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February 07, 2013 - Image 44

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-02-07

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

arts & entertainment


A former daredevil tries to make sense of her stroke in
Arthur Kopit's Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-nominated Wings.

Suzanne Chessler
I Contributing Writer

rthur Kopit was affected emo-
tionally by watching his father's
limitations in the aftermath of
a stroke. The timeframe was during the
1970s, when Kopit was building a play-
writing career.
The illness and the work converged after
Kopit was commissioned to write a radio
play in 1976 and decided to draw upon his
circumstances. While stroke became the
subject, his father did not.
Wings, developed for the stage in 1978,
places Emily Stinson as the main charac-
ter, a stroke patient with her own set of
struggles. She brings together the traits and
treatment of others the playwright observed
at the rehab center caring for his dad.
Stinson is shown trying to understand
what has befallen her while dealing with
the challenges of aphasia, a disorder that
affects the ability to speak and compre-
hend language.
The stage drama, to be performed Feb.
8-17 by the University of Detroit Mercy
Theatre Company at the Marygrove College
Theatre, stars Melissa Beckwith as Stinson.
The cast, directed by David Regal, also
includes Jordan Robinette (Dr. Murray),
Patricia Thompson (Dr. Ross), Michelle
Renaud (Nurse Wright), Shaunte McArthur
(Nurse Fent), Lena Dennard (therapist
Amy), Joel Frazee (fellow patient Billy), Art
Beer (fellow patient Mr. Brownstein) and
Reshawn Wilder (physical therapist).
"I could not have written about my father:'
says Kopit, 75, in a phone conversation from
his New York home. "His stroke was so
major that he couldn't speak, and I would



have been too close to have any objectivity. I
need some distance from my work"
Kopit, who began developing and sell-
ing short plays as a student at Harvard
University, has a variety of stage writing
credits that include the absurdist black
comedy Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's
Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So
Sad; Indians, a play that seeks to tell the
story of how the West was really won;
Phantom, an operetta-like version of
Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the
Opera; High Society, a musical adaptation
of the 1956 film starring Grace Kelly; and
Nine, the acclaimed musical adaptation of
Frederico Fellini's 81/2.
Wings was a finalist for the Pulitzer
Prize and a Tony nominee for Best Play.
"I think Wings achieved what I wanted it
to:' says Kopit, working on three new proj-
ects. "It is very difficult to suggest what it
is like for someone to have a stroke, and I
think the play shows the unpredictability
of the condition, the scariness and the
bravery it requires.
"I didn't know how to write all that
when I began, but it sort of fell into place.
Because of writing it for radio, I had lim-
ited options, and the limitations enabled
me to do it.
"Sometimes, limitations can be as free-
ing as the boundaries of a tennis court.
You can't play tennis without a net and
guidelines. The outer boundaries are the
limitations that are necessary:'
Kopit, helped with the research by rehab
center staff, played the radio version for
them as he was considering prospects of
a theatrical version. The playwright was
encouraged to follow through by a doctor,
who wanted to call attention to the percep-

Nate Bloom

Special to the Jewish News

Grammy Time
The 55th Annual Grammy Awards,

for musical excellence, airs 8-11 p.m.
Sunday, Feb.10, on CBS. More than
100 Grammys will be awarded, but
only about 20, in the biggest-selling
musical genres, will be presented dur-
ing the broadcast.
Three Jews are
up for "TV-worthy"
Grammys: Drake,
26, the popular rap-
per who released a
"bar mitzvah" music
video last year, is
nominated for Best
Rap Performance
("HYFR") and Best



February 7 • 2013


Rap Album (Take Care).
The three-man pop band Fun. (yes,
it's spelled with a period) is nomi-
nated for six Grammys, including Best
New Artist; Song of the Year, Record
of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group
Performance, all for "We Are Young";
and Album of the Year and Best Pop
Vocal Album, for Some Nights. Fun.
includes Jewish day school grad
Jack Antonoff, 28, a guitarist and
songwriter who has been dating Lena
Dunham, 26,
of Girls fame
for the past
six months.


Dunham and Antonoff

tual problems of patients.
"There were all kinds of aspects to
stroke that cannot be conveyed by
sound:' Kopit explains. "They have to
Playwright Arthur Kopit
do with what space feels like and how
it changes:'
a theater department that had to approve
Kopit describes his plays as very different what we did:'
from one another despite re-examining the
Kopit, who generally writes in the morn-
issue of identity. He has not written Jewish
ing, does not write every day although he's
characters into his scripts although he had a always thinking about work and jotting
bar mitzvah and respects spiritual values.
down notes. He deems it important to take
"There is a large spiritual component
time away from a project.
in Wings," he explains. "The character has
The playwright and his wife, book
to believe in something larger than being
writer and journalist Leslie Garis, do not
able to speak. Faith in a higher value gives
critique each other's drafts. Garis, author
the courage to go on in an overwhelming
of the memoir House of Happy Endings, is
tackling a novel.
Through his personal experience
The two have visited Michigan because
observing stroke patients, he concluded
one of their three children, Alexander,
that a patient's family needs real faith
married Sarah Greenless, whose parents
and not superficial religiosity. They have
live in Milford.
to give up control to the mystery of life
Kopit rarely has traveled to see produc-
because there is no real predicting how
tions of his plays.
circumstances will work out.
"Last year, there was a wonderful pro-
"Existential questions come to the person duction of Wings in New York" he says.
and family" he says. "They can seek guid-
"It hadn't been done in the city for a long
ance through religion to get them through.
time, and I was deeply involved with that.
The family has to realize that stroke brings
I'm always moved when people perform
another state of being:'
the play"
Realizations about writing plays are
Wings will be performed Feb. 8-17
expressed through his work at the Lark Play
at the Marygrove College Theatre,
Development Center in New York.
8425 W. McNichols, in Detroit.
"People learn to write plays by writing
Performances are at 8 p.m. Feb. 8-9
them and seeing them done, not from
and 15-16 and 2 p.m. Feb.10 and 17.
reading books and [listening to classroom]
There will be an alumni afterglow on
teaching; he tells workshop participants.
Feb. 9, a talkback on Feb.10, a pay-
"Writers have to find out what works, and
what-you-can presentation on Feb.15
what doesn't, and teach themselves.
and a Livernois Corridor community
"I was very fortunate in college that
night on Feb.16. $10-$20. (313) 993-
there was a lot of theater. People would
3270; www.theatre.udmercy.edu .
just do plays without being restricted by

lead vocalist with
the rock group
the Black Keys, is
nominated for five
Grammys, includ-
ing Record of the
Year, Best Rock
Performance and
Best Rock Song, all
for "Lonely Boy";
and Album of the Year and Best Rock
Album, both for El Camino.
Fun. and the Black Keys are sched-
uled to perform at the Grammy cer-


Film Notes
Identity Thief, which opens Friday,

33, a song-
writer, gui-
tarist and

Feb. 8, is a black comedy starring
Jason Bateman as Sandy Patterson,
a nice guy with two nice kids and a

nice wife (Amanda Peet, 41). One day
he discovers his credit card has been
maxed out, and not long after, he
is arrested for missing a court date
in Florida, a state he has never vis-
ited. He learns that a Florida woman
(Melissa McCarthy) has stolen his
The police won't make the effort
to arrest her, telling Sandy he has to
physically bring the "evil Sandy" to
them if he wants to clear his name.
What follows is
comic mayhem as
the two Sandys end
up being pursued by
really bad guys. The
original screenplay
is by Craig Mazin,
42 (The Hangover

Part II).


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