonist, talked
by Jeanine Tesori, is based
about Shrek, her husband
on the book as well as the
and her own creative proj-
first of the movie series.
ects during a recent phone
The play tells the story
conversation from her
of a swamp-dwelling ogre
Boston home.
who goes on a life-changing
The dust jacket for William
"I think that Bill rather
Steig's children's book Shrek adventure to reclaim the
naively assumed that no
deed to his land. Joined
one would recognize the
by a wisecracking donkey
Yiddish word': explains Steig, whose profes-
(Andree Jordan), Shrek (Lukas Poost) fights
sional projects include writing a group of
a dragon, rescues a princess (Liz Shivener)
children's books illustrated by her husband
and learns about friendship and love.
during the 33 years they were together.
"I loved the character Shrek in the book,


and the film was fairly close to that charac-
ter," says Steig, 81, whose husband died in
2003 at age 95.
"They did make changes; they prettied
things up. I asked Bill how he liked the film,
and he said, `They did their thing; I did
"I suppose the theatrical Shrek is a third
thing, and I wish them well. I've seen two or
three of the films, and they are interesting.
I'm sure the theatrical Shrek is very exciting!'
The Jewish Museum included Shrek
drawings in a 2007 exhibit titled "From the
New Yorker to Shrek: The Art of William
Steig." Featured were content from his other
children's books (Sylvester and the Magic
Pebble, Dominic, Abel's Island and Doctor De
Soto, among them), which he began writing
and illustrating at age 60; cartoons from his
many years at the New Yorker; and his sym-
bolic drawings.
Just last year, Abrams ComicArts released
Jeanne Steig's book of remembrance — Cats,
Dogs, Men, Women, Ninnies & Clowns: The
Lost Art of William Steig. It is filled with
unpublished adult work of her husband, the
son of Jewish immigrants who settled in the
Bronx. (Steig created 13 collections of draw-
ings for adults, starting with About People in
"I really wanted Bill's unpublished draw-
ings to be seen by the world': says Steig,
who has since given her husband's artistic
holdings to institutions where they will be
preserved, shown and traveled.
"A lot of it was important to Bill, and it
was a treat to get it all bound together and
be able to write about him a little bit, which I
always like to do.
"I had a couple thousand drawings to
choose from and had scans of all of them. I
sorted them, divided them into characters
and came up with six categories."
William Steig recalled his own childhood
in When Everybody Wore a Hat, the one pic-
ture book that references the Jewish neigh-

borhood where he was raised by socialist
parents whose political orientation became
their son's. His artistic interests were picked
up by his three children.
"Bill never lost his childhood," says Steig,
the mother of two. "He was never childish
in the least, but he had a wonderful sense
of humor that was childlike. He connected
wonderfully well with children because he
never condescended to them.
"If an editor told him that he was using
an awfully big word, he'd say, `Kids will like
it. If they don't understand it, they'll like it
anyway. If they don't understand it, they can
look it up.
"I never heard a kid complain about his
vocabulary. They all liked it. That meant that
the adults who read to them liked it, too. I
respected that so much."
Jeanne Steig, whose work time now is
spent with artistic projects incorporating
found objects, wants her book and the col-
lections she has given away to inform the
public about her husband.
All of his work is generous — brilliant,
funny and free,' she says. "Even if ifs funny,
there's something tender about it. He loved
people and didn't like caricature because he
thought it was cruel.
"We never anticipated the popularity of
Shrek, which is marvelous. It wasn't a book
that was quite as important to Bill as some
of the other books he did, and we never
thought it would take hold the way it did!'
But, she adds, "I hope he isn't remembered
only for Shrek"

Shrek the Musical runs Feb.
28-March 11 at the Fisher Theatre.
Performance times are 7:30 p.m.
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 1 and 6:30
p.m. Sundays and 2 p.m. Saturdays.
$29-$79. (313) 872-1000; www.
broadwayindetroit.com .


Nate Bloom
Special to the Jewish News

it OMR

Oscars, Part 2
IC Here are the nominees in the English-

language feature film categories
(other than technical fields), all of
oihk which are nominated for Best Picture.
Igo The Descendants is the sole Best
Picture nominee without a Jewish
connection. The Oscar for Best
Picture goes to the film's producers.


• The Artist – Producer: Thomas
Langmann, 39, son of the late French
Jewish filmmaker Claude Berri (born
Claude Langmann). The film's director,
Frenchman Michel Hazanicius, 44,


February 23 • 2012

is nominated for three Oscars: Best
Director, Best Original Screenplay and
Film Editing.
• Extremely Loud and Incredibly
Close – Producer: Scott Rudin, 53.
• The Help – Producer: Michael
Barnathan, 53.
• Midnight in Paris – Producers:
Letty Aronson, 68, and Stephen
Tennebaum, 75. Aronson is the sis-
ter of Woody Allen, 76, nominated
for Best Director and Best Original
• Hugo – The film's Oscar-
nominated score is by Howard Shore,
65, who won three Academy Awards
for his music for the Lord of the Rings

• Moneyball – Producers: Rachel
Horovitz, 50, and Michael DeLuca,
46. Horovitz is the daughter of play-
wright Israel Horovitz, 72, and the
sister of Adam Horovitz, 46, of the
Beastie Boys. Jonah Hill, 28, scored
a Best Supporting Actor nomination;
Stan Chervin, 54, and Aaron Sorkin,
50, are two of the three writers up for
Best Adapted Screenplay.
• Tree of Life – Five-time Oscar
nominee Emmanuel Luzbeki, 48, born
and raised in Mexico, is up for Best
• War Horse – The film was co-pro-
duced by Steven Spielberg, 65, also
the film's director.

New Flicks

Opening Friday, Feb. 24: Wanderlust,
a comedy directed and written by
David Wain, 42, stars Paul Rudd, 42,
and Jennifer Aniston as a Manhattan
couple whose lives hit the skids
when George loses his job. Rampart,
a drama about an L.A. police officer
(Woody Harrelson) whose life spi-
rals downward when he is accused
of roughing up a suspect, reunites
Harrelson and co-star Ben Foster,
31, with Israeli-born director and
co-writer Oren Moverman, 45 (The

Contact Nate Bloom at


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