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October 08, 1969 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1969-10-08

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Wednesday, October 8, 1969

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Wednesday, October 8, 1969

drama

- poetry and prose
Kinnell: Dark stars and love

wMiroommommra

Whither modern drama?

By ELLIOTT M. SIMON
Looking over the playbill of
the APA Repertory Company
and the University Players, this
playgoer notes the apparent lack
of contemporary drama which
accurately portrays human ex-
perience against the backdrop
of this decade. This is not to im-
ply that what we shall see is
archiac theatre. On t h e con-
trary, APA and the University
Players are capable of brilliant-
ly performing quality drama
"for all time."
Macbeth is one of Shake-
speare's most popular plays;
Ghelderode, today, has become
one of the commercially accep-
table expressionist playwrights
of the nineteen-twenties; and
perhaps we really are in need of
a delightful revival of the wit-
ty Noel Coward. Furthermore,
one may never again see a per-
formance of Titus Andronicus;
the Irish social criticism of
O'Casey is always fashionable,
if not conservatively exciting;
and Genet is usually good for a
stimulation of our existential-
alienation affections. Thus what
we see will be popular drama,
well executed. But will we ex-
perience anything new in t h e
theatre? Regretably no.
It is obvious that new plays
and playwrights must be sought
out by competent companies in
order to provide audiences with
a new dramatic statement, per-
ception and experience relative
to t h e nineteen-sixties. Since
the turn of the century, intel-
lectual theatre has become the
domain of the artistic integrity
of the repertory theatre and to
the uncommercial interests of a
university.
To develop, however, a new
drama which is contemporary
in theme and style is not a vir-
tue in itself. Drama is a fine art,
and art is relevant to an edu-
cated playgoer in qualitative
terms of intensified and well ar-
ticulated perceptions and expla-
nations of shared experiences.
Drama ceases to be relevant to
anything when it ceases to ap-
peal to one's intelligence, when
it degenerates into the mindless
dribble of the self indulgent in-
dignation of the sociologist, or
into the psychic chaos of ego

Is it Art?

masochism emanating from the
popular "T-group" played out
on stage, as in Albee's Tiny Al-
ice. -
New drama must not only re-
flect our contemporary world,
but if it is ever to transcend the
role of a concave mirror, t h e
socio-psychological couches of
fashionable neuroses, or the
popular, emotive and anti-intel-
lectual pagents of pop, rock and
hip subcultures, it must arti-
culate intelligently a new state-
ment of human experience of
some value to an audience will-
ing to engage not only its sens-
es but also its mind in compe-
tent problematic drama.
The need for a new kind of
dramatic experience is echoed
in almost every dynamic thea-
tre. But the modernizing pro-
cess of expressing the "nitty-
gritty" contemporary realities
is most curious. The emphasis
on superficial costuming seems

to be the only changing conven-
tion. Prformances of Shakes-
peare and well-worn masterpiec-
es of bygone eras in modern
clothes in order to satisfy the
illiterate audience's craving for
packaged relevance and visual
identification is a cheap arti-
ficial t r i c k, evidencing a
thorough ignorance of the dra-
matic experience in theatre.
This experience is based upon
a unified relationship between
the audience and what they see
and hear on stage. Costuming
does not make a play relevant
by escaping time. Nor does it
provide a satisfying vehicle for
social, spiritual and physical
identification between the actor,
; the action and the audience
when there is a gross dispar-
ity between the visual and au-
ditory experlen . only t h e
ideas, the intellectual, well-arti-
culated statement of the play,
are capable of uniting the aud-
ience to the action, and t h u s
become the essention vehicle for
a shared experience.
On the other hand, it seems
that a play is contemporary if
the actors wear no clothes at
all. The quasi-artistic use of
nudity by the so-called 1 i v in g
theatre (is there a dead theatre
too?) as in Dionysus in '69, or
the dullness of commercial nud-
ity of the Broadway thrill show
Oh! Calcutta! seem to indicate
a trend toward transferring a
theatrical experience, normative
on the old rickety stages of
South Chicago burlesque and
strip-joints, into legitimate a r t
theatre and calling it "new soc-
ial commentary."
Playing in the nude for the
sake of shocking the so-called
middle class repressive moral
decorum in order to be contem-
porary fits into the same cata-
gory of brainless spectacle as
the burning mills, virtuous hero-
ines saved in the nick-of-time,
and calvary charges of sensation
melodrama. It may be visually
exciting for the moment, but it
is artistically impotent, intel-
lectually dull and irrelevant to
a serious dramatic statement
about problems in contemporary
life.
The development of intellect-
ual contemporary drama is dif-
ficult for it forces the drama-
tist to be creative in new dimen-
sions, and it forces an audience
to actively participate in that
creation by using its intelligence.
It obligates established acting
groups to risk financial gains
by turning away from popular
exercises in voyeurism, brainless
shoot-em-ups, and stupid situ-
ation comedies, and present a
contemporary view of human
experience in articulate drama.
Broadway, State Street, Holly-
wood and Vine will never do this
for legitimate theatre. The ex-
citing burden of making drama
an integral part of contemporary
experience rests solely on the
shoulders of university and
repertory theatre groups. They
must pick it up.
BACH CLUB

By LARRY RUSS
Whenever I think of Calway
Kinnell and his poetry I see a
huge space of dark winter sky
over a great plain of snow,
with the dark shoulders and
breasts of mountains on one
side and on the other the
beach, burnt, with waves like
smoke coming in; and in the
middle I see one man looking up
at the stars, standing quiet like
a tree.
Not that this is just an image
conjured by my imagination;
more marvelously, it is from the
poems, from the man. His body
and spirit have been in that
great solitude where the soul
forgetting its supposed limits
reaches out and shares the
grand silent power of moun-
tains, sea, the cosmos, spaces
of great life and death:
I come over the last summit
Into a dark wind
Blasting out of the darkness,
Where before me the
tempestuous ocean
Falls with long triple crashes
on the shore
A last, saprophytic blossoming.
It is only steps to the
unburnable sea.
He has had the courage to go
there, and has brought us some
of his dark stars. Read "Middle
of the Way," among many
other fantastic poems, and you
will know that he is telling you
something from down deep, giv-
ing you one of those stars:
I know that I love the day,
The sun on the mountain,
the Pacific
Shiny and accomplishing itself
in breakers,
But I know I live half alive
in the world,
I know half my life belongs
to the wild darkness.
At his reading yesterday Kin-
nell said that, although he
speaks of terrible things, he
knows that the ultimate goal is
to communicate a supreme
tenderness towards existence.
You could hear it in his voice,
see it in his eyes.

Pablo Neruda has written:
"Let that be the poetry we
search for: worn with the
hand's obligations, as by acids,
steeped in sweat and smoke,
.smelling of lilies and urine .. .
A poetry impure as the clothing
we wear, or our bodies soup-
stained, soiled with our shame-
ful behavior, our wrinkles and
vigils and dreams . . . Those
who shun the 'bad taste' of
things will fall on their face
in the snow."
Galway Kinnell knows that to
prettify our lives by leaving out
the most human things is really
to hate ourselves, and to kill
ourselves. His love is far deeper,
honest about our being's "im-
perfections," and the love is
more real and moving because
of that. The "ugliness" has its
own sensual beauty. I think this
short, beautiful poem, "T h e
Mango," shows it:
1
It opens in three: yellow-gold
as dawn
on the mudwalls of Hafez'
garden,
on a seagull mewing for the
light,
on the belly of a Chinese
dancing-girl,
austere,
smacking of turpentine,
The Michigan Daily, edited and man-
aged by students at the University of
Michigan. News phone: 764-0552. Second
Class postage paid at Ann Arbor, Mich-
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Michigan 48104. Published daily Tues-
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tACADEMY
AWARD
WINNER!
BEST ACTRESS!i
BAR8RA SIREISAND

a bit stringy, like the mortal
flesh.
2
Under the mango limbs
overfilled with flesh,
a few crones squat by the
whitening sea,
clapping, chorusing of love.
His poems have gotten better
with every book, ahd in the
newest book, Body Rags, beyond
the fact that it is a tremend-
ous book, I think that two of
the poems, "The Porcupine" and
(especially "The Bear," will
stay with us in the centuries
ahead; they are great in t he
largest sense. The rhythm, the
sound, the movement of "The
Bear" are of the greatest mas-
tery, and its scope takes in such
an amazing amount of the
deepest parts of our lives: our
deaths, our sorrows, our creativ-
ity and our destructiveness, the
pain of deaths that lead to
growth. The one poem merits
far more space than I have for
this article.
My one regret is that I now
know that Kinnell is working on
that long poem from which he
read parts. I'll probably die
from anxiousness in the n e x t
years.
FELIX
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