Wednesday, November 9, 1988
The Michigan Daily
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Laugh 'til it hurts
with Hold Me
BY INGRID FEY
grew up to have my father's looks... my father's speech
patterns... my father's walk... my father's opinions.. and my mother's
contempt of my father." In this way, a character in Jules Feiffer's hold
Me sardonically reveals the miserable state of his existence - a
recurrent theme in Feiffer's latest "entertainment."
While Feiffer has written several plays, including Feiffer's People,-
Knock Knock, and Little Murders, he is best known for his pithy and
witty cartoons which have appeared over the years in the New Yorker
magazine. In Hold Me, which Hill Street Players is producing this
weekend, Feiffer has transplanted this art form, as well as as its
commentary on human relationships, to the stage.
"Feiffer stressed the notion that Hold Me was an 'entertainment'
rather than a play," explains the director, Carolyn Caldwell. The
thematic development occurs through a series of vignettes, not through
a traditional plot line including climax and resolution.
Out of five actors, only two develop a single role throughout the
play; the others take on a variety of different roles in as many different
situations. The challenge for the actors then, is to establish, within a
few moments, an entirely new character. The challenge for the audience,
on the other hand, is to keep up with the quick action and changing
themes of the play, for before a person has had time to think about one
scene, Feiffer is on to the next.
The absence of such theater conventions does not in any way inhibit
the communication of ideas. Similar to cartoonists like Gary Larson;,
creator of The Far Side, Feiffer manages to say in one theatrical frame
what many writers need novels to convey. As Scott Weissman, who
plays Bernard, a man unlucky in life and love, explains, "The precision
of Feiffer's writing, combined with his insight, make it possible to
capture very real, human, and poignant dilemmas within a very short
period of time."
Above all, Hold Me is a play about relationships - be they between
parent and child, lovers, or, most importantly, a person and themself.
Despite the fact that the ideas for the play were generated as early as the
1960's, Caldwell sees them as being particularly relevant to the 1980's
in that they point to people's inclination to overanalyze relationships.
This obsession with analysis, moreover, occurs because of a
fundamental lack of communication between people which stems from
insecurity and fear. She added that many of the issues which arise in the
play would be almost impossible to deal with without Feiffer's brilliant
sense of humor.
Weissman, who is also director of Hill Street Players, explains that
it is his organization's goal to create theater with socially relevant
issues. For him, the important message conveyed by Feiffer's play is
that "both the responsibility and capacity for personal transformation
lies within you; you can make a change for the better."
"This play is about psychological baggage," says Caldwell (each
character literally carries a suitcase containing their props). "In it,
Feiffer tells us what we can do with it ; we can either keep carrying it
along, we can get rid of it, or we can accumulate more of it. What is
important for Feiffer is that people get on with their lives and refuse to
let this baggage prevent them from entering into new relationships with
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, noted for their distinctive a capella
singing and their work on Paul Simon's Graceland
album, will show their stuff solo tonight at Hill Auditorium.
Mambazo shines san Simon
BY SkEALA D URANT
Ladysmith Black Mambazo's music is called
Isicathamiya (Ith-scot-ta-mia). The word has no
direct English translation, but refers to a dance in
which participants walk on their toes lightly as if
to remain unheard.
But after the group of ten South African
lolksingers was introduced to the musical world
on Paul Simon's Grammy-winning Graceland
LP, they didn't have to worry about their unique
music being heard. And tonight, listeners can
hear it, unadulterated, at Hill Auditorium.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo s music is sung a
capella and is similar to the singing heard in
men'sahostels and dormitories where South
African workers are housed. The music is
common among workers who have left their
homes and families to eran money; while living
i a strange place and working long hours, they
use the music to keep alive tribal traditions and
'memories of a simpler, happier life."
Since the Graceland tour, Ladysmith Black
Mambazo has toured all over the world, sharing
the heritage of their traditional South African
music with a huge audience. The group has
toured all over the U.S., Canada, Europe and
have just returned from Australia and New
Zealand. Many of the places they have recently
performed in have never hosted Zulu singers
before like the Montreaux Jazz Festival, an
elementary school in Dayton Ohio and a prison
in Raleigh North Carolina. They've also appeared
on major television shows from Sesame Street
to The Tonight Show and can be heard in Eddie
Murphy's most recent film, Coming to America.
Joseph Shabalala founded the group in 1960
in his hometown of Ladysmith, South Africa.
They soon won every singing competition in the
town and their local notoriety brought them into
the spotlight in South Africa.
Although Paul Simon's Graceland tour
brought them worldwide recognition, Ladysmith
Black Mambazo had been recording since 1970
- their latest LP, Journey of Dreams, (Warner
Brothers) is their 27th recording. Their 26th LP,
Shaka Zulu, sold a quarter of a million copies
and last year won a Grammy for Best Traditional
Journey of Dreams is representative of
Ladysmith Black Mambazo's acapella style and
features occasional drum accompaniment. This
combination can be heard on the tunes
"Ukhalangami" ("You Cry For Me"), and also on
the song, "Bhasobha" ("Watch"). The precise
syncopation of the songs' footstomping and
handclapping resembles the cheerleading
"stomps" performed in some urban high schools
and Black Colleges as well as in the routines
performed in the Greek step shows.
Unlike most albums, Journey of Dreams
doesn't have empty space between songs, so you
have to listen closely to hear where one song
ends and the other begins. Listen closely tonight
and you'll hear a good representation of
Ladysmith Black Mambazo's culture and
LAD YSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO
perform at Hill Auditorium tonight at 8
Tickets are $16.50 and $14.
HOLD ME is being performed this Thursday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8
p.m. and 12 midnight, and on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Performance
Network. There will be no Friday evening performance.
By Ariel Dorfman
Almost weekly we hear world news reports of
atrocities and human rights violations which occur
thousands of miles away, but it is the beautiful and
powerful literature beginning to trickle out of these
nations - that outlet, that therapy, that true voice of
the people - that is the true news.
. The novel of exile is not new or uncommon and has
recently flourished as the Eastern nations have granted,
more intellectual and artistic freedoms. Written
accounts of imprisonment, disillusionment, and exile
are explored in books such as Nicholas Daniloff's Two
Lives, One Russia and Grey is the Color of hope by
Irina Ratushinskaya, but each nation, as well as each
writer, has its unique cultural response to the type and
severity of oppression. Ariel Dorfman's Mascara is
one of the first literary expressions to emerge from
Born in Argentina, the grandson of Jews who fled
from Eastern European's growing parochialism,
Dorfman and his family settled in Chile in 1954. In
1973 a CIA backed coup established General Pinochet
as military dictator. As a supporter of Salvador
Allende, Dorfman was forced into exile. A policy of
censorship and a reign of terror - not unlike that
accredited to Stalin - followed the bloody coup.
Although Dorfman has lived in the United States for
ilany years, the seemingly unnatural flow of the
4anguage indicates difficulties in translation. However,
the difficulty in translation may not be a problem with
the language but the concepts and experiences that are
so unfamiliar to the free world.
An understanding of physical threats and overt fear
tactics is so foreign to the average American (not to
say that it doesn't happen in America) that the
derivatives of mental oppression and social pressure
become incomprehensible. Only through the voices of
literary characters are these experiences able to escape
their culture and expand the minds of our own.
In Mascara, Dorfman introduces his anonymous
protagonist with a frightening monologue spoken in
his mind but addressed to his plastic surgeon: "What a
better way of beginning to explain to you who I am,
what I want. Of course, it makes no difference where
one begins to tell a story: we always reach the same
ending, don't we?"
The timeless and expatriate theme is not specific to
any nation or place. Devastatingly negative and
unrelentingly harsh judgments run through every page.
Going deeper than an illustration of the events and
reactions of acute tyranny, Dorfman exposes the
shattered psyche of the nation that has endured a
lifetime of paranoia and oppression through three
narrators whose conditions are all different symptoms
of the same disease.
The chapters, are titled simply as First, Second,
Third and A Sort of Epilogue, but the content is not so
easily categorized. Uneven and at times enigmatic it is
worth the struggle through the initial section which
occupies two thirds of the book. The anonymous
protagonist is waiting to be seen by his plastic surgeon
in order to leave the country as someone else. He has
wreaked his revenge on a society he cannot name by
photographing people in their most venerable,
revealing moments. Once on film, once he has captured
a face, it is his: "So this story that I'll tell to the face
of yours that's in my head will have to do. If many
years ago I had taken the precaution to stuff your
See Mascara, Page 8
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