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March 18, 1971 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-03-18

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Thursday, March 18, 1971 '

Black Liberation Week spon-1
sored by the Center for Afro-
American and African Studies
of the University commenced its
third day of activities Tuesday
night with an appearance by the
poet-lecturer Amiri Baraka (Le-
roi Jones) and highlighted by the
Nigerian Olatunji "Drums of
Passion" and his African Dance
Troupe at Hill Aud. In a program
designed to teach rather than en-
tertain, Amiri Baraka after a
belated start, used the occasion
to speak of the need for blacks to
cultivate a feeling of nationalism,
this . nationalism being defined
as blacks' determination to con-
trol all aspects of their communi-
ties and environment both social-
ly and politically. This control is
something upon which their well-
being depended. "The Black cul-
tures of, the world are a nation
without- a nervous system. Hence,
we are unaware that whatever
affects one part of our anatomy
detrimentally must inevitably a-
feet the whole." Black nationa!_i
ism would be the realization of
our relationship to that whole.
Blacks must learn to inter-re-
late and inter-react both locally
and nationally, for a realization
and understanding of one's cul-
ture provides IDENTITY, PUR-
identity, purpose, and direction,
blacks can begin to create black
alternatives to the historical
white control of black communi-
ties and black affairs. The task
is to organize the community into
a political and social conscious-

Identity and direction

Spirit House Movers: Moving
towards Black Liberation

FIGHT-9 :20
TWICE-1 0:00

ness, so that we may present a
united front to the world when we
demand economic and social jus-
tice. We must begin to create
alliances that will strengthen and
preserve our race. We must
make it clear that an attack upon
the Puerto Rican community is
an attack upon the black comn-
munity and vice versa. We must
initiate a cultural revolution not
of dancing but rather of dynamic
thought., This thought would for-
go rhetoric and idealogy for con-
crete community action.
Political power is of the es-
sence, and within that political
base we must control tour key
areas (1) elections; (2) politicians
(3) the space we inhabit, and(4
disruption. We must control the
elections to be able to elect indi-
viduals who will champion our,
cause In Washington. We nust
control the politicians to make
them relevant and responsive to
the black world community. We
must control our own environ-
ment, so that we may determine
our own futures. And, we must
control the ability to disrupt, i.e ,
the power to initiate it or no to
initiate it. These are the pre-
cepts of a political Pi ty capable
of waging war on behalf of our'
Three and a half centuries of
slavery has heightened the black
need for self-determination. Still
many blacks resist in their ignor-
ance the awakening of this cul-
tural revolution. Few resisted
Tuesday night, and I had a feel-
ing it was lige that all over the

I .6,

The symbolic model of Brother
Imamu Amiri Baraka's message
was provided by two theatrical
pieces performed by his- Spirit
House Movers. The two presenta-
tions, "Chant" and "Bloodrights"
were devised and directed by
Baraka. He used our frightening
condition of disunity as an Afri-
can people expressed in his pre-
ceeding message as the thematic
basis for the two works.
This is presentational theater.
The actors enter our world and
confront us directly with no at-
tempts to represent realistic
characters and situations but to
symbolically present them.
No individual characters and
their histories are developed or
explored in these new works. Ba-
raka attempts to make direct
statements through mime, ritual
and chant. The Spirit House Mov-
ers work as a group to collec-
tively portray various aspects of
black reality, breaking out only
at times to assume individual
roles that ale merely symbols of
what comprise this larger real-
"Chant" deals with the con-
thing other than comic; you can
only react to them as to Blondie
and Dagwood, whom they re-
semble so closely.
Ransom is most effective when
he uses the stereotypes outra-
geously. When the union boss
tells the politician "remember
who put you there," the aud-
ience laughs at the unexpected-
ness of hearing such an ex-
pected line; the appeal is that of
a revival like Front Page or No,
No, Nannette. Ransom also has
a gift for directing slapstick
with various props like ladders,
or falling doors or people.
Ransom also creates a new in-
termission by leaving Eugene
sitting motionless on the stage
(as he does during the whole
play) and playing appropriate
all-American music.
The cast is quite competent,
although I wondered why it was
necessary for all the working
class people to have Southern
accents. And that is symptomatic
of the problems with The Re-

frontation between Black man
and black woman, represented
by two opposing lines of players,
one male one female, that des-
perately ask each other "Where
is the Black nation?" Both
groups accuse each other of the
responsibility for this lack, frus-
tratedly lashing out at each
other. The lines are broken as
the women dance jeeringly
around their powerless men, ev-
eryone continuing the desperate
cry for a black nation. The lines
reform, the men individually ap-
proach and reject the women op-
posite them. As usual our people
find each other easier to fight
than the real enemy.
The theme is expanded in
"Bloodrights," in which the av-
erage black community's strug-
gle for survival and dignity is
represented by black couple cos-
tumed in conventional and con-
servative Western style. They are
confronted with representations
of different rhetorical positions
within the black community. In-
dividual- actors represent para-
military groups, cultural nation-
alist groups, and student mili-
tants, engulfing the couple, re-
citing their rhetorics, seeking to
persuade them to a more radical
stance. These same "revolution-
ary" elements offer no concrete
direction in the face of oppres-
sive forces, symbolized by wig-
ged soldiers in white face make-
Eventually all of the blacks
unite to build the nation symbol-
ized by a wall colored inthe red,
black and green of the black na-
tionalist flag. The inevitable re-

action of the "whites" is to at-
tempt to tear down the wall, but
because of their unity the blacks
are able to withstand the on-
slaught and kill their oppressors.
Although the Spirit House Mov-
ers evidence the energy and com-
mitment that is necessary for a
black theater in which ethics and
esthetics are inseparable, politics
and performance united, they
lack the discipline and precise
physical control needed for artic-
ulate statements.
The efforts of the Spirit House
brothers and sisters were defi-
nitely sincere and their energy
electrifying and exciting to
watch, but they need to develop
the skills and technique neces-
sary to effectively utilize their
strong sense of theater.

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Stereotypes hinder

Finding connections

The easiest-and most suspect
review-takes a decisive stand
and either damns or praises,
absolutely. But Dennis Rear-
don's- play- slips -elusively be-
:tween the polar extremes, falling
into -that unpleasantly cliched
area of -the "flawed gem."
.Siamese Connections is easier
to' tell as a. story than to an-
alyze critically. It is Tobacco
'Road .updated and without the
seatological overtones - some-
where in the South's farmlands
a modern Jester Lester fights a
losing battle to retain his slice
of earth and hold his family to-
gether. But unlike the relatively
uncomplicated and parochial
-lives'of -the Lesters, the Kroners
of ┬░Reardons play suffer from a
multiplicity of conflicts which
emanate not only from within
their confines, but from both
the outside -world via the war .
and the nether world via family
"ghosts." And while some of
their actions are as much of the
desperate survival animalism of
the -:Lesters, the motives and
methods of the Kroners are
fought with multi-leveled vibra-
The director, Arthur Storch,
calls it "a very gutsy elemental
play, about what goes on inside
people." And he adds that it
exists purely as a story on one
level, yet metaphorically univer-
sal on another. If true, then it
falls .into the category of all
good iays
The ator in his program
notes confesses lifficulty in ex-
plaining the 'play,. yet his ex-
planation turns'out a fairly ac-
curate picture. 'When he states
that "the equilibrium of these
farm people has been destroyed
by a death, and their response
to the subsequent imbalance is
-their story," he describes the
aims of a potentially exciting
story. It would be nice to say
the author and director success-
fully realized their ambitions,
but it isn't that plain a truth.
First, on the positive side: the
play is honest. It is honestly
written, honestly staged and
acted out, and there is an open-
faced sincerity about the whole
production that exudes from all
by ransom
The Placeto Meet
Rebecca Chudacoff-Violin
Catherine McKelvey-ute
Enid Sutherland-Cello
Penelope Crawford
Robert McKelvey-Baritone
performinn works by
1 _q RIrh r R.F Rrh

its pores. That in itself is
uniquely gratifying. The overall
effect- is that these people want
to say something about their
times, their generation, and at
the same time about all times
and all generations. And to the
extent that they succeed, the
play is good.
Further, there is real capabil-
ity shown by Reardon in the
creation of some characters,
particularly the men, almost
from the first few lines spoken
about or by them. When that
happens, they come alive and
stay a 1 i e because he under-
stands them and can project
them, both in dialog and action.
And that is good.
The title, Siamese Connec-
tions, evokes reverberations that
permit what Fromm considers a
vital aspect of art: the colorful
fluctuations brought to mind by
what is only hinted at in the
original. The connections could
be those between the two broth-
ers in spite (or because of) their
sibling rivalry, or between other
members of the family circle. It
could be the connections be-
tween the living and the dead,
good and evil, past and present,
sky and earth-all, any, or none
of these. As the viewer unearths
what the author his implanted
in the soil of his title, he is en-
riched by the new interpreta-
tions. And that is also good.
Somewhere inside the great
shell of its production, then,
there is a great play that
emerges in the most unexpected
moments, that shines through
darkly, that shouts in muted
whispers. And when the play
fails to live up to expectations,
the shouts and the glowing come
in flickers; the expectations of
one moment become the disap-
pointments of the next.

Ransom Jeffrey's play T h e
Refusal is sometimes amusing
and sometimes confusing, but on
the whole' it is neither confus-
ing nor amusing enough.
Jeffrey's characters are stereo-
type Americana from our myths
- myths that are constantly re-
newing themselves. Most come
from the thirties and forties -
the suspicious, greasy union boss
who brags of "a brother in Chi-
cago;" the 'dumb shopgirl in
pompadour and ankle socks; the
scared, buyable political hack;
the entrepreneur, overweight in
blue and pink checked wide la-
pel suit.
A newer chapter of the myth
surfaces in the dumb construe-
tion workers, suspicious of com-
mies, proud of haying been in
the marines, gullible to the ma-
chinations of the bosses a n d
builders - we all saw "Joe."
These workers are not new fig-
ures - they existed in the
forties - but renewed, cast in
yet another light for the sev-
enties. So too is the effete in-
tellectual who marvels that real
'live workers have "tempera-
The newest part of the myth
is Eugene, the existential youth,
who decided life is useless and
meaningless and refuses to
work, move, eat or talk. W h y

eat, he says, you'll only get
hungry again.
These elements are combined
as Ransom dumps Eugene into
the midst of the happy Ameri-
can construction scene. Unfor-
tunately, there is no real mix
between the ideas Eugene raises
and the comedy inherent in
Ransom's reliance on stereo-
If the stereotypes are to pro-
vide humor, the lines they are
given must be really funny, not
moderately amusing as they are
in The Refusal. And if the play
is to investigate Eugene's re-
fusal and their reactions, it must
reach a deeper level than is at-
tained. The play never combines
the tragedy of Eugene with the
comedy of the others.
What happens is that the con-
struction workers and t h e i r
bosses build a brick bar around
Eugene, and give him a night to
get out. In the morning, the men
and blindfolded and put a mar-
ble slab over the bar. They all
know that Eugene has not mov-
ed, but they eliminate the prob-
lem by choosing the alternative
of ignorance.
This should have some ,moral
significance, create some hu-
man reaction, but it does not
because the characters are no
more than stick figures. It is
hard to regard them as any-

March .18
Angell HalI-Aud. A 7:00-9:30

rc AkllIalST S
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"Ju les and IJim"1
Directed by Francois Truffaut
"Jules and Jim is about the impossibility of freedom,
as it is about the many losses of innocence."
THREE SHOWS: 7,9,11 Aud. A, Angell Hall
Friday and Saturday March 19, 20


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