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March 11, 1983 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-03-11
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0 0



Mother lode.
Performance Network
408 W. Washington
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, March
10-12, and March 17-19.
By Jeffrey W. Manning
C HRISTMAS EVE, 1913. Calumet,
Michigan. In the town's small
meeting hall gathers a crowd of
striking miners and their families.
Suddenly, an anonymous voice cries
"Fire!" In the subsequent panic and
surge toward the door, 74 people -
mostly children - are killed. And the
alarm was false.
June, 1980. Detroit, Michigan. A play
entitled The Mother Lode premieres at
the Attic Theatre. Enter mixed reviews
from local newspapers: The Mother
Lode often reaches the nightmarish
phatasmagoria it's after," "It's my
kind of failure," and The Mother Lode
should be applauded." The show which
recounts the 1913 Italian Hall tragedy
plays forty nights and closes as a semi-
successful production.
This weekend at the Performance
Network, The Mother Lode returns to
the stage after structural revisions. The
one fault of the original production was
its attempt to combine a mur-
der/mystery with elements of classical
Greek drama, producing a confused
melange of eerie scenes. The revision of
the script still contains the combination
of classical Greek and mystery,
although the Achaean influence is far
more subtle.
Director James Moran, who also
directed the 1980 production, said, "The
Lunch hour
Ann Arbor Civic Theater
338 S. Main
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, March
10-12, and March 17-19

By Rob Weisberg
Richard plays guitar, guitar syn-
thesizer, and piano for a band. Richard
is 34 and, like his fellow bandmembers,
waited a long time before plunging into
the music scene. Richard has faith that
the time is right for the Inserts.
The Inserts are a four-piece electric
band that plays purely improvisational
music - no mean feat in this town
where conservatism seems to rule the
music scene. Guitars (and synthesized
sounds made by guitars) dominate the
Inserts sound, thanks to the exuberant
counterpoint provided by Isgrigg and
fellow guitar and guitar-synth player
Tom Cranor. Drummer Sam Simon
provides a fairly conservative beat-
usually - and bassist Mark Murrell
adds bottom. The result is a complex,
noisy spaciness reminiscent of fusion-
phase Miles Davis, who Isgrigg cites as
a major influence, although to this
listener the band has indeed found its
own sound.
As Isgrigg says, "Sometimes it's
chaotic, sometimes it appears to be
evolving a harmonic or melodic rhyth-
mic structure." Which often soon
dissolves. At time they sound inspired,
at times overindulgent, but at least the
Inserts represent a legitimate attempt
to do something different.
The Inserts are a relatively new
phenomenon, but most members have
been around a long time learning to
play and, except for prospective art
student Murrell - the band's youngest
member at 24 - making enough money
in the real world to finance (dare one
say) the pursuit of a dream.

"I never wanted to put myself in a
position of having to compromise the
kind of art I was doing," says Isgrigg,
well aware that giving the people what
they want is usually the only way to
make enough money to live. And
everybody knows what the people want.
"Strange as it is to say," says Isgrigg,
"I never wanted to put myself in the
position of having.to live off what I was
"It took time to get into a position to
have time to do this," continues
Isgrigg. It also took the money that
comes with time. The band uses oodles
of expensive electronic equipment - it
takes them two hours to set up for a live
show and six for taping - and they've
put together a 16-track recording studio
in which they are undertaking the am-
bitious project of home-recording a
record (it can be done, as proven by the
critically well-received album recorded
by Steve Tibbetts last year).
For a while after emerging last year
the Inserts were effectively a studio
band. They would get together in their
studio every weekend and play, recor-
ding whatever came out. That's essen-
tially the approach they are using for
their record - getting lots of music
down on tape (they have about four
hours' worth now) and picking out their
favorites to remix, without overdubs,
off the multitrack.
"We're seeking a feeling of spon-
taneity," says Isgrigg of the album,
which the band will distribute to local
stores as well as non-commercial radio
stations and record companies they
hope might bite. "Our live performan-
ces are representative (of the tapes'
sound)," he adds, although he says that
on the album-bound tapes there is a
higher proportion of low-key material.
"One thing I like is that a lot of tunes
segue between rhythmic and more am-
bient jazz," says Isgrigg.
The live performances have been
rare so far, partly due to the band's
lack of enthusiasm for playing in bars,
but the two shows they have done have
proven the Inserts a viable live group.

They got their first shot almost by ac-
cident when one of their demo tapes
made its way to Destroy All Monsters
guitarist Ron Asheton, who consequen-
tly asked the Inserts to open their
February 7 Second Chance gig. Despite
not getting to do a sound check, the
band felt they performed well.
"It was a very encouraging experien-
ce," says Isgrigg. "There was some
very positive feedback," even among
the "punk" elements of the audience.
With the aid of one satisfied customer
who's also a local disc jockey, and a lit-
tle coaxing on the part of the band, the
University's Eclipse Jazz Society
agreed to give the Inserts the ex-
tremely rare opportunity to open one of
their shows, last Saturday's perfor-
mance by Jamaaladeen Tacuma at the
The recent live forays have also given
the band more faith that people will
listen to their music. "It's kind of risky
stuff," says Isgrigg. "People are so
conditioned - we almost feel as if by
playing original improvised material
we're getting away with something.
There's no precedent around Ann Arbor
of people doing that specific thing that I
know of." At least not lately. Then
again, he adds, "I don't think I could
honestly legitimately play anything
At first, though, they almost did. "We
originally thought we'd do
arrangements to get acceptance,"
recalls Isgrigg. "It didn't work - we
sounded like someone trying to do
someone else's tunes.
"The kind of music we're trying to
play requires that we not be too
derivative. That's represented in pop
music and popular jazz. We wanted a
vehicle to be different and creative."
How do they impose their creativity
on the music? For one thing, says
Isgrigg, they go into almost every piece
with no idea of what's going to come
out. "We don't talk about it at all. We
try to create an atmosphere as players
that allows us not to be just like a bunch
playing jazz lines over a freed struc-

Mother Lode: Blake Ratcliffe makes a point

new script works better. There is a
strong resolution at the end which was
lacking in Detroit."
The story concerns two reporters,
Denslo and Garrett, who venture to
Calumet in 1939 while working on a
feature story for their newspaper. As
the duo investigate the circumstances
surrounding the 1913 tragedy, they
become involved with the incident as
passionately as any of the original par-
ticipants. In this aspect, the play is
autobiographical. The playwright, John
Beem, traveled to Calumet during his
studies at Wayne State to work on a
paper concerning the "Italian Hall"
happening. He became enveloped in the
story just as did his two reporters.
The two lead actors promise to
deliver fine performances. In the part
of Denslo is O.J. Anderson, who co-

founded the Black Sheep Theatre in
Manchester in 1979. Lately, he has been
traveling with his own mime troupe,
The Easy St. Touring Co. Blake Ra t-
cliffe plays opposite Anderson as Ned
Garret. Ratcliffe is one of the five
founders of the Performance Network.
In character, they share a sort of
father-and-son relationship which
provides comic dialogue.
"I want to make that clear," Moran
told me, "The play is serious, but it is
also a funny play."
Interestingly, when the show ran in
Detroit, it had some direct effects on
the town of Calumet. The site of the
disaster, Italian Hall, was scheduled
for destruction in May of 1980. The play
instilled a consciousness in the people
of Detroit and Italian Hall was spared
due to public reaction to The Mother

By Coleen Egan
Charles Sutherland's meal ticket.
Sutherland is the committee chairman
of Main Street Productions, which "is
attempting to bring something to the
restaurant strip, something to do after
Main Street Productions, an
operation part of the non-profit Ann Ar-
bor Civic Theatre (AACT) that
produces shows in between AACT's
major productions, endeavors to
provide low-cost, diverse entertain-
ment on Main Street. Unlike most
theatre companies, the organization
produces sometimes strange,
sometimes academic, and often times
unpopular shows.
"We've had numerous sellouts and
once we had an audience of 18,"

Sutherland recalls. "We are able to ex-
periment more because a small crowd
is not disastrous to us." He adds that a
small audience is not the best thing to
have but the effects are not as great as
they would be on other theater
Sutherland, a Detroit elementary
school teacher, finds it exciting
working on Main Street Productions.
"The productions are small enough not
to be complicated," he says. His en-
thusiasm surfaces when he talks about
the storyline and five-member cast of
the upcoming Main Street Productions
show, Lunch Hour, by Jean Kerr and of
which Sutherland is director.
"It's an interesting story, almost a
vehicle, that relies on a kooky central
character," says Sutherland, who
usually works as a producer and will
direct for the first time in two years.
"It's strange in a sense that for a
comedy there is not a lot of comedy in
Lunch Hour opened on Broadway in
1980 with Gilda Radner, a former AACT
actor, in the lead role. The play
thoughtfully and humorously explores
two static marriages after an insecure
wife tells a psychiatrist that his wife is
having an affair with her husband.
"I was struck by the parallels bet-
ween Lunch Hour and Shakespeare's
Midsummer Night's Dream,"

Sutherland says. "There are two sets of
people in both and like Puck in Mid-
summer, the neighbor, Leo, tries to put
things back together." Sutherland also
sees the unconfident Carrie as similar
to the character of Helena and Nora,
the psychiatrist's wife, as similar to
Hermia in Shakespeare's play.
The success of this production of
Lunch Hour rests in the interpretation
of the characters and their relation-
ships. "The play will rise and fall ac-
cording to the audience reaction to the
characters," says the director. "We
have actors who are very skilled, and
know what they are about, to play the
parts." The actors definitely need to be
competent given only a little over four
weeks of rehearsal because Lunch Hour
was a last minute substitution due to
problems with the originally scheduled
Laurie Atwood, a University
graduate like Sutherland, plays the
part of Carrie. Formerly involved in
Musket productions, Attwood has the
experience behind her to play the part
of a woman not happy with her
marriage nor used to herself as a result
of losing a great deal of weight. Rich
Roselle plays the psychiatrist Oliver,
who grows into a warm and concerned
person through the affection that
develops between Carrie and him. Ac-
cording to Sutherland, Roselle became

Lode and articles in The Detroit News
inspired by the show. Since, the hall has
become an historical landmark.
The Mother Lode also received a
grant from the Michigan Council of the
Arts to be re-worked for television.
Recently the show has been rewritten in
screenplay form, but no network has
yet offerred to produce it.
The play should attract a large
audience; on one level, it is a political
play, concerning union and corporate
relations, while on another, it tells osme
of the history of Michigan. And the play
itself is unique, blending the classical
Greek techniques with a modern
mystery drama. It you've never seen a
show at the Performance Network
before, that's all the more reason to at-
disenchanted with theater after
graduating from the university with a
theatre degree. After eight years away
he is again excited about theatre and
shows it in his versatile enthusiastic
performances in AACT productions.
Nora, the confident, businesslike
wife, is played by Nada Radakovitch, a
singer. "I love getting singers into non-
singing roles," says Sutherland.
"Where (do) they learn to act. . .?
She's very talented!" Larry Gur-
towsky, a veteran of AACT shows per-
forms the role of Peter Carrie's rich
husband with whom Nora has an affair.
Mikell Pinkney, director of last fall's
University Players Showcase produc-
tion, The Amen Corner last term, plays
the unemployed New York actor and
neighbor, Leo, who want things to be
right again.
Through the intermingled relation-
ships the characters learn to see them-
selves much more clearly. And as a
result they come to conclusions at the
end of the play about their marriages.
Sutherland admits Main Street
Productions is doing the pop, light-
hearted comedy to bring people in. "I
think Civic Theatre belongs on Main
Street," he says. With productions like
Lunch Hour, they will not remain the
well-kept secret they have been in the
past. Says Sutherland, "We're going to
sock it to 'em with this one." W

ture. The con
develops. We li
for feeling and
we're trying to
side us and get
can. It doesn'1
change; somet
of just getting c
Despite the
says the band
to hold togethe
own things he I
fluences and
other people;
with the other
It 's like we're
with each othe
sounds like an
The Insert
arguments as
biggest point is
to leave other
nothing wroi
listening, but ti
lot of stupid thi
normal conver
Isgrigg tal
feelings to the
necessarily th
have at the i
though, how o
similar," he sa
It's not surpr
Inserts frown o
that most pop
the listener
imagination. "
grinds things u
says Isgrigg.
Twinkies. It's
Ironically, h
casionally rely
pop medium -
Isgrigg says t-
provises "soun
sometimes uses
the screen as
spiration, be it
a cartoon. And
television audi
manipulated ir
the group in a
crete" applic
sounds quite bi
use features a
Ronald Reaga
distract the aud
Isgrigg also
visual media in
ces. An idea to
Chance show fe]
to lack of time
terested in do
"We'd love to s
Isgrigg. Althou
thusiastic inter
film and video pi
so far the band I
The Inserts
Isgrigg even s
willing to do m
structure (God i
are their idea
teresting enoug
music"? Or are
island of pret
magnified in ir
nobody else is a
and hopefully s
mances on the
be able to decid
can only have fa

Inserts: Different drummer

4 Weeksnd/Mw-acW1 l-;x1983 _-_ _ .._'w.....-


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