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September 10, 1968 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1968-09-10

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Page Two

I HE MICHIGAN DAILY

Tuesday, September 10, 1968

I HL MICHIGAN DAILY Tuesday, September 10, 1968

theatre

cinema

The no-gray mind of Lerot Jones

Some notes on the Horseman''

By DEBORAH LINDERMAN
Leroi Jones talks only to
blacks, not to whites. He refuses
the principle of dialogue. The
first piece done by his Black
Arts Theatre, The Great God
Goodness of Life, was annopnc-
edly "a play about our fathers
and some of ourselves, and what
happen~s if you get your mind
hooked up to other people's val-
ues." He means it, one thinks;
it is not a pose, yet the exclus-
ion has its ambiguities, f o r
whites are admitted to the thea-
ter.
If not a dialogue, then, this
makes at least a confrontation,
as well as a clear dramatic per-
spective; for the point of view
and the identification must be
monolithic - whites are left
out. But they are watchers, they
are told where they can go,
their "guilt" is dramatized by
the very choice of the preferred
reference group.
Thus the auditorium situa-
tion is duplicitous, almost as in
a Genet play, where the aud-
ience becomes part of the per-
formance. At the same time,
the principle of separatist
theater gives the pageant dra-
matic. distance. It makes the
issues starker, and, insofar as
it makes issues at all, the propa-
ganda purer. Yet art, as distinct
from propaganda, is something
exalted from messages about
life; it offers a curve of exhilar-
ation that overarches life and
makes one feel ambiguities, not
choices.
Thus the Jones-led perform-
ance in Hill Aud. Sunday night
was both good and bad. That is,
it was aesthetically short, but
one felt good because one got a
purity of perspective, addressed
to blacks, for blacks, ostensibly
excluding whites. Yet whites
looked on, and were probably
forced to. measure, to some de-
gree, how far they were them-
selves alienated, how far seduc-
ed. There was probably a lot of
playfulness that most whites
didn't get; it can be called in-
jokism, though some doubtless
call it rabid and militant. In
any case, you can become very
uneasy because of it, as in any
process of self-appraisal.
The first piece Sunday night
was a bit out of Kafka: Mr.
Nice White Negro who has be-
haved well and worked in the
Post Office as a "supervisor,"
a '"good man" for 35 years,
gentlemanly, polite, middle-
class, not even apologetic, is
suddenly accused and sentenced
by an anonymous amplified
voice for harboring a murderer
(himself? his ancestors? black
murderers of blacks?). He
denies, pleads not guilty, is
given Legal Aid in the form of

an inanely smiling black auto-
maton. The hice Negro asks for
"his lawyer" (Jim Breck by
name), and the automaton, who
looks like the black mannikin
jockey that used to garnish the
lawns of suburbia, turns out to
be what Jim Breck has really
been all the time.
Mr. P.O. is advised to plead
guilty, his lawyer robots off
the stage, the accusing unseen
voice laughs hysterically, Mr.
P.O. goes through some break-
ing down, admits his guilt, his
confusion, cries his true good
faith, shivers epilepticly. Then
he is confronted with the "cold

ploiter who finds it convenient
to project onto the black effigy
all his guilt and fear about him-
self. The genial black does a
moment or two of genial wrestl-
ing, and then, rotten to the
quick, kills his son, who under-
lines the whole historical syn-
drome by the utterance of the
word Papa as he falls. NoV the
35 year P.O. clerk is adjudged
safe and clean and free.
End the first part.
Enter Leroi himself. He read
his poetry, flanked by two
blacks, one standing with hands
behind his back, the other with
arms crossed. Thus the pride and

tesque white watches from a
box, accoutred with long nose
and what look to be diapers, like
some travesty out of Waiting for
Godot. He emerges creakily
from his box, limb by limb, hav-
ing to sometimes move a leg by
forcing it with an arm, finally
unwinds, flexes his separate
muscles, steals the sleeper's car-
pet, and his scrolls, quickly
cribs what he can, and unable
to capture any of the real en-
ergies of it, looking as though
he were put together all wrong,
tries an imitation.
Negroes accept the mock
identity forced on them by a
shrewd, but soulless, white.
Finally, out comes the proud
new Negro, clad in white, hand-
some, takes back his scroll and
carpet, takes away the African
token that the overseer had
been wearing, gets the blacks, all
together, bends them in unison
in the direction of some meta-
phoric mecca, and the white is
left to creep into his cage, snort-
ing and making chewing motions
like a tobacco-spitting paw in
some western. The Negro-in-
white takes the time to get up
and bend the white's head, too,
rubbing it ironically in his own
proper dirt, as he withdraws
back into the neat, safe, appro-
priate confines of his own box.
There was a segregated clump
of seats for Negroes, roped off
in front. They stood when they
clapped, and laughed when
(some) whites didn't.
A few whites, but few, stood
when they clapped too. One
may have felt so genuinely iden-
tified, within the purity of the
propaganda, although not with-
in the complications of real life
and the discomfort of most
people with the, complexity of
race relations in this country
today, that one could clap and
stand honestly, but not to be a
false joiner, and riot to prove
something in the doing.
So one had to decide that to
stand was how one felt at the
moment, that something true
and resonant had been said not
merely about one issue but
about the wider war against all
that one faces in the jungles of
human relationships from day
to day. Clapping and standing
was not joining, or guilt com-
pensation, but yea-saying to
the "universal" metaphors for
the hatred of victimization, the
smugness and indifference of

tates to say it, rhythmically en-
man does this on his own) by
himself, when faced by the trite
but ineluctable games of life
and deathmanship. Within the
pure, and relatively subtle terms
of the propaganda, one said yea
and stood and clapped, along
with the soul brothers who un-
derstood the in-jokes maybe
only a little better,
James Baldwin has said that
"whatever white people do not
know about Negroes reveals
what they don't know about
themselves." Leroi Jones is not
trying to do any melting, is sk-
ing no pittance, using no touch-
stones. Blacks are to "blame"
for their own dispersal as much
as whites. There is no enlisting,
nothing missionary. But whites
do have their black, as blacks
have their white. And outside of
the purities and subtleties of
propaganda, in art maybe, in
life naturally, things are im-
moderately difficult and on this
account one's soul is gray in
more senses than one.
For it is not that people are
just people: they bring their
whole color history with them,
and, if they are canny, exploit
the current issues by using it,
on both sides. Maybe this is the
purest thing that Leroi Jones'
denial, his refusal of interracial
commerce has to say. He dram-
atizes only the struggle for an
identity, not the reciprocal dis-
honesties to which that current
struggle may be put.
Perhaps the blacks have it
good, as well as bad, these days.
For the formulation of black
identity has as its object the
victimizer - depersonalized and
mythologized as he may be, and
a certain unity and solidarity in
the job of reclamation. Jones
never lets this become too easy;
his focus is as much on the be-
traying white Negro as on the
stupid dead white. But the job
of "existential work" is no easy
thing for him who seeks species-
hood independently, and not an
easy group identity.
At the end of the evening, all
blacks we're invited to a recep-
tion for Leroi Jones, and so the
real confrontation and drama
was avoided. I would probably
not have gone, yet I was glad I
clapped and stood. I know very
well the deeper traps and
allures of the experiences that
I saw dramatized, but lay in-
sistent claim on the differential
that make them mine.

By PHIL BALLO never knows what next to expect.
Because of the cruelty, poverty, never understands the totality of,
and violence he knew as a boy, what is happening.
Maxim Gorky would always trea-
sure the insight of his grand- At the end the gestapo chief
sure the inespightre otisad-yimpatiently defies the people to
mother: people are not bad; they admit who informed on the old
are only stupid. To a grief-ridden doctor. Because the audience is
Russian people and to the new nevertold who was the informer,
Soviet State Gorky became a liv- everyone - on the screen and
ing legend from his lifelong cru- watching the screen - is held in
sade for the hope and courage of passive suspense, As the gestapo
the human spirit, chief angrily stalks out of the
Two years ago a Czech film re- buildingrthe shock is equally great
instated Gorky's insight that vio- for him and the audience to con-
lence and oppression has its roots sider that it was the doctor him-
in the human spirit. Shop on Main se wh stmone the geto -
Stret uggste tht Jws ereself who summoned the gestapo -
Street suggested that Jews were and the audience - to sit in
killed not simply by "The Nazi" ignorance, impotence, and sus-
but by the everyday weakness pense as witnesses to his own
common to human nature. , personal integrity.

the audience into a dumb and
fearful submission to that same
drama.
When oppression and violeng
rule the world - who is to blame?
Maxim Gorky's grandmother
taught the young writer to look
into the human spirit. Shop on
Main Street similarly traced vio-
lence to the impotence of will. The
Fifth Horseman is Fear also asks
who is responsible for the horrib
experiences of our times. The b
guys cannot be simply the Nazis
for here they are instead revealed
as drunken lechers, unaccountable
except to their own wild passions.
The Fifth Horseman shows that
disaster's roots lie not in any pin-
up bad guys - not in any of t e
four horsemen who are merely W-

they contexvt Qrin is th e ominouls

The Fifth Horseman is Fear

destruction of Europe's Jewry. therefore succeeds remarkably by complices - but in us, the riders,
Where Shop on Main Street un- showing how not only the sub- who, as Walter Shapiro said after
rolled with the monotony neces- mission to fear and impotence lets the Chicago fiasco, ". . . sit at
sary to show the hero's everyday reign the most disastrous of his- their television sets and let them-
impotence, Fifth Horseman pro- torical drama, but also by a style selves be tossed by the winds of
ceeds with an uncanny cadence which at the same time forces unplanned change."
of suspense.
The Fifth Horseman's maze pro- .- - - w '" sm Dial 665-6290
ceeds as the story line is presented EkTWICE DAILY
from at least three interchanging _at 1:30 and 7:30
perspectives. Row upon row of
confiscated property and the E
sense of doom are seen through C P E
the eyes of an old doctor. The
pettiness and affairs of the adult A .
world are seen as offbeat curio- E
sities through the eyes of a boy.
One expects a third person nar-
rator to present an objective pic- E N UT A
ture but instead, as in the days of Friday and Saturday {0 $lOh
German Expressionism, the cam- Eves, and All Day PeAll Other
era itself participates subjectively SLunday Performances
as another dumb (rather than all-
knowing) observer. Information is
withheld so the audience, as the NATI GRLAST TIMES TODAY
mass of characters themselves,
_---_FOX ILL 6E "SECRET LIFE AMERICAN WIFE"
375 No. MAPLE RD.-769.1300 7:15-9:15
STARTS TOMORROW
G _ _ _ _ _ 20th Century-Fox presents
DEBORAH KERR DAVID NIVEN

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UNIVERSITY

shadow" of the "murderer," a
black boy in the brutal but
clearly black hands of two white
hooded Klanners (the Negroes
have conspired against them-
selves). The cold shadow, says
the disembodied voice, is already
dead.
Hence, he can have his own
guilt whitewashed and his false
white soul restored, by killing
the murderer (of the black peo-
ple, the historical existential
sell-out victim who is already
dead anyway). Or he can refuse
to kill this shadow (his son)
and assume all the terror of his
own sentence, along with the
burden of freeing the black from
complicity with the white vic-
timizer.
The burden of self-affirma-
tion, separation from the ex-

solidarity are choreographed.
Some of the poetry was hip
chant, and, though one hesi-
power, selling out (and each.
ticing; some in privacies of
language that made it just hard
to get at, some not very inter-
esting at all.
Next a religious mime called
The Insurrection of Misplaced
Love. The "original" Negro
spreads a fabulous piece of
colored cloth, doeshis homage
to the whole wide universe, not
in any ritualized way, but full
of the energy of life and free
vitality which is the true af-
firmation of self. T h e n he
stretchesout full length and
goes fabulously to sleep. A gro-

THE MICHIGAN BANDS-

Lost 2 Days

1 :15-3:45
6:25-9:10

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a guide to:
Apartments
Bars
Restaurants
with maps and
hints on life
in Ann Arbor
$1.OQ

Take Great Pride in Presenting
JOHNNY CARSON,
IN PERSON
with
Doc Severinson and Orchestra
Marilyn Maye
Bud and Cece Dance Team
in 2 Shows at 7:00 and 10:00 P.M.
on Saturday, October 5 at the
UNIVERSITY EVENTS BUILDING
o ALL SEATS RESERVED. Tickets priced as follows: Events Building
Floor: $5; Blue Section: $4; and Gold Section: $3. Mail orders may be
sent to Johnny Carson Show, 1024 Administration Building, Ann Arbor
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ORCH ESTRA
Sponsored by
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MUSKET
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Civic Theatre
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Camelot
More!
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non-music majors"
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MASS MEETING
Michigan Union
Sept. 12, 7:30

FRIDAY, SEPT. 13th--11 :00 P.M. ONLY *
THE MASTER OF THE MACABRE
BRINGS BACK TO THE SCREEN
ROMAN POLANSKI'S
Limited One
Showing only
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A KAHN-HARPER PRODUCTION
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Color by De LuXe Sat.-Sun. 1:45-3:30-5:15-7-9

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* Starts Thursday-"HANG 'EM HIGH 0

ENDS WEDNESDAY

DIAL
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The Incredible
CHARGING
RHINOCEROS
OF SOUL
at
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Weds. Nite, Sept. 11
9 P.M. $1.00

4

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THURSDAY
HORSENlAn 'THERESE
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IS FERR ISABELLE"
A CARLO PONTI PRESENTATION
DISTRIBUTED BYU SIGMA lILA FILM WAYS COMPANY

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STARRING
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SA O UGLAS & IEy rODUCTION . screen story and screenplay by ROBERT ALAN AURTHUR 0
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TUES. & WED.-ONE SHOW ONLY-8:00 P.M.

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