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January 27, 1969 - Image 1

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The Michigan Daily, 1969-01-27

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Vol. LXXIX, No. 98A

Ann Arbor, Michigan-Monday, January 27, 1969

FREE ISSUE Four Pages

a

Play creates
fiscal, legal

Police

book

issues for

GU,

By DAVID SPURR
The performance of "Dionysus in 69" and the subsequent
arrest of ten actors drew quick reaction last night from Uni-
versity and community leaders.
University President Robben W. Fleming said he stood by
his statement Saturday defending the perforiance of the
play while warning that "the law applies on campus as well
in ,the community."
But he added, "They don't have much of a case if they
performed clothed on Saturday."
"Dionysus" ran Saturday night in Detroit without inci-
dent. Police said the actors "kept their clothes on."
When asked whether he thought last night's incident
would hurt the University financially, Fleming said, "There
are many state legislators who are quite concerned about this
sort of thing."
However, one legislator who attended the play, Sen. Gil-
Bert Bursley (R-Ann Arbor) reacted favorably to the produc-
tion. "The dramatic techniques were most unusual and inter-
esting," he said. "I enjoyed it."
However, Bursley said the performance "could have fi-
U4>nancial repercussions for the
° University."
.A C 11 S"I will try to give my colleagues
t~LSin the State Senate a factualac
count of what happened, but they
ion will read the news reports and
ac 1b1 Vmay make their own opinions," he
added.
Bursley recently signed a reso-
ity o ice lution calling for the formation ofa
Sa special legislative subcommittee
to investigate student activism in
the state, universities.
'The senior officers of .Univer- An American Civil Liberties Un-
sity Activities Center, which spon- ion spokesman .said the case might
sored "Dionysus in 69" as part be defended on the same grounds
of its Creative Arts Festival, re- as the "Flaming Creatures" case
acted angrily to the arrests last two years ago.
night of ten members of the "In any case this incident po-.
play's cast. tentially raises a first amendment.
"We believe "Dionysus in 69" issue that the ACLU might get in-
is a serious dramatic effort and volved in," said Ann Arbor ACLU
should be accepted as such." the chair~man Lawrence Berlin.
UAC senior officers said in a "In the new theatre a good deal
joint statement released at 3 a.m. of the way in which actors per-
today. form is based on the mood and
"The production was brought effective feeling of a particular;
~ to the University community as moment. I feel that's a legitimate
legitimate, topical, experimental kind of statement they can make
theater," they explained. to defend their disrobing one night
"We reaffirm the right of the and not another." Berlin explain-
University community to view ed.
such theater. We regard the ar- Prof. Joseph Sax of the Law
rests as a serious violation of the School was critical of the Univer-
basic freedom of artistic expres- sity's role in the controversy. "The
Ssion." University has an interest in the
It will not be clear until after whole range of criminal law con-
the warrants are issued today cerning the first amendment," he
whether the officers of UAC will said.
be liable for prosecution for spon- "If the University were to stand
soring the performance. by and do nothing, we might find
However, the fact that Prosecu many individuals subjected to ar'-
tor William Delhey and Police rest who were not in a position to
4 Chief Walter Krasny chose to defend themselves," Sax added.
charge the performers with inde- He explained that a trial would
cent exposure indicates that the center on whether the nudity was
UAC officers may not be affected. in fact obscene.

-Te Michigan Daily

(elehratiiig tlie birth of Dionvstis
teat re

Towa rc
By DANIEL OKRENT
Feature Editor

I,

a

rew environment

To censor the nudity out
"Dionysus in 69" would be
deprive it of its sinews.

of
to

Two nude scenes, coming at
beginning and end, make the
perfect frame for all that pass-
es in between; the birth and
the death scenes, with the en-
tire case arrayed in a ritual-
istic tableau of raw sexuality
-raw "being"-are such quin-
tessential elements, it is hard
to understand how the com-
pany performed the same
scenes clothed in Minneapolis
last week.
It is equally hard to under-
stand how the guardians of the
public morality could find any
appeal to prurient interests
whatsoever. "Dionysus" is not
that type of play.
And it is the type of play.
rather than the play itself,
which redeems "Dionysus" and
makes it important. It sits nes-

tled between Euripides and Jul-
ian Beck, picking the best of
both, and keeping enough of
an internal fit to make it both
startling and noteworthy.
The concept of environmen-
tal theatre often suffers in
practice, and for much of last
night's performance, the suf-
fering showed as the "Diony-
sus" audience offered an in-
credible mess of false respons-
es which enabled them to feel
they were "participating."
But even though each cliched
epithet hurled at Pentheus was
almostbinevitablyfollowed by
an embarrassed flush, the im-
portant thing was the fact the
audience bothered to take part
at all.
In his review of '"Dionysus"
in the Aug. 10 issue of The
New Republic, Robert Brustein
of the Yale Drama School be-
moaned the state of an avant-
garde theatre movement which,
he felt, was moving toward
"self-indulgence and accident."

While Brustein may have
been right about the seeming
lack of intended, coherent, and
worthwhile content, he never-
theless misses the entire point
that such theatre is trying to
make: that the self-indulgence
represented by cast members
who physically carry a member
of the audience to his seat,
practically without regard for
the spectator's own wishes.
scores heavily against the re-
strictions of the complacent
drama we have grown up with.
Nevertheless, for the walls
of convention thaththe play
knocks down, for the sponta-
neity and truthfulness and the
sheer artistic chutzpah that Di-
rector Richard Shechner's com-
pany pulled off, much of
the evening was unfulfilling. It
seems that there must be a lim-
it to the display of narcisssistic
self-praise that the play and
the company lavish upon them-

selves. And, at various times,
this updated version of "The
Bacchae" was simply, and un-
forgiveably, boring.
Technically, there is little
fault to be found. Shechner is
a .virtuoso at creating a per-
fectly ordered chaos. As his
players fan out into the audi-
ence, mumbling gibberish and
droning chants that consist of
equal parts of the Gregorian
and of those of the asylum, each
part meshes with each of the
others.
The company itself, cloaked
in all the anonymity of modish
theatre, is equally good. The
men perform first-class ballet,
as well as fine theatre, and the
four female cast members con-
trol the entire spectrum of
emotion and non-emotion.
Furthermore, one girl in par-
ticular looks particularly fine
when undressed. And believe
me-there's nothing in the
world wrong with that.

per formers
By STEVE NISSEN and JIM NEU3ACHER
Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter Krasny said last night he
will seek warrants this morning for the arrest Of the ten-
member cast of "Dionysus in 69"' on charges of indecent ex-
posure.
The play, a modern adaptation of Euripides' Greek
classic "The Bacchae", was performed with two nude scenes
before an overflow crowd in the Union Ballroom last night as
part of the Creative Arts Festival sponsored by the Univer-
sity Activities Center.
None of the UAC officers were immediately arrested.
However, Krasny indicated that County Prosecutor William
Delhey would be responsible for the final decision in any fur-
'ther arrests.
The players were detained briefly following the perform
ance while police fingerprinted and photographed them. They
were allowed to remain free on personal recognizance - no
bond money was required.
The ten performers were ordered to report to District
Court at 10 a.m. this morning. Formal arrests will be made
after the issuance of. warrants in the court, Krasny said.
"They have assured us they will stay in town until tonight
at least," the police chief said. If the players left the state,
no extradition would be possible, he explained.
Attorney Peter Darrow has offered his legal services to
'the group, and is expected to represent the players today.
The charge of indecent exposure is classified as a "high
misdemeanor" and carries a maximum sentence of one year
in jail and a $500 fine.
The players arrested last night performed two scenes of
the controversial play in total nudity.
In the first nude scene, five men and four women strip-
ped off their clothes on stage. With four of the men lying on
gym mats the women formed an arch over them.
A fifth man was shoved through the gap to thesound of
grunts and groans in the symbolic birth of Dionysus, or Bac-
chus, the Greek and Roman god of wine.
Following the "birth," the nine actors performed a fren-
zied dance, all of them still nude.
A similar arch was formed at the end of the play as cast
members doused one another with red fluid symbolizing
blood. A man was forced into the arch, which fell in a heap
on the floor, in the enactment of the death of Pentheus, king
of Thebes.
Early yesterday afternoon, a representative of the per-
formers met with Krasny and UAC senior officers to discuss
standards of conduct for the play
Krasny then told the players that nudity would be
grounds for arrest.
But the players decided to go ahead and perform the
play "according to the script," said Pat McDermott, one of
the performers.
However, McDermott said the actors adjusted the script
to rule out portions of the play which encouraged members
of the audience to disrobe and join the cast.
Following the performance, as rumors spread that ar-
rests were about to be made, an angry crowd of several hun-
dred gathered in the corridor leading to the ballroom.
Richard Shechner, producer of the play, after conferring
with Krasny behind closed doors, emerged angrily from the
room and led the group into the lobby on the second floor.
There he confirmed that the arrests were going to be made.
He asked for support from the spectators, but ruled out vio-
lent action.
"What we did we did partly for ourselves, but most of
all for you," he said. "For if there is to be political freedom
in this country, there must be artistic freedom." However, he
added, "We did not come here seeking confrontation."
The crowd drifted away after Shechner finished speaking,
and the threat of an immediate confrontation was ceased.
However, at a 2 a.m. meeting at Canterbury House, She-
chner changed his tone.
"To be neutral is to be on the side of the oppressors," he
told a group of about 50 playgers who met with several ac-
tors to consider further action.
Shechner said the "censorship" displayed in the arrest of
the cast has raised serious questions with regard to artistic
freedom.
He said the group chose Ann Arbor for a "frontal expo-
sure" of censorship because the atmosphere of the University
was better than that of Detroit, where the group performed
the play without the nude. scenes Saturday night.
He said the group had not been prepared to confront
the Detroit police.

"You have to pick your battles," the director explained.
"We're interested in guerrilla tactics, and not interested in
getting into fights we can't win."
Shechner insisted that the central issue is "not the sim-
ple question of nakedness, but of freedom of expression."
He indicated that at least two, and maybe all of the

MEETING IN AUD. A TONIGHT

0 0
Crisisa
By RON LANDSMAN
The controversy over the literary college's
language and distribution requirements
appears headed for its climax this week.
The mass meeting scheduled for tonight
will be held in Aud. A of Angell Hall in-
stead of the Union Assembly Hall. It was
moved to the larger room because of the
expected turn-out.
Students will decide then what action
should be taken on the requirements.
Proposed action ranges from a disruptive
sit-in in the' office of literary college Dean
William Hays to waiting for faculty action,
which may come as early as next week.
On Thursday the college faculty meets
to consider changing the language require-
ment and whether to open their meetings.
The mass meeting tonight follows months

pp roach e.,
not to attend the meeting, charging that it
side-stepped the issue of open meetings.
They changed their minds the next day,
though, but added the proviso that some
faculty member must move that the meet-
ing be made a regular faculty meeting with
decision-making power.
The forum went on as scheduled and the
demand was not imet.
The day after the announcement of the
forum, SGC voted to back the caucus ini-
tiated mass meeting. However, an SGC
resolution prohibiting disruptive sit-ins
barred their further support of the caucus.
The forum last Tuesday to discuss the
language requirement was quite a surprise.
Over 1000 students and faculty turned out
for the meeting, forcing it to be moved from
Natural Science Aud. to Hill Aud.

in

LSA

caucus members decided to move the begin-
ning of the sit-in back one day, to noon
Wednesday.
On Thursday Hays. suggested a compro-
mise. In an open letter to the student body,
Hays called for elected, voting student rep-
resentatives on the curriculum committee
and came out in favor of open meetings.
The move forced the caucus to shift its
position. Caucus leaders indicated they
would probably move the sit-in from Wed-
nesday to Thursday and that it would not
be disruptive-pending what the faculty did
at their meeting.
That same night, SGC defeated an at-
tempt to suspend their rules barring disrup-
tive sit-ins, which would have left them free
to support the caucus' position. The move
was not related to Hays' letter.

di sp U e
ready by the March faculty meeting, and
it is a commitment current committee chair-
man Prof. James Gindin says he can meet.
But by last semester, students were on the
move, too. In September the caucus began
its petition drive against both the language
and distribution requirements which was to
net some 3,500 signatures.
SGC started its own petition drive a short
time later.
In lateNovember more than 150 students
joined in presenting the petitions to Hays.
Hays later turned the petitions over to
Gindin, who in turn informed the faculty
officially of the petitions at the Dec. 2
meeting.
The student demand at the time wasfor
a decision by the end of January, although
no specific action was threatened if the
demand wasn't met.

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