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May 06, 1962 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1962-05-06
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Theatre Leaves Broadway
For Experimentation





College theatres offer Shakespearian drama

THE AMERICAN Theatre has to make
some moves and some definite adjust-
ments if it is going to escape the pocket-
book gag which is slowly but inevitably
strangling Broadway. And the first move
must be to recognize the dichotomy which
exists between New York and the rest of
the country. All culture does not emanate
from East of the Hudson River, and it is
possible and more and more a truism that
good theatre be explored, written, and
produced West of the Appalachians.
This, it seems, is hard for New Yorkers
to swallow. But it is no longer possible to
ignore the fact that Broadway theatre is
becoming sterile and mediocre. The long-
becried high production costs make it
impossible for a play to succeed which
does not reap enormous profits. There are
only flops or hits, no middle ground. The
theatre is dying because it cannot afford
Elaborate musicals of the ilk of "Came-
lot" or "Sound of Music" are becoming
the only safe path for the rulers of the
Great White Way to tred. The spectacu-
lars are fine for an evening of entertain-
ment, but to limit itself to "safe" pro-
ductions is to ignore the basic role of
the theatre-to criticize and reflect con-
temporary institutions. The Round Table
of King Arthur could hardly be consid-
ered a contemporary institution.
The theatre has three possible routes it
can take to cross the Hudson; government
subsidy, repertory theatres in other cities,
or college theatre groups.
The most obvious and often suggested
method is aid from either the federal or
state governments.
The unconquerable hurdle in the path
to government subsidy is "when the Gov-
ernment is involved in subsidizing the
arts, it cannot and will not keep its hands
off them," Russell Lynes, managing edi-
tor of "Harpers" Magazine said in an
article in the New York Times Magazine.
Plays and playwrights need complete
autonomy and it appears a contradiction
in terms to discuss the compatibility of
autonomy and federal subsidy. If the gov-
ernment were to take over the job of
pumping a little life, in the form of
money, into the theatre, it would have to
make the decisions about what is art
and what is not, and what is "safe" to
produce and what is not. It would be no
problem to get money for Shakespeare or
Ibsen, but who is going to make the de-
cisions about such institutions as Theatre
of the Absurd?
The Theatre of the Absurd has pro-
duced "Rhinoceros" by Ionesco and plays
by Albee, concerning little armless and
legless people who live in ashcans. These
are unlikely to gain the widespread sup-
port of Ibsen's plays and dramatic ex-
perimentation will not thrive any better
under government jurisdiction than under
the jurisdiction of the pocketbook.

AN ALTERNATIVE route to government
subsidy for theatre, and the most
frequently taken today, is the re-establsh-
ment of traveling repetory companies.
The two most prominent groups embark-
ing on this new enterprise are the Nation-
al Repetory Theatre and the Association
of Producing Artists.
The National Repetory,-starring Eva
Le Gallienne and Faye Emerson is now
completing its first season tour of 63
cities with Schiller's "Mary Stuart" and
Maxwell Anderson's "Elizabeth the
Queen." The organization is an outgrowth
of the National Phoenix group which sent
"Once Upon a Mattress" on a 140-city
tour last year.
The APA, starring Rosemary Harris
and directed by Ellis Rabb, has signed
with the University to serve as its pro-
fessional theatre-in-residence for the next
three years. It will present a total of eight
plays in Fall and Winter Festivals.
During its first season, it will present
"Five Famous Plays," including "School
for Scandal" by Sheridan, "The Tavern"
by George Cohan and "The Seagull" by
Checkhov. The winter season will feature
three plays of Shakespeare.
The University will become the first
academic institution in the nation to
bring to its students, faculty and commu-
nity a long-range professional theatre
program. For four weeks following each
festival the company will tour the state.
The people in the National Repetory
Theatre and the APA ccoild easily find
parts on Broadway; many have left suc-
cessful jobs to tour and live out of suit-
cases. "The theatre groups to a great de-
gree are composed of people who might
have stayed in New York and made them-
selves some money," Walter Kerr agrees.
This indicates that many of the perform-
ers in the companies are also aware of the
handwriting in the backstage dressing
rooms that tells them to leave town.
But regardless of their motives, they
are inaugurating an exciting new phase
of theatre history. "One of the rarest
sights of our century is that of an em-
ployable actor packing his bag, tucking
the scripts for three different parts into
his jacket pocket for study enroute, and
heading for such hinterlands as will have
him while he is making his experimental
mistakes," Kerr continued.
C RITICS HAVE questioned the potential
success of repetory theatres and their
upcoming marriage to American audi-
ences. They believe that the American au-
dience is not trained for repetory but for
stars. They come to the theatre to see
stars, not shows. It has been said that
audiences tire very quickly of the same
people, and actors tire of the confinement
of working continually with the same
company. But it seems that this is doing
an injustice to the American public and
to the acting profession, because it can
be done elsewhere, like the Berliner En-

semble. What makes Americans so much
less sophisticated that they will bolt
after two weeks of no "great stars?"
Prof. Robert Schnitzer of the speech
department may justly take credit for
the execution of the program, but the
original idea was the University's acting
in the interest of its members, the city
of Ann Arbor, and the state. The idea
was conceived by a University Committee
for the Professional Theatre Program.
This group includes University President
Harlan Hatcher, three of the Universi-
ty's vice presidents, the Director'of Uni-
versity Relations, and two professors
from the speech department.
President Hatcher sees the APA as
pointing "the way toward development
of a regional professional theatre move-
ment under University sponsorship."
THE UNIVERSITY is not the only
academic institution embarking onto
a theatre venture. When Tyrone Guthrie
was scouting for a mid-west city in
which to establish his repertory theatre,
the decision to choose Minneapolis was
in large part due to the presence of the
University of Minnesota.
In addition to the university, Minnea-
polis offered a metropolitan population of
1.5 million with vigorous cultural inter-
ests. Also, the T. B. Walker Foundation
has granted $400,000 toward the construc-
tion of a new theatre as well as the land.
People all over the state were asked to
contribute the remaining $900,000 and are
responding encouragingly.
The Tyrone Guthrie Theatre Founda-
tion's professional company will play
six nights a week for 20 weeks beginning
in May, 1963. The cast will be all-profes-
sional, coming from New York and Lon-
don. Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy
have joined the company. Sir Laurence
Olivier has indicated he is willing to
do a one night performance of 'Hamlet."
Other stars who have expressed interest
include Melvyn Douglas, Julie Harris,
Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards, Jr.,
Sir John Gielgud, Frederic March, Lauren
Bacall, Charles Laughton, Alfred Lunt
and Lynne Fontaine.
"Guthrie hopes to provide an American
repertory theatre which will be a training
ground for native talent in the tradition
of the Old Vie in London and of the
Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, On-
tario," it was reported in "The Econo-
mist". It points more and more to the
inevitability of the great leaving Broad-
way in droves in the hope of escaping
the disappointment of a flop or the
monotony of a three-or-four-year hit.
Guthrie is anxious to avoid the star
system. And one way of accomplishing
this is to use the drama department at
the University of Minnesota to help the
Foundation keep alive the source of new
American talent. A graduate fellowship
program is planned which will enable
students of acting and the technical side
of the theatre be given an opportunity to
work with the professional company.
"We shall establish liaison with the
dramatic department of the university
and use it as a base for recruitment. We
hope gradually to have a company that
will reflect the soil in which it is nur-
tured. On Broadway, nothing springs out
of the soil - nothing but wires and neon
lights and cement," Guthrie said.
ON THE non-professional side are the
college and university oriented thea-
ant Night Editor on The Daily, is
a sophomore in the literary college.
She formerly headed the culture

tres, those established as part of depart-
ments of speech or drama to provide
training for the students in all facets of
theatre. These must not be over-
shadowed or forgotten entirely in the ex-
citement of professionals being brought
to college campuses.
Prof. Edwin Burr Pettet, chairman of
the theatre arts department at Brandeis
University, has indicated this fear. "The
university, by becoming a center for pro-
fessional players, must be very much on
guard that they do not eclipse the larger
university purpose in theatre - training
and liberally educating future artists. I
have noticed in a number of instances
where professional companies have been
drawn to the college campus that both
audiences and students alike tend to fa-
vor these companies and to treat the col-
legiate work as something second class.
"My own reading of recent history in-
dicates that it has been the higher qua-
lity and frequent offerings of theatre on
the college campus that has done more
to increase the value of theatre to the
American community than the importa-
tion of professionals. It would be a great
pity if the university had to manage stock
companies and in the excitement over its
new role lost sight of its own importance
as the source of our cultural life."
The variety and amount of experimen-
tal, as well as traditional, theatre pro-
duced at colleges is always surprising to
those not aware of their scope.
In order to give their students practical
and high quality training in theatre, col-
leges usually offer plays during the year
which'are student produced, but whose
audiences are not limited to students. The
entire community enjoys the opportunity
the productions offer. Even though they
are usually laboratories for the under-
graduates, they are of sufficiently high
qualityto make the evenings highly prof-
itable. A season with 30 or 35 productions
at a medium-sized college is average.
For example, at West Virginia Univer-
sity last year over 50 productions were
performed, with a total of 75 perform-
ances including "The Skin of Our Teeth,"
"Antigone," "The Playboy of the Western
World," and "The Diary of Anne Frank."
Michigan State University during the
1961-62 season offered "Born Yesterday,"
"Dr. Faustus," "The Good Woman of
Setzuan," "Streetcar Named Desire,"
"Brigadoon," "An Evening of Chamber
Opera,''"'An Evening of Medieval Dra-
ma," and "Right You Are."
Prof. John E. Dietrich, head of the
speech department at MSU, believes that
one function of a university theatre is
to bring "intense educational cultural and
social impact upon the student body of
the institution." He reports that one out
of every five students at MSU, regard-
less of major, attend the theatre regular-
ly. This impact, of course, is the natural
by-product of providing a first-rate lab-
oratory for students interested in the
theatre as a career.
At the University of Florida at Gaines-
ville the theatre program presented the
first American production of - "Pantag-
leize" by the Belgian playwright, Michael
Ghelderode, as part of their regular sea-
son. The production was reviewed in "The
Village Voice" which usually does not
recognize events taking place outside
Washington Square. Besides "Pantag-
leize" Florida also produced "The Rain-
maker", "Death of a Salesman," "An
Ev'ening of Commedia del Arte," "Oedi-
pus Rex," and "Tartuffe."
At the University of Utah in Salt Lake
City the student theatre produces nearly
one hundred plays a year.
The theatre program is being even
more de-centralized by the universities
and colleges than it appears. A good many
have expanded beyond offering theatre
for just students, faculty, and towns-
See COLLEGE, Page Five


.* *out-of-state students
research projects during the summer.
The man who is doing the research pro-
ject is going to defend his need to spend
some time on research during the year.
However, it isn't necessarily best for
him to do it during the summer. If there
is a sufficiently increased staff to carry
on through the year, then it would be
desirable to carry on research at another
time. But other factors exist. We wouldn't
necessarily foresee any increase in the
total number who will graduate because
of year-round operations.
Our entire faculty for the last ten years
have been fussing and fuming to get a
longer period for the masters of public
health degree. They are beside themselves
in trying to crowd in all that the students
want in 30 credits. It can't be done- Now
if the school can go to a three-term sys-
tem with roughly the same total content
as we now have, this would give us a
50 per cent increase in teaching time. It
doesn't require the student to be away
from his job. Many of our students are
on leave of absences to come for graduate
training, and they may be able to com-
plete in one calendar year 50 per cent
more training than they're doing now.
But it isn't going to result in many more
students graduating.
Prof. Meier: Many of the natural re-
sources people are on leave from the gov-
ernment for a one-year period. Often dur-
ing the summer they are in the field and
not supervised. But as soon as an optimum
program is organized for them, we can
find that many graduate students get in
on it. These ar now doctoral candidates
preparing themselves at a higher techni-
cal level than many of them had before.
In effect, it would save a moderate
amount of tutoring as far as individual
professors guiding students towards re-
search. So we can se that already the
strategy of graduate education becomes
modified as this option is opened up.
Prof. Place: Do you think the cost of
administration will increase because each
school will need to administer itself dur-
ing the summer?
Prof. Meier: I think it will increase
administrative costs even more because
every organization, as it comes closer to
physical capacity of equipment, begins to
realize that it has to spend more time at
scheduling and has to collect more infor-
mation which is relative to scheduling.
Prof. Peek: I understand that the third
summer term will be a split term so that
a person who teaches must think of cut-
ting a course in half. I don't think you
can just cut courses in half. This means
you may have to restructure the whole
summer program.
Prof. Place: We've had something like
that for a long time. Our summer program
runs from six to eight weeks, and we've
had six-week courses in the education
Prof. Wegman: Certain courses will be
six- or eight-week courses, but I assume

... library books

many of the courses will still be 14-week
courses. -
Prof. Place: I think they'd have to be
if a student is going to complete a pro-
gram in three years.
Prof. Wegman: I understand that the
only 8-week sessions will be _for those
people who can only be here during that
Prof. Place: There's no reason why we
can't build in all kinds of specializations.
Prof. Wegman: I've been pushing hard
for restructuring our curriculum into
smaller blocks. In medical education it
has proven helpful and efficient to con-
centrate teaching into large chunks. The
student spends six or eight solid weeks in
pediatrics and does nothing else. In the
long run he learns more than if he is
trying to carry a series of things in
I have been wanting to do this even
more with the public health school and
ran into what appeared to be an insuper-
able obstacle. We can't correlate teaching
on campus because so many of our stu-
dents are taking courses in bio-statistics
from the math department or engineering
courses that they cannot switch.
This is one of the problems of a great
university. If one wants to take advantage
Df all the resources in the other schools
and colleges, one can't always allow a
small unit to do what it wants.
Prof. Place: Why did the University
adopt the trimester over the quarter
Prof. Peek: I think that the Regents
wanted to hold on to the normal nine-
month academic year. The quarter plan
involves more administration, although it
does have the advantagerof providing
shorter periods.
But, what about the problem of the
faculty and the students? I've heard that
faculty men generally do not want to
teach more than two and one-half semes-
ters at a time and that it's a bad idea to
teach the year round. It is an exhausting
experience as the World War II situation
PROF PLACE: Hasn't it been suggested
that 25 per cent of our curricula be-
comes obsolete in eight or ten years? This
points to the answer. I think that faculty
members, in order to be most effective,
must have an appreciable time to do a
little research, gather their strength, and
get a fresh look at the problems in their
Prof Wegman: I don't see how the
University can undertake this program
at all sensibly if it doesn't have the addi-
tional faculty to handle the job.
Prof. Place: Do you agree that the year-
round operations suggest to the student
that he can complete his undergraduate
work in three years?
Prof. Peek: I don't agree with the prop-
osition that the student should complete
his undergraduate work in three years.
I think there's an element of unsoundness

in working 12 months around. It might
be advisable to limit the students to four
semesters in a row.
Prof. Wegman: I agree that our previ-
ous experience during World War.II was
not a happy one. But I don't agree that
we have to condemn the principle and
say that we're bound to a system whereby
learning has to stop for a period. Young,
eager and alert minds should not have
to stop for a period of four months to
be refreshed. There's something funda-
mentally wrong in this thesis, and I think
the question is to avoid the problem we
had during the war.
Prof. Peek: I agree that probably the
calendar was set up in an agricultural
age when one had to leave to work on the
farm. But this is no longer true, and
young minds ought to be able to move
along pretty well.
To move on to another topic how might
the University as an academic institution
be affected by a possible tuition boost
in the fall? To react to my own question.
the faculty feels that unless there is a
tuition boost the quality of the faculty
will go down.
Some take the view that the students'
education is subsidized because the Uni-
versity has not kept pace with the coun-
try in terms of its faculty salaries. I
rather doubt that the Legislature is going
to come through with much increased
appropriations, and so if there is not a
tuition boost, the prognosis of many grad-
uate people is rather bleak. The view that
the University has not kept pace has
caused us to lose some very good faculty
members in the past few years.
PROF. WEGMAN: But if the Legislature
contributed enough money, we would
not have to ask for a tuition boost. But
if one looks around the world, the idea
of a university charging any tuition at all
is abhorrent. In this situation there has
been very little development of private
universities. But in the United States
there are a number of high ranking pri-
vate universities. I've even heard of an
institution in Boston which has reached
the stage of being called the "Michigan of
the East." Now if this place can reach
this stage, and they charge more tuition
thsn we do, I don't think there's anything
wrong in our charging as much as they
Prof. Peek: I agree, but the Legislature
is simply not going to come through with
this much money. Now if there is a choice
of increasing tuition or letting the quality
of the University go way down, then I'm
for maintaining the quality of the Uni-
Prof. Meier: But the principle of free
higher education was really established

in the Unites
felt that then
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Prof. Peel
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Prof. Peek
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The Trimester Syste

Burgess Meredith on tour

Page four


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