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September 06, 1979 - Image 82

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-09-06

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Page D6-Thursday, September 6, 1979-The Michigan Daily

City sets scene for local actors

By JOSHUA PECK
Would-be Oliviers and Dunaways
rejoice! Though for most students ac-
ting and other extra-curricular ac-
tivities are not the University's
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& Cocktails
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Try Daily
Classifieds

primary attraction, Ann Arbor's many
stage opportunities may be just the
thing to calm nerves jangled by
studying macrocellular anti-nuclear
physical chemistry, or some other
equally esoteric field.
The city's various theatre groups and
the University's newly independent
Department of Theatre have a 'broad
range of approaches to the thespian art.
In the department, young actors are
likely to encounter a serious, at times
even reverent view of the art's impor-
tance, in tune perhaps with this bit from
Hamlet's speech to the players:
"... The purpose of playing ... is to
hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature,
to show virtue her own feature, scorn
her own image, and the very age and
body of the time his form and
pressure."
Those who find these words a bit
highfallutin for their tastes might
prefer the sentiments of Oscar-winner
Christopher Walken, who, three months
before his Academy Award triumph,
was on campus playing Richard II, and
had these words about directorial con-
cept: "Concept is just one of those wor-
ds that's not part of my vocabulary. If
something works, I do it." On dialect:
"When I rehearse, I lapse into a big

phony way of speaking. That's the way
I'm gonna do Richard." Probably not
popular words around Uta Hagen's
studio in New York.
At any rate, any dramatically orien-
ted idiosyncrasy can be satisfied by one
or another of the city's baker's dozen of
theatre groups and troupes.
The Theatre Department generates
three levels of dramatic presentations
during the regular school year. While
no productions have any specific
restrictions on non-theatre students (or
even non-students) joining their casts,
the competition gets sequentially less
fierce for parts in each series of shows
as listed below.
The four Guest Artist Series shows
are generally considered to be the most
desirable of all for student actors. This
reputation stems from the presence in
each production of one professional.
Most often, the pro is an actor, but some
shows have featured professional direc-
tors and designers.
One of the more prominent actors who
has participated in Guest Artist
productions is Nicholas Pennell, well-
known at the Stratford (Ontario)
Festival for his lead-performances in
Hamlet, The Importance of Being Ear-
nest, and Richard II. Pennell, who has
said in interviews that he fears he's get-
ting too old to act, has been using
University actors as guinea pigs to hone
his directing skills. Pennell has not
directed shows either of the last two
years, but he has conducted workshops
on various acting skills in collaboration

with one or two of, his Stratford
colleagues.
Other Guest actors of note include
Broadway veteran Mel Winkler, who
starred in April's The River Niger, and
of course, Walken, whose portrayal of
Richard nearly coincided with the
release of The Deer Hunter.
A step down the Theatre Department
ladder is the Showcase series, which
consists of four plays, usually modern
dramas, staged in the rightfully un-
popular Trueblood Theatre. Showcase
productions are generally directed by
graduate students a couple of years
away from their doctorates. As a rule,
they select shows with casts numbering
well under 10, as compared to the Guest
Artist casts of 20, 30, or more.
The final University option is the
Studio Theatre shows, produced on a
shoestring budget, directed by low-
level grads or high-level un-
dergraduates, and staged in the 3/4
round in the Arena Theatre, (directly
below the Trueblood in the Frieze
Building). The Studio shows can be
seen for free on selected Wednesdays
and Thursdays beginning at 4:10. They
are always either one-act plays or ex-
cerpts from longer ones. Their casts
generally number five or fewer, but
since actors who can make the casts of
Showcase or Guest Artist shows are
generally involved in those, the com-
petition for roles (at last) is quite
relaxed.
Freshpersons will find it nigh on im-
possible to get meaty roles in anything

but Studio shows, which is one good
reason to consider trying out for them.
According to Jim Martin, a graduate
student and director of this fall's first
Guest Artist show, directors in the
theatre department often get casting
ideas while watching novice actors at
work in Studios.
Some general tips and information
about auditions for theatre department
productions (some of which apply
equally well to extra-departmental
shows):
" The Daily and University kiosks
are only occasionally used to announce
casting calls. A far more reliable sour-
ce is the bulletin board in the Frieze
Building's basement, just north of the
stairwell.
* It never hurts to audition for
anything. Even if the chance that you'll
be cast is negligible, at least another
director will know your face. It's also
not a bad idea to audition for roles even
if you know you can't afford to take a
part. It is a rare director who develops
a grudge against an actor for turning
down an offered role. Any that will
generally makes it known.
* Just because so many playwrights
are male, there are far more male par-
ts availble oveall than female ones.
Hang in there, women.
* Most auditions operate in two
phases: a general, open call, and a
second set for callbacks. If you are
called back for a second audition, your
probability of being cast is 50-75 per
cent. If you -are not called back,-
audition for something else.
" Most directors will discuss your
strengths and.weaknesses with you af-
ter an unsuccessful audition. Take ad-
vantage of their wisdom.
* It is virtually imperative to

familiarize yourself with a play for
which you are auditioning (and par-
ticularly with the role which strikes
your fancy). Memorization can't
possibly hurt, but is never necessary.
Lest we forget the people who design
and manage props, lighting, sets, and
costumes, it should be pointed out that
while the University's reputation for
level of- performance is somewhere
between fair and middlin', its technical
theatre is quite widely known to be ex-
cellent. Teckie types take note: there is
a great deal to learn and practice in
Ann Arbor in your chosen, if thankless,
avocation.
ON THE SECOND floor of the Union
are the offices of the University Ac-
tivities Center, which house Musket and
the Soph Show. It is here local thespians
should turn if the works of Bernstein
strike their fancy more than those of.
Brecht (save the German's,
collaborations with Weill).
Musket has heretofore staged two
full-scale musicals a year; the first in
the cozy Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre,
the second in imposing Power. This
year, Musket will rearrange things a
bit, as it will produce a new musical
authored by three University students,
to be staged at Power this fall. Musket
also plans a "straight" (non-musical)
show before winter.
Soph Show is the perfect vehicle for
18-year-old Astaires, as the musicale,
produced each November by this bunch,
is restricted to frosh and their slightly
more seasoned siblings. While ther
musical and general direction of Soph
Show is often somewhat inexpert, cast
members always seem to be having a,
marvelous time on stage. Productions.
of recent years have been How To Such
See CITY, Page 7

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