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May 20, 1976 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-05-20

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Arts & Entertainment THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Ai~ (E i~ I flI~Il Thursday, May 20, 1976 Page Seven

Jeffrey elbst
Hedda' makes better
Sas criticism

M101110I J lii L//EC31 1 I I I I l I C

I LOVE the theater and the
cinema both. However, the two
don't easily meld together into
a unified whole, especially if the
artists are trying to keep both
media whole themselves. Henrik
Ibsen, one of the three or four
best dramatists ever, and Glen-
da Jackson, one of the most
powerful of current actresses,
tried to do just that in the new
film, Hedda.
Using the assets of both drama
and film, Trevor Noon, the di-
rector, was forced to abandon
m a n y essential elements of
both. Yet Jackson in the title
role and Timothy West as Judge
Brack rise above the level of
the rest of this faithful but mis-
gouided production. P 1 e a s u r e
taken in their performances may
be derived, in large part, from
a comparison to the rest of the
acting, all of which is either bad
or wrong.
The relationship between Hed-
da and B r a c k (the intimate
friend who proposes an intimate'
triangle with the young newly-
weds) works well through the
first half. He is as young as her
husband George Tesman, articu-
late, friendly, witty, and dan-
gerous dtoyBedda's new-found
domestic tranquility. But Hed-
da's fear of ensuing scandal is
not dealt with at all.
Tesman comes from his initial
innocence and genuine enthu-
siasm for the writer Lovborg's
work, which he is then forced
to turn into competition. Peter
Eyre mixed these interpreta-
tions into one, emerging gen-
erally confused. Too bad. Al-
though he can be a sympathetic
character, this Tesman is not
so. He can't even stand to hear
Have a flair for
artistic writiaq?
If you are interest-
ed to reviewing
poetry, andvmusie
or writing feature
stores about the
drama, tdance, fitm
arts: Contact Arts
' Editor, c/o The
Michigan Daily.

his ex-friend Lovborg's name,
and the rest of his actions seem
false because of his sad lacking.
As Lovborg, Patrick Stewart
was constantly ferocious, and
wore a slight sneer even tnrough
his most emotional scenes. Mrs.
Elvsted (Jenny Linden), was
more concerned with getting her
lines in on cue that injecting
any variety of tempo or mean-
ing. The acting throughout, in-
cluding that of Jackson and
West, seemed imposed upon the
lines, rather than coming natur-
ally from the words themselves.
It is very difficult, but pos-
sible, to bring a successful stage
play to the screen intact. Marat
Sade, in which Jackson made
one of her first appearances, is
a fine example of just how pos-
sible it is.
TREVOR NUNN attempts to
point attention while heighten-
ing tension by zooming in on
one character while another is
speaking, and by refocusing to
bring another into view. How

much more satisfying were the
shots that left the refocusing
up to the audience! We could
actually feel the strain of the
situations and the interactions.
These shots were too few and
too far between to capitalize on
this strength of Ibsen's stage-
The final scenes are disap-
pointing, with Hedda's obsession
of vine leaves and scandal fall-
ing flat, Brack made into a
flat character who just happens
to have the last lines, and the
weight of this tragic situation
tacked on almost as an after-
thought. All are signs of a mis-
guided director.
It is a good sign that the
cinema is taking the strength of
the theater and attempting to
apply it to its own medium.
However, in Hedda we find the
drama misused. As a substitute
for the stage expeiience it falls
desperately short, and as a film,
judged by film standards alone.
it doesn't hold up among the
current crop.

There is some sentiment which decries strictness in con-
structive criticism of the arts, especially on the college
level. Now it may be told:
If a production of any kind sets itself up as professional,
it must be judged on that basis.
My, that was easy. Now to the particulars. A production
that sets itself up as one which features young-artists-in-
training, who will soon be out on the streets looking for
employment in a profession (such as music, dance, or thea-
ter) which allows so many of its talented to lie fallow, must
be judged on professional standards.
One of the most common (and spurious) arguments is
"but we put in so much time!" or "but the kids (kids!
mind you) tried so hard!" This goes with remarks such as,
of a repertory company, "but it was their first time to-
I'm not even going to waste my time rebutting such drivel.
There is such a thing as spectacular failure, which is failure
all the same. Effort doesn't necessarily produce quality.
What about the reviewer? Well, what about him? He is
given the right to call the shots as he sees them, as long as
his shots are within the accepted boundaries of what it is
right to criticize. In other words, I can't criticize an ac-
tress for being ugly; I can criticize a director for casting a
homely woman into the part of the beauteous maiden.
Similarly, if an offensive performance is called "not quite
right" by a critic, the actor giving such performance won't
-can't-realize that his performance was totally wrong. If,
on the other hand, he is told in no uncertain terms, that his
attempts at portrayal was sufficiently ridiculous as to be
horrifying, he may either quit the profession altogether, or
else change. And yes, it is the critic's business to tell an
actor how to, and when to, change.
For the critic isn't necessarily the spokesman of the peo-
ple to the performers, but he is (hopefully) informed, com-
petent, and sufficiently articulate as to make clear how one
particular show struck one particular person. And, whatever
his sensibilities, whatever he says, there will be someone
to share his opinions.
A critic should be an educator of sorts-and to be such,
must also be an entertainer. There is nothing wrong with
tongue-in-cheekery, when used to make a point, and in fact,
a dry style of writing will turn people off. A lot of good a
reviewer can do when nobody reads what he writes. A
colorful writer always has three times the audience of an
equally-educated bore.
One last word. A critic may also choose to write about
one or two aspects of a show to the virtual exclusion of
others. Perhaps this is not the most just but it is natural.
How many people go home after a play, say and discuss
the lighting, the props, the Concept, the direction, the per-
formance, etc. equally? People discuss what strikes them
most strongly, and so does a critic, in print.
In this column, I shall be making general observations
about trends thoughts, and such that are generally arts-
related. Or they may not even be. But I thought I should
mention just where I stand.

Chlris w Wiamson
Chris Williamson, feminist singer-songwriter, will be perform-
ing at the Union Ballroom on May 24, 8:30 p.m. Williamson
is associated with Olympic Records and is being sponsored by
the U-M-IWY Commission for Women in their Women's Pro-
grams series.

'Showcase': Unrealized potential

FOR AT least a little while,
the University has a TV sta-
tion. The Ann Arbor Cable Cast-
ing Commission has asked the
University to produce f o u r
three-hour programs during the
summer, and the result is U-M
Showcase, a loosely - structured
program consisting of snips of
previously-produced tapes inter-
spersed with live transmissions
from the station studio on the
mezzanine of the Tower Plaza
apartment building.
At the insistence of publicity
director Gary Schonfeld, we vis-
ited the studio during the trans-
mission of last Tuesday's broad-
Schonfeld itroduced us to the
staff of the program: smooth,
gray-haired Hazen Schumacher,
the University's d i r e c t o r of
broadcasting; t h e enthusiastic

producer Richard Brase; Tracy
Neftzisger, director; and the
fetching Della DiPietro, news
Some of the students are in-
volved in this for University
credit and/or the opportunity to
gain experience by working on
a live television production.
HOWEVER, Jay Barr, a mem-
ber of the Cable Casting Com-
mission says the purpose of the
show is "to involve the com-
munity more closely with the
Herein lies the ambiguity as to
the show's purpose and defini-
tion. Is this an ephemeral pro-
ject by broadcasting students or
a University production which
serves the need which the Cable
Casting Commission sees for lo-
cal programming?
Supposedly, the show is a test-
ing ground for a possibly year-
long program which may begin

next fall. But who d e c i de s
whether or not this budding ser-
ies begets a successor?
BARR SAYS that they'll hear
feedback through "pnone calls,
letters, word of mouth," and
"evaluation on the part of the
Speech Department." Basically
then, all the feedback will be
subjective, t h a t is, filtered
through the sensibilities of the
people involved with the show.
If the University needs opinions
as to the "success" of the show,
these opinions will, apparently,
come from those who have an
interest in seeing the show well-
We observed the broadcasting
of a segment entitled Ann Arbor
Happenings. Along with a pres-
entation of the week's events
delivered by producer Richard
Brase, went a running and
somewhat complimentary com-
mentary on the past week's

events. Television is a medium
which, more than any other,
lends credibility to the words of
its performers and broadcasters.
The students of the U-M Show-
case are a less than representa-
tive sample of the University
community, and thus, so are
their opinions. Yet a small
group of people create an image
which the University presents
to the community, with the 'U'
stamp of implicit approval.
ANOTHER question which in-
tervenes is just how committed
the University is to this experi-
ment. Since the Television Cen-
ter put up only $400, a short-
lived trial period is mandated
as well as other constraints.
So, what will this project ac-
tually accomplish? Since the
remuneration for this project is
m i n i m a 1, fame non-existent
(Schumacher estimated the au-

dience at anywhere between 100
and 5000), perhaps altruism,
love of community, or perhaps
more, the magic of seeing some-
thing you produced on the air
presents a purpose.
We found the show uninterest-
ing, though it clearly had dy-
namic possibilities. The format
-taped and live segments-
could be fascinating. Yet one
fault remains. In four weeks it
will be impossible for the show
to put together a defining con-
cept. Inherent in this is the
problem of reaching a fair and
intelligent decision on the future
of this program based on -so
An interesting alternative to
commercial TV is, indeed, need-
ed in this area. Yet we think
that a more thoughtful, whole-
hearted effort must be made if
an enduring program is to be

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