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October 26, 1968 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1968-10-26

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Saturday, October 26, 1968

THE MICHIGAN DAILY Saturday, October 26, 1968

Coming to the

}

Prof. Bert Hornback, "censor" of
Lord Chamberlain's Players, was
asked by The Daily to respond to
a review of his company's produc-
tion of Lord Byron's "Manfred." In
that review, Deborah Linderman
addressed herself to the choice of
what she deemed a proof of "liter-
ary periodicity."-Ed.
By BERT HORNBACK
Having been one to. offer.
occasional criticism of even
great theatre groups for their
choice of plays (Why should the
APA do "The Show-Off," or
"Sweet of You to Say So," or
why should the Stratford com-
pany do "Anthony and Cleo-
patra" when what they really
wanted was an anti-war play?)
now I am asked to defend The
Lord Chamberlain's P 1 a y e r s'
.choice of "Manfred."
"The ShowyOff" was surely
dated, to say the least;, and I
trust, for the sake of the '70's,
that it was not even a signifi-
cant piece in its period. There
was nothing at all to "Sweet of
You to Say So," except its brev-
ity. And it is a shame to pervert
history and emasculate charac-
ter simply because we are finally
coming to an awareness of the
terrible human stupidity of war.
Thus to "Manfred." Can sim-
ilar objections be raised to it?
Is it dated? Is there nothing
there? Or-to lead the question
the other way-should we have
. mocked its possible irrelevance
to make it relevant? These are
of course, serious questions, the
most serious being the substan-
tive one,
I would argue first that there

is sometimes to Manfred - a
great deal, really-though it is
sometimes muffled rather, than
exposed by Byron's vain fustian.
What's there is Manfred's soul,
or self; and what Byron is rep-
resenting is his argument about
its mortal worth. Manfred is not
just flapping his tongue about
in the Alps like a moral scare-
crow; he is talking-to us and
to himself-about his most inti-
mate self. Earlier, before the
play has opened, he has repected
and defaulted that self-proud-
ly, on the strength of his intel-
lect. The agony of reconciliation
that follows this rejection is
what we see. And though the
rhetoric of this agony is some-
times pathetic in its posing sol-
ipsism and self-indulgent in its
adolescent-like bravado, it is
still the speech which represents
the recovery of his soul, or self,
through acknowledgement of his
humanity.
If this is what Manfred is
about-the rejection of know-
ledge in favor of life, and the
pain of reconciliation with the
essential human self - t h e n
surely Manfred is not dated.
I hesitate to say that it is Now,
because I am not sure how short
or long Now is. But whether
Byron's poem is immediate to
us and our experience or not-
and language, form, manner
may keep is at a very real dis-
tance-still it is very relevant,
I would think, logically and im-
aginatively.
Relevance is a legitimate re-
quirement for art-if we are to
live by it, as I would propose we

defense.
must. Immediacy, however, is
another matter. A production of
Manfred can be justified to
the Immediacist on the grounds
that one of our obligations to
ourselves-let alone to history
or the human race-is to ex-
pand sympathetically the limits
of our present, our Now: to open
the doors of experience, not to
close them. And surely we need
not mock ourselves and our
work, now or anytime, by par-
ody: the parody might but ack-
nowledge our imperception of
ourselves.
Beyond these serious philo-
sophical and critical arguments.
there are still practical justifi-
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o f a
cations for The Lord Chamber-
lain's Players' production of
Manfred. Were it not for this
production, most of our poten-
tial audience would never get a
chance to see it-and most,
probably, have not read it. The
fun we have-and propose to
our audiences that they have-
is not in the manner of our pre-
sentation, but in the subject
matter of our productions. Pro-
ductions like Ubu Cocu (a Wal-
gomat Society play, done by the
Packard\Avenue Players), Mac-
Bird, Salome, and now Man-
fred were unique riot for being
well or badly done, but for being
done at all.

n red
And with the approval of our
audience, we will continue this
little tradition We may not
find another Ianfred -- who
would want another?-but we
have Shelley's Swellfoot the Ty-
rant, Fielding's Tom Thumb, a
set of medieval morality plays,
a renaissance revenge tragedy,
and a nineteenth century melo-
drama by Dickens all under
consideration now for our next
productions. Whatever we do,
we will hope to find its fun,
not create our own at its ex-
pense. And that - considering
that we are neither the APA
nor the Stratford troupe-is the.
best that we can do.

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Noonan: mirrors,

century, Canterbury
By BOB FRANKE
Listening to Steve Noonan in concert is in a very strange way
like traveling to a far time in order to get a perspective on your own
moment-like discovering your dearest jewelled artifact from the
twentieth century, a golden mirror, suddenly encrusted with centuries
of its own. You pick it up, see in an objective way that it is and was,
and then, with'some love and some effort, look into it.
You look at it, to begin with. The music is a well-wrought frame
for the poems that are sung. Noonan's guitar style adapts itself to
each individual song. It's an excellent synthesis of what those of us
who love the acoustic guitar are trying to form out of traditional
styles, taking their unconscious simplicity and consciously trying to
create new simplicities-stripping tradition of its \triteness in order
to look at it again for the first time.
The images he deals with are delicate-their detail sp fine that
they often are indistinguishable from one another in your mind. Every
now and then a line stands out in relief-a condemned jester, for
example, stands a little in front and to the side of king, queen, and the
rest of the court, and rather than screaming just looks at you with
a straight.gaze. He's a minor character, but a world in himself.
In an explosion of metaphors, one or two fragments are bound to
hit you.
But when you look through that quiet explosion and into the
mirror itself, what do you see?
At first, a few distortions of reality that you can identify with-
"I can't ask you to leave me never"-"one happy hour, one love so
short, so fair"-you remember the reality that the words distort, and
you remember your own particular distortion of that reality.
But then the illusions start to break up In the same way that
you remember them breaking up-a request for ownership of the
world-dies under the borrowed use of a gravestone. Then a few harder
questions and searchings.
The street singer is envied because "he sings no songs of the
singer"-he has found a mode of-living in the long-past discovery
of his own anonymity. And finally-in the samequiet pictorial relief-
a kinr of personal commitment: "leaving me floating, she is the one I
choose." You remember that; but you are looking at it for the first
time.
Left with that old-new vision, you come back and realize that
the' artifact, the mirror' itself, has 'become endeared'' to you simply
through the function that it has well served: enabling you towork
through to a particular vision of yourself and reality, not exactly your
own vision, not exactly the personal vision of the mirror-maker, but
rather that of the mirror itself.
And the thought steals in that the maker of the mirror in his
anonymity, or as StevejNoonan in his secret dealings with anonymity,
is certainly to be commended.

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