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November 13, 1986 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-11-13

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The Michigan Daily

Thursday, November 13, 1986

Page 5


'the Knee Plays' bend the rules

I'M # x. r By NVoelle Brower
To take great liberties with a
famous phrase of Tennyson's, "'tis
better to have seen the Knee Plays ,
than not to have seen the CIVIL
warS at all." Chances are, the En -
glish poet would not have
appreciated this, but considering the
tenuous history of the making of
American director Robert Wilson's
epic the CIVIL warS , he wouldn't
} have been the first.
the Knee Plays is a series of 13,
three-to-six minute entr'acte vig -
nettes written to be performed in
front of the curtain during the
massive scene changes of the 15
acts of the larger production, the
CIVIL warS. Planned as the central
production during the '84 Olympics
in Los Angeles, the CIVIL wars
was scrapped at the last moment
due to a lack of funding on the ,part
"'7 xof the private sector in this country.
Amid cries of 'crimes against
culture' (as reported in the French
publication Le Monde), the CIVIL
Unusual staging and uncomfortable themes dominate Wilson's 'Knee warS has to date consisted only of
Plays.' scattered productions of one act
'Livin' Fat' is a feast of fun and

here, another there, around the
Wilson's ambitious production,
(somehow the word cannot en -
compass the scale of the effort that
went into its creation on the part of
Wilson and artistic collaborators the
world over), depicts the fragmented
world history of conflict and
reconciliation-an apt theme consi -
dering the circumstances under
which it was to have been per -
formed. This international colla -
boration garnered its greatest sup -
port, both financially and
culturally, from Europe where
Wilson has been a prominent figure
of the theatrical avant-garde since
the early '70s. The Europeans took
the risk to stage the CIVIL warS ,
only to find that the home of its
creator prefered Lionel Richie. And
one wonders about the state of the
art in this country?
Hailed as a theatrical visionary
-by some and an artistic charlatan by
others, Wilson's place in history
has yet to be decided. Certainly the
CIVIL warS has reserved a spot for
him, it is just the size that remains
societies and embrace their hard -
ships and their rewards, we can, she
says, "begin to share, and thus
begin to live better lives."

to be determined. Detroit area
audiences have an unusual opp -
ortunity to judge Wilson for
themselves this weekend when a
touring group brings the Knee
Plays to Detroit.
Visually and thematically derived
from the traditional forms of
Japanese theatre with a dirgy New
SOrleans jazz score by Talking Head
David Byrne, the Knee Plays
operates on two levels. In its
function as an entr'acte enter -
tainment for the larger CIVIL warS
,the Knee Plays reflects the general
thematic structure of the CIVIL
warS while remaining a complete
and viable piece of theatre in itself.
Who is Robert Wilson? Perhaps

the question should be What is
Robert Wilson? "Many times
people ask me what my plays are
about...And I frequently say, I don't
know, but this is how I make
them," Wilson once commented on
this dilemma. Find out for yourself
this weekend.
the Knee Plays opens tonight
and runs through Sunday at the
Music Hall in Detroit. Performanc -
e times are 8 p.m. all shows. For
more information call: 963-7680.
No one faces cancer alone.
Call us.

By Julie Brown
The University Players, 'in
conjunction with The Black Theatre
Workshop, will present Livin' Fat ,
tonight through November16 in
The Trueblood Theatre. Livin' Fat
is a comedy written in 1974 by Judi
Ann Mason. Ms. Mason later went
on to write the pilot for Good
Times and segments for The
Appropriately enough, this play
is illustrative of these situation
Pcomedies which have become quite
popular in the past decade. As seen
most recently in The Cosby Show,
black situation comedies have
become vehicles by which the
actors can convey a sense of what
their life is all about. It need not.
show the strife and struggles of the
black people which at one time had
been the only' way the black
experience was conveyed.
The emergence of the black
comedies was a revolutionary
process. The black drama, which
commanded the audience to
sympathize with what was going
on within the black community
could be heightened to another
level, a comic one, for black people
in America throughout the '60s
gained much recognition. The
comedy, according to Lundeanna
Thomas, the director of Livin' Fat,
says, "now that I have your
attention, let me tell you about my

life...let me show you how we have
fun." It is an opportunity to let the
audience in, to see people being
themselves, laughing at
themselves, and enjoying
Livin' Fat is exemplary of this.
It is about a black family with a
dilemma. In their discovery of the
American dream, their religious
values are called into question. We
can see through these characters,
probable expressions of what a
person could be.
While Thomas does admit that
this is a comedy "for black people,
by black people, about black
people" she does say that it allows
everyone a chance to achieve a
better understanding of what black
people are about in their everyday
life. Overall, she feels that any
moral principles that the play's
subject matter might challenge, is
indeed secondary to the writer's
intentions which were to write a
play "just to be funny." Thomas
goes on to say that Livin' Fat is
"bringing theatre back to it's
original purposes: to entertain."
Livin' Fat - is a tremendous
sendoff for The Black Theatre
Workshop which has been in
existence since the '70s. It was
only in the last two years that it
began to create theatrical prod -
uctions. The importance of such
productions becomes extraordinary
and fills a definite need. Thomas

says, "in order for us to begin to
understand each other, we can look
at the material in our plays." To
begin to realize the different


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One of the most frequently assigned
writing projects on campus is the Research
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Research Papers require accurate and
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In the fourth Academic Writing Series
Sworkshop E.C.B. Lecturer Helen Isaacson
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differences in documentation formats across
the disciplines.
Students are invited to bring the research
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