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March 16, 1983 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-03-16

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The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, March 16, 1983-Page 7


By Julie Bernstein
A FTER THE recent death of Tennes-
see Williams, literary scholars
labeled him The Great American
Playwright. Consequently, many argue
this acclaim since his later works did
not receive the artistic praise that his
earlier classics did. Gregary Lehane,
director of the Michigan Ensemble
Theater's season-topping production of
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, believes that
Williams' talent perpetuated a lifetime
and that while the critics waited to see
better times for Williams, Tennessee
always sought to represent the instin-
ctive vitality found in the human ex-
perience, the essential objective of Cat
on a Hot Tin Roof.
A little background: The plot
revolves around a southern family
gathered together to celebrate the 65th
and presumably last birthday of "Big
Daddy" - who has terminal cancer but
doesn't know it. The tragic saga
documenting the family's attempts to
conceal the truth could in itself provide
the story's focus, but Williams doesn't
stop there. It seems that Big Daddy
owns an estate which upon his death
will be passed down to one of his two
sons - either Gooper, a successful
professional with an established
family ; or Brick, a withdrawn, un-
productive alcoholic. Williams explores
that conflict while developing still more
subplots - the trauma Brick's strong-
willed, passionate and sensuous wife
Maggie undergoes in trying to cope
with her husband's insulting refusal to
sleep with her; and the continuous
curiosity surrounding Brick's relation-
ship with Skipper, a "good friend" who
apparently, in response to Brick's
rejection, commits suicide.
Thus the problem for the director:
Each conflict could provoke equal
amounts of tension and each con-
ceivably is worthy of the primary focus.
Lehane is by no means oblivious to the
varying possibilities of interpretation,
but while injecting his own idea he
remains faithful to Williams' intentions
by not emphasizing the consequences of
(or solutions to) one person's physical
or psychological problems. He instead
depicts the "cloudy, evanescent, fier-
cely-charged interplay of live human

beings in the thundercloud of a common
crisis" which he feels is dictated by
Williams wrote three endings for the
play. Lehane has chosen to use the ver-
sion performed at the Shakespeare
Festival in 1974, a compilation of the
playwright's first two drafts. Lehane
praises this version's absence of
resolution, claiming that it reflects the
modern perception of life's meaning -
that one always seeks answers, won-
dering what human existence is all
about. "The answer to that question,"
says Lehane, "is more vague and per-
sonal now than it was for centuries."
Lehane says that most of his direc-
ting concepts were inspired by images
that Williams suggested in the script.
Williams' primary, metaphor regards
the play as a snare which, in the words
of the director, "makes the environ-
ment of the play dangerous." Lehane
says that he is trying to look for
moments that bring what he calls a
''coiled spring'' quality to the scenes,
emphasizing the constant threat that
the dangerous environment creates.
M.E.T. has assembled a highly ex-
perienced cast for this entangled
menage of passion and pain. Among the
notables are Michael Ryan, who brings
experience in several Broadway plays
as well as in the soap opera Another
World to the role of Big Daddy; Victoria
Boothby (Big Mama), who was
featured in Neil Simon's film The
Goodbye Girl and performed on tour
with the national company of Da; Steve
Prudenz (Gooper), who has been
equally successful in television and
regional theatre; and NYU graduate
Fredrikke Meister, who will play
Maggie the Cat. Lehane recalls that
when casting in New York he saw many
beautiful women but was enchanted by
Meister's natural sense of comedy in
the role, which is particularly impor-
tant because the director has professed
a desire to capture the poetic humor
which he feels is inherent in the play
and is frequently understated.
Michigan blood will be represented in
the cast by University Theatre

professor Eric Fredricksen, who will be
playing Brick, as well as University
M.F.A. acting students M.J. Czernik
and Tim Grimm. Fredricksen says he
is working against the tendency of his
character's inactivity to seem empty
and negative, as evidenced by his at-
tempts to avoid difficult situations.
Is Cat on a Hot Tin Roof a classic?
The only way to judge is to take a look.
Don't miss performances on March 18-
20, 24-26, and a matinee on March 27,
where Big Daddy's family is waiting
with candles and cake, frustration and
guilt, and a great deal of love. Ten-
nessee Williams lives on at the
Michigan Ensemble Theater and
hopefully, Gregory Lehane and com-
pany will prove faithful to his treasured
5Avc ot Lb"ry791.9700
THURS -6:45, 8;30, 10:15
WED. - 1:20, 3:05, 4:50, 10:15
THURS..-6:45, 9:30
WED. - 1:00, 3:50, 6:45, 9:30

Storytelling soul sisters Barbara Freeman and Connie Regan bring new meaning to a lost art.
Tall tales at the Ark

By Deborah Robinson
i T WAS a dark, dark, night...,"
I the lights dim. The Folktellers
are telling a story, with the last line, the
audience jumps.
Barbara Freeman and Connie Regan,
who performed at The Ark on Sunday
night proved themselves to be talented
artists. Barbara is a master of humor;
she tells thrillers and funny stories, ac-
*companied by wild gestures and contor-
ted faces. Connie is quieter, tending to
prelate more reflective, sad and macabe
tales. Between them, they hold tight
-control of their listeners.
,.,These two storytellers, cousins from
Asheville, North Carolina, quit their
jobs as librarians 71/2 years ago to go on
" the road. Each woman has a repetoire o
about two hundred stories, from which
they choose according to the audience
age and situation. Barbara said that, to
,a:folkteller, "hearing a story, even for
-the hundredth time, is like a visit with
an old friend... before we get tired of
Jthem, we shelve them. Sometimes
.when guests stay too long, it's like fish
they get to stink."
,,,-On Sunday, Connie and Barbara
Shared many of their fine friends with a
special freshness. The Folktellers see
their art not just as entertainment, but
,as an important teaching tool. They
1prefer to tell stories with "redeeming
*;social value," but exercising the
;imagination and causing people to
question their own way of looking at
'Abings is the basic purpose of this
,eglected medium.
Connie told a lovely story with a
-,strong ecological message called "The
Three Green Ladies of One-Tree
SHill." She described the consequences
of straying from a tradition by showing
reverance for nature; guiding the
audience to side with a poor farmer and
1pirits of nature against greed.
M-: Connie delivered the story power-
fully, but I enjoyed her introduction to it
rust as much, She spoke about herself,
;buying land, and what that meant to
hier. This preface added a depth of per-
sonal context to the "Three Ladies...."
The transition from the relaxed tone
sbe used for this opening, to a
mysterious, formal performance voice
was a bit rough. The power of Connie's
technique cannot be disputed, but her
natural timbre has a clearer strength
that she should rely on more.
CALL 764-0557

In this there is a paradox inherent in
such a public presentation of stories.
Researchers from America or Europe
took a television set to a remote African
village and hooked it up with batteries.
For ten days the villagers watched it
constantly. After that time, it was
never turned on again. The people had
returned to their traditional entertain-
ment - storytelling. When a tribal
leader was asked why he didn't prefer
the television, which had thousands of
stories, he said, "But I know the village
storyteller, and he knows me!
After a few hours of watching The
Folktellers, I felt I knew them a little.
The stories heard that night were cer-
tainly more satisfying than hours in
front of a box of'luminescent tubes. Yet
it wasn't a traditional story session;
many of the tales were from books
about far away places. I was left with a
hankering to know these two women
better, to hear more stories from their
own lives, to see the hills of North
Carolina. But as a performance, that
was not possible. It was an inspiration
to learn and tell our own stories.
What Connie Regan and Barbara
Freeman do is to share their gift with as
many people as they can. They aquire
stories from other storytellers, from
books, and often create their own. "It's
very important to have your own
style," Barbara says, and the pair have
developed this as they go. One unusual
form The Folktellers use is the "tan-
dem story." They invented it one day in
a parking lot while surrounded by
children. After beginning a story called
"Whiere the Wild Things Are," they in-
structed the audience to zip up their elf
suits. They proceeded to share the

telling of the tale, one person reciting a
line, then another. This style, and
other duet styles such as saying lines in
unison are effective in keeping the
focus of the narrative interesting.
Late chatters were rewarded with a
special "performance" after the show.
Ed Stivender, another storyteller,
dropped in on his way south from his
own gig in Midland. The three bandied
around quips about performing and
favorite anecdotes; tall tales were
flying fast and furious. The spon-
tonaiety of friends came shining
The Folktellers are a rare pair, a
bright spot of wonderment in the
imagination. They can be heard doing
one-minute long stories (a different one
each day of the week) by phoning Dial-
A-Story at (313) 976-3636. They will also
be appearing in Flint on June 24th and
25the at the Michigan Storytelling
Festival. They're likely to be back at
the Ark again, so watch out for them.
The breeze of their breath will carry
you on flying clouds.





r u .w.--

g~.-u ~


I- -~

Stop by this week and ask why.
Theta Xi
S. University at W4ashtenaw


Crossing the Impasse:
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The home of Weekend could be your home too!
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Friday March 18


A Conference at Rackham Amphitheatre
March 17-18, 1983, 9:30 a.m. daily

SaturdaL March 19

3/17 The Religious Tradition (9:30 am)
Women and Work (1:30 pm)
Women's Roles in Literature (4:00 pm)
Women and Political Struggles (7:30 pm)
3/18 Chanae and Development (9:30 am)


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Elizabeth Fernea
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Mona Mikhail


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