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November 09, 1958 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1958-11-09

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tr £irfligatthBNIi
Sixty-Ninth Year

Local Drama in Review;
Survey and Appraisal

'en Opinions Are Free
Trutb Wil PrevalW'

Editorials printed in The Michi'gan Daily express the individuat opinions of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted in all reprints. ,

AY, NOVEMBER 9, 1958


Uncertainties Mark

SGC Election

THflE STUDENT Government Council elections
of Tuesday and Wednesday have aroused
a great deal of uncertainty.
One area of uncertainty is well-illustrated
by an SGC officer who asks the opinion of a
Daily reporter on the candidates. They find
that neither of them has seen all of the candi-
dates; at least one candidate, as a matter of
fact, is unknown to both.
The moral of this story is not that SGC and
The Daily are unaware of what is going on
but merely that some of this semester's can-
didates are doing little to raise themselves from
the obscurity from whence they came. At
last Wednesday's Council meeting five candi-
dates were present: two are incumbent SGC
members, two are committee chairmen who
The Powers..
AN OLD MICHIGAN tradition was revived
this weekend; women were forbidden to
use the front door of the Union. The old tra-
dition should have been left dead.
The sanctity of the Union's front door was
held as one of the University's most sacred tra-
ditions for many years. The purpose in this
one weekend revival seems to be to remind
students that Michigan once had traditions.
If someone were to propose revitalizing the
custom and barring women from using the
Union's front doors permanently, it might find.
some support. But a three-day revival of a
long gone custom in honor of "Men's Weekend"
is as useless as it is annoying to the co-eds.
This is especially useless in that several wo-
men walked right through the front door any-
The whole idea seems to be one huge fiasco.
Tradition is dead. Never underestimate the
power of a woman.

report each week, and the fifth was just a
member of the audience - he left at half-
time recess.
N ACTUAL campaigning little enthusiasm
has been shown. At a meeting of Pan-
hellenic presidents, all candidates were invited
to speak. Six of the fourteen showed up,
plus the since-disqualified fifteenth candidate.
Other open houses, whether in sororities or
in quad houses, have drawn smaller crowds yet
of course, with one and even none shpwing up.
Part of the open house trouble is due to the
second source of uncertainty, the rampant
apathy of the student body as a whole. Many
candidates say that most of their speaking has
been arranged by themselves, by calling up
the house at which they want to speak. Cer-
tainly the lists of open houses requested from
the _-SGC elections committee have been
O IT'S ALL very uncertain just who these
candidates are. Is anyone going to vote for
them? This is another good question. Some
affiliates mutter darkly about getting out
the vote, some independents say this is the
election when the quads and dorms will flex
their numerical musles. but on the basis of the
campaign thus far who can say? No great
interest has been evinced.
BUT THIS IS only what one candidate has
rightly called "the most important SGC
election since the first, four years ago."
For regardless of the feelings of the candi-
dates and students on the power SGC should
have, this could be the last student chance to
have a say in that power. Those who oppose
a strong student government as well as those
who favor it should come out and vote, if
only to show they care one way or the other.

Reviewer Writes
In Defense of Criticism

Associate Editorial Director
N\OW THAT the local theatre
season is officially under way,
Civic theatre having presented two
plays since September, and the
Speech department having finally
opened their playbill with "Ah,
Wilderness" last Thursday. a sur-
vey and evaluation of the dramatic
situation in Ann Arbor seems to be
in order. It is not too early to
make generalizations about the
current productions and not yet
too late to hope that the efforts
evidence in them will be rewarded
and the weaknesses similarly re-
medied before the year is out.
Good theatre is the result of a
sort of circular process. It depends
for its success upon the mainten-
ance of a finely working inter-rela-
"tionship between the creative and
the responsive forces. Bad produc-
tions discourage audiences from
attending further performances,
and poor attendance results in
fianacial pressure on the acting
group, which in turn insures
cheaper, more commercially-ori-
ented productions in the future.
AFTER A FEW bad plays, then,
the financial deterioration of any
acting group is almost inevitable.
The degree of artistic deterioration
is more likely to be somewhat a
matter of interest and persever-
ance. If the controlling interests
happen to be aesthetically in-
clined, or if the group has in-
dependent means of support, the
- company may go on producing
good plays almost indefinitely.
Even artistic levels, neverthe-
r less, are as dependent upon the na-
ture of the audience as upon the
talents of the actors and directors
involved. What the traffic will
bear in a particular community is
important; one would no more
present Lorca in Texarkana than
one would seriously present "East
Lynn" or "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
as the height of drama in a com-
munity that could appreciate Io-
nesco and Sophocles.
WHAT, THEN, has happened to
' the theatre in Ann Arbor? Logi-
cally, we should be continually
submitted to a barrage of fine
drama. Outside of New York, Chi-
cago and San Francisco, the col-
lege community is perhaps the one
place where culture and commerce

may be successfully combined. One
would expect to see presented here
with great regularity, the classics.
the best of the modern plays, and
a fair amount of avant-garde ex-
perimental drama.
Yet the reality of professional
theater in Ann Arbor is far from
the ideal. It is characterized by
neither vitality nor fertility. The%
last even vaguely "intellectual"
local professional company. the
Dramatic Arts Centre. closed in
the spring of 1957. Since that
time, only the Ann Arbor Civic
Theater, the Speech Department,
the Drama Season series, and oc-
casionally importations such as
the recent "Diary of Ann Frank."
remain to satisfy local tastes.
JGP, Gilbert and Sullivan, Musket,
and Soph Show fulfill particular
campus netds, but with the possible
exception of G&S seldom make
any lasting dramatic contribu-
THE SPEECH Department,
quality-wise, is far above either
Drama Season and Civic Theater.
Probably because it has the finan-
cial support of the State of Michi-
gan, the department has occa-
sionally unfortunate acting or
directing, but generally intelligent

and interesting programming. At
worst, their plays are adofescently
performed: at best. they are filled
'vith youth and vitality: they are,
usually, in any c: se. good plays
One may perhaps excuse the
weakness of the Ann Arbor Civic
Theater group by saying that they
must work with what local talent
they can find, and that they are
directly affected by the sort of
financial pressure mentioned ear-
lier. Whatever the reason may be,
the plays chosen for presentation
are, with a few exceptions, trivial:
the acting, even when the plays
are good. is almost universally im-
perceptive. The whole organiza-
tion seems to lack the sort "alive-
ness" that in itself distinguishes
drawa from any other form of en-
* , *
ONE MAY perhaps excuse Civic
Theater, but there is little excuse
for what hashappened to Drama
season, The choice of plays is at
times good, more often bad, Aging
prima donnas and don juans play
the leading roles with generally
incompetent support for their in-
competent performances. Tho
whole series seems to be aimed far
below the average level of compre-
hension or intelligent apprecia-
tion. This series could well be the
highpoint of the dramatic season,
as May Festival is of the musical
one. Why it is not could be the
subject of some interesting investi-
And yet there is some hope.
There is little experimentation,
little spontaneity among the stu-
dents in Ann Arbor as far as
drama is concerned; no public
readings in basements, little dra-
ma for its own sake. Perhaps the
regimentation even of culture at
the University kills such spon-
taneity by organizing it from the
very moment of its birth. If this'is
so, the only medium for vitality
might possibly be in compromise,
the sort of compromise that
Speech Department experimental
playbills represent. These are pre-
sented under academic auspices,
but are run on the whole by stu-
dents. They have their faults-
usually glaring ones-but there is
no reason why these playbills can-
not-on a small scale, at least-
provide the sort of intelligent ,ex-
perimentation and vitality that is
sadly lacking in local theatre as
it stands,

OF FEE BLACK By Richard Taub

HFR EXACT function of the
critic in modern society seems
to be something which is always
changing, and always in need of
Basically, the critic is supposed
to be someone who has fairly clear
ideas on a subject, and is fairly
well able to express them in writ-
Presumably, the critic writes
his reviews of art, theatre, music,
films, and books so that his read-
ers can then compare his views
with their own, and perhaps come
to appreciate, if not approve, the
critic'spoint of view.
Frequently, an individual will
have a vague feeling that all was
not quite right with the film or
play or musical performance he
has just seeni. but will not be able
to exactly name his reactions un-
til he can read a review of some
sort. He may agree or disagree
with the review, but it somehow
helps him to gather together his
own thoughts into a more ordered
Critics, like scrambled eggs,
must be taken with a grain of
salt. No critic is always right, nor
is any one always wrong. To rely
too biindly on any one critic is
dangerous, because this man is
really speaking only for himself;
he may have valuable ideas and
a good sense of what seems good
or bad to him, but he is after all
only one person with some na-
tural defects and faults.
However, a critic can be quite
an effective force for shaping the
dramatic destinies of a commu-
nity; in a locality where there is
an abundance of good, well quali-
fied, well-read critics, bad art or
theatre cannot last for long.
* * *
ALL TOO OFTEN, however, the
question arises: just who is this
critic who seems to know all the
answers? Why should his judge-
ments be better than mine.
Of course, if a favorite critic of
yours seems to agree with you on
most issues, you can fairly safely
trust his judgement, and save
yourself the price of tickets to a
great many second-rate events.
Since everything gets a trifle
more lucid with examples, let us

assume that the Department of
Miscellaneous Productions has just
put on an original play by Ivan
Shales-Pierre, a graduate student
in Classical Studies, titled "See
Here, Henry T. Klod." Next morn-
ing, a review appears claiming
that this is the most miserable
production ever to hit Ann Arbor
because it was a) badly written;
b) badly acted; c) badly staged;
d) badly directed; and e) bad.
If "See Here . . ." is in town
for another night, people who
know the critic, or for some reason
trust him, are saved the expense
of a trip to the Theatre. But the
critic has still failed to entirely
justify his existence, because he
has not exactly said why the play
was so bad. If he carefully notes
exactly where and when and why
the production was not good, i.e.,
where the lighting was not pro-
perly arranged, where the scenes
were not in the proper style, where
the play was not suitably pre-
sented, he will be doing a more
exact service to all of his readers.
A MORE LIKELY situation is
this: a production of a well-known
play hits Ann Arbor. A good critic
should have a fairly definite idea
of just how a good production of
this play will look. He should also
have a general picture of what an
ideal performance of it would be.
If there are any extreme devia-
tions from what is expected, the
critic can then spot these righi
away. Any company that casts a
fat old frump as Joan of Arc, or
a timid-type gentleman as "The
Man Who Came to Dinner" will
be quickly exposed by a critic whc
is upset because people in the
audience who have never seen
these plays before most likely gol
the wrong impressions from them.
More subtly, a critic should be able
to perceive lesser offences, both in
casting, direction, and interpreta-
tion, and point them out to his
If this can be well done, a
printed criticism of a dramatic
event is creative and informative
in its own right. The review be-
comes at once something of enter-
tainment and education for read-
ers; in other words, something of


WHEN PEOPLE returned to campus in Sep-
tember, Student Government Council
found itself faced with a major decision, or at
*ast, it thought it did.
Two years ago, SGC found Sigma Kappa
sorority in violation of University regulations,
and gave the group until after its next con-
vention (which took place last summer), to
show that it was no longer in violation of the
rules. The regulation in question said the Uni-
versity, would not grant recognition to any
organization wishing to come on campus if it
prohibited membership because of race, religion
or creed.
In September the Council received a letter
from Sigma Kappa stating the sorority's po-
sition, and then set out to make a decision
concerning the status of that sorority on this
Council members, feeling the weight of such
a responsibility most strongly, did much care-
ful research. They were being entrusted with
an important decision and they wanted to jus-
tify administrative faith in student govern-
ND THEY had every reason to think they
were to make the decision. Two years ago,
when SGC found Sigma Kappa in violation of
the rules, a Board of Review said that the
Council had acted within its proper area of
jurisdiction. Further, the Council received a
letter just before the current decision was made,
from Vice-President for Student Affairs James
A. Lewis, which said that after examining the
constitution of Sigma Kappa sorority, the ad-
ministration was prepared to certify that the,
sorority was not in violation of the rules, and
he requested the Council to consider the mat-
ter in "its proper area" of concern.
Further, the SGC Plan clearly states that
SOC and the Board in Review replace the
Student Affairs Committee and Student Legis-
lature. And the University rules and regula-
tions booklet says: the final decision to with-
draw recognition from an organization rests
with the Student Affairs Committee.
The Council members realized that there
was a limitation on their powers concerning
recognition. All recognition matters had to
be in accord with "regental and administra-
tive policy." But they knew that this phrase
was amorphous, and that the administration
had chosen to interpret it quite broadly -
that policy had to do with long range prob-
lems; and that since the administration had
upheld the right of the Council to decide on
Sigma Kappa before, it was difficult to see how
this fair, understanding, clear-sighted admin-
istration could do anything else.
Business Staff

BUT THE Council was wrong. All the time
that students were justifying the adminis-
tration's trust in them, by being so conscien-
tious, they were making absolute fools of them-
selves. The decision had already been made.
When Vice-President Lewis wrote that letter
to the Council, administrative policy, so the
administration now claims, had been set, and
that when Vice-President Lewis told the Coun-
cil to consider the matter in its proper area
of concern, what he had really meant was,
"Yes, consider the matter, but you are per-
mitted to come up with only one right answer,
Sigma Kappa is not in violation."
Suddenly, it all was clear. There was a Board
in Review meeting in which Dean of Women
Deborah Bacon read a, prepared speech in
which she criticized SGC members for reading
prepared speeches at the Council meeting. In
this speech and at a later meeting she made
quite clear, that SGC only had the power
to handle recognition cases when it agreed with
the administration. Vice-President Lewis and
Dean Rea chimed in with the same story.
There was concurrent jurisdiction. But concur-
rent meant that the administration had ulti-
mate authority - for as Miss Bacon pointed
out -- if two years ago the Council had de-
cided that Sigma Kappa was not in violation,
she would have called the Board in Review
herself - she would have insisted that the
Council was to be reversed.
THE BUBBLE BURST. SGC's power in this
area was largely illusion, an illusion care-
fully cultivated, but an illusion just the same.
This business of giving SGC recognition power
in "accord with Regental and Administrative
policy" was simply a device for making the
administration look good. All was fine when
SGC found Sigma Kappa in violation the first
time, for then it was serving as the Adminis-
tration's hatchet man, and everybody, but
Sigma Kappa and some other unruly affiliates
were happy. But on a controversial issue the
administration tried to step in and take con-
The merits of whether SGC should or should
not have power of recognition are not being
discussed here. We would just like to know
why on earth the administration gave, on
paper, any power to SGC in this area, since
now it is quite clear, that the administration
thinks it had the power all along. This cer-
tainly does have all the ear-marks of sham.
What it is saying is that Student Government
has the power, but the administration will
make the final decision. This is a contradic-
tion. Why then bother having student gov-
ernment waste its time -- because under this
interpretation, that is all student government
is doing.
Tuesday night Student Government Council
Will again consider exactly what it is to do
about Sigma Kappa. Naturally, nobody knows
yet, what it will do, but it should be almost as


Drum Song' Has Punch, No Polish

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Rodgers and
Hammerstein's new musical comedy,
"The Flower Drum Song," opened
in Boston on Oct. 27th and will ap-
pear on Broadway later this year.
Since the play in all likelihood,
will be running through Christmas
vacation and the new year, the fol-
lowing review was seft to the Daily
for publication by a former Senior
R OGERS AND Hammerstein's
combined talents have again
created a sensation in the thea-
trical world. "Flower Drum Song's
burst upon the Boston stage Oct.
27th with characteristic Rogers
and Hammerstein energy plus
vivid oriental costumes, lively
dances and catchy tunes. However,
despite the promise of a long suc-
cessful run as a 'hit,'"Flower Drum
Song" falls short of past Rogers
and Hammerstein greats such as
"South Pacific" or "The King and
Under the direction of Gene

Kelly, "Flower Drum Song" weaves
through a conflict between tradi-
tionalism and modern American-
ism in China Town, San Francisco
with gaiety and humor. A domi-
neering father Wang Chi Yang,
played by Keye Luke, is, defied by
his first born son Wang Ta, E4
Kenny, when he choses a picture
bride from China, to be the mother
of his grandsons for son Wang Ta
had fallen in love with a stripper
from the local Chinese burlesque.
Chinese family tradition conflicts
with love a la Amerique to lead to
difficulties and light humor.
The music in the show is light
and whimsical but lacks the sub-
stance for long lived popularity.
At times, the songs almost touch
upon mediocrity and are with few
exceptions, scarcely the type that
will remain popular outside the
theatrical world. The flower drum
song itself, "A Hundred Million
Miracles," is repeated throughout
the show but would lose its charm

First Lady' of the Ann Arbor Theatre

without the oriental context. Pos-
sibly the stripper's theme song,
"I Enjoy Being a Girl" has popu-
larity possibilities. "Chop Suey"
is also a possible novelty tune-
comparing American culture to
chop suey (a mixture of every-
thing). At its best the music is
perhaps the weakest point in an
otherwise excellent production.
With Caroly Haney as choreo-
grapher and Gene Kelly as direc-
tor, dancing is the outstanding
feature of "Flower Drum Song."
A burlesque dance at the Celestial
Bar is excellent, equeaed only by
a ballet by Ed Kenny and the
dancers portraying a light and
charming story in the dreams of a
drunken Wang Ta. Linda and
Yvonne Ribuca and Luis Robert
Hernandez as the children. also
give moving performances in sev-
eral dance numbers.
Miyoshi Umeki, who won an
academy award for "Sayonara,"
is delightful and sensitive as the
picture bride Mel Li. Her quiet
charm captivates the audience and
her light but clear voice offers a
perfect contrast with that of the
brazen stripper, Linda Low.
The male lead, Ed Kenny as
Wang Ta, fails to reach the same
peak of excellence. His singing and
dancing show perfection but he
often fails to be convincing and
his dialogue appears stilted.
Pat Suzuki as the stripper fills
the stage with her energy and en-
thusiasm. Her dancing is tops and
her portrayal of a wild dancer out
to catch a rich son, convincing.
Juanita Hall, in a much re-
strained role after Bloody Mary,
is little more than scenery in most
of the acts. iHer best moment is
in the song "Chop Suey."
The scenery, designed by Oliver
Smith, is responsible for the
smoothness of the production and
the naturalness of the settings.
A transparent drop opening the
production immediately sets the
mood of the meeting of two cul-
tures - brightly colored Chinese
kites flying over faintly discernible
TV aerials. Scene changes were
accomplished rapidly through clev-
er combinations of settings.
The Americanization of the
younger generation was stretched
almost to the ridiculous with fash-
ionable 'trapeze' dress styles and
a 'rock and roll' younger son ut-
tering 'bop' slang. Not to leave out


Daily Staff Writer
of the University Drama Sea-
son and assistant manager of the
University Lecture Series, looks
like the first lady of Ann Arbor
Wearing a fur piece and a large
yellow felt hat, her eyes twinkled
as she explained from behind her
imposing desk, "I can't direct or
act in a play, so I have to sell
tickets, schedule plays and keep
actors happy."
It is Mrs. Upham's duty to plan
the five plays in each Drama Sea-
son, getting the right balance be-
tween comedies and serious pro-
ductions and to make complete
arrangements for bringing each
show to the Mendelssohn Theatre.
Always "striving for the moon"
in getting the best possible drama
for Ann Arbor, she explained she
"waits until the last minute," be-
fore making the final choices of
plays to come here, then "kills"
herself to get them to accept her
* * *
COMPLICATIONS arise in al-

stone for the League," she said.
"I also sold 60,000 packs of the
Michigan playing cards that we
used to help finance it."
Mrs. Upham and Mrs. Hender-
son, who "knew everybody who
had a nickel and was in Oklahoma
every time they drilled a new oil
well," contacted Detroit millionaire
Gordon Mendelssohn who con-
tributed $50,000 for construction
of the theatre wing in memory of
his mother.
* , *
in 1929 under the direction of
Robert Henderson, Mrs. Hender-
son's son, it was called the most
complete and perfect 'intimate
theatre in the United States. The
only theatre comparable in quality
was the Goodman Theatre in
From 1932 - 37, Mrs. Upham
handled bookings for New York
agencies throughout the Mid West,
which gave her valuable experi-
ence for her work with the Uni-
versity Drama Series.
"I found which areas were in-
terested in the theatre and met
many stars of the theatre and
operas which have helped me in

over the Series in 1952, Mrs. Up-
ham has noticed a trend toward
serious, "thinking" plays that peo-
ple can "get their teeth into."
Recognizing her cultural re-
sponsibility to bring the best pos-
sible theatre to Ann Arbor, she
plans to be in New York at least

three times a year, where she sees
as many plays as possible.
"I consider whether every play
is 'do-able' here-scenic wise, cos-
tume wise and actor wise," she
said. "I've never been able to re-
lax at a play, except for a musical
comedy. Then I have a heck of a
good time"

-~" - m c~"~

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