Thursday, February 9, 1989
The Michigan Daily
aims to explain
BY MARILYN KITZES
DIRECTOR Travis Preston, inter-
nationally known for his offbeat
reinterpretations of classical plays,
callsThe Last American in Paris "a
theatrical explanation of love in the
cinema." It's not always a clear ex-
planation - it's not always even
explained in English - but its orig-
inality makes it one worth ex-
Project Theatre, the professional
acting company of the University
School of Music, will present the
premiere of Preston and Royston
Coppenger's avant-garde production
of The Last American In Paris/Le
Dernier Americain A Paris.
Graduates of the Yale School of
Drama and currently on the faculty of
the Harvard Summer Drama Pro-
gram, Coppenger and Preston have
been creating this work-in-progress
for the past month in Ann Arbor.
The two have brought professional
actors from New York to work on
this piece with them. Three Univer-
sity students will also act in the pro-
The play examines the tradition
of the American in Paris, adopting
some of the themes from the films
The Last American In Paris and The
Last Tango in Paris. "These types of
films promote stereotypical relation-
ships and objectify women," says
Preston. Characters in the play are
cross-dressed to reveal these stereo-
typical situations, and they con-
tribute to the play's eroticism and
The main axis of the piece is tra-
ditional -a love story - butsthe-
atrically, Last American is very un-
traditional. Characterized as a "mood
piece," the play features stagelight
that focuses on the dramatic action
and produces large shadows on a very
minimalist set. Following the char-
acters, a dollied movie camera wan-
ders the stage, carefully absorbing the
dramatic action. Conventional dia-
logue is kept to a minimum, and
much of the text is spoken in French
to create a European texture. Knowl-
edge of French is not required; the
actors' emotional involvement com-
municates their meaning clearly.
There are large chunks of time that
don't contain dialogue in which the
actors move synchronized to an odd,
sensual score, in a balanced, dance-
Visually, the result is extremely
enticing. "We're working on some-
thing that we want to be pleasurable
to the eye and to the audience," says
"Although difficult to analyze, the
play should be appreciated more like
a poem or a dance," comments Pre-
ston. "This is experimental theater...
a play that a student-aged audience
would appreciate. I don't think Ann
Arborhas seen anything like this
THE LAST AMERICAN IN PARIS
plays from February 16-26 at the
Play's creators say they
came to experiment
BY MARILYN KITZES
R OYSTON Coppenger and Travis Preston, co-creators of The Last
American in Paris/Le Dernier Americain A Paris, have strong ties to the
East coast. Both are affiliated with Harvard University; both have worked
in New York, a center of American theater.
So, why come to Ann Arbor?
"This was an opportunity to do what we wanted... to work with
themes and ideas we've worked with for a while," said Preston. "Most
theaters won't let us do this kind of experimental work - they do the
same old thing."
Coppenger and Preston arrived from New York a month ago to work
on their experimental piece. Known for their avant-garde theater, the
playwrights don't directly strive for radical interpretations: "We set out to
do it as we see it, paying more attention to detail of construction than
Preston, the director, is on the faculty at Harvard University and is the
chair of the Harvard Summer Drama Program. Coppenger, the resident
dramaturge of the American Ibsen Theatre, is also a faculty member at
Harvard's Summer Drama Program and is currently chair of the
dramaturgy program at New York University's Playwrights Horizons
Together, they have written Paradise Bound Part II, an oratorio based
on Bernard Goetz's confession, that was produced by Central Park's
Summerfare Festival, using 75 inner city kids to create a symphony with
"We want to expand the notion of what theater is. Theater is usually
.literary - we're trying to work with other means," Coppenger explained.
"The traditional lacks imagination and a visual sense. We want to create
One culture, many
Trueblood Theater, with preview
showings tonight through Sunday.
Performance times are Thursdays and
Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and
9 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tick-
ets for preview showings are $10
general admission, $5 with student
ID.; tickets for regular performances
are $12.50 general admission, $5
with student I.D. Tickets are avail-
able at the Michigan League Ticket
Office and at the Trueblood Theatre
one hour prior to curtain on perfor-
BY MARGIE HEINLEN
"Jude Narita has found an equilib-
rium between rage and humor, while
burning culture stereotypes on a cel-
-Critic's Choice/ L.A. Times
True, what you have just read is
part of a review and, true, this is a
preview. Sometimes you just gotta
Welcome to Jude Narita's world.
In her one-hour, one-woman show,
Narita illustrates the many faces of
her culture with emphasis on her
personal experience as an Asian-
American woman. Coming into
Passion/Song for a Sansei welds,
Narita's talents as writer, actor,
director, and teacher. In realizing all
of these functions as one artist - a
woman artist, an Asian woman
artist -- Narita breaks rules and
stereotypes that constrain the artist as
well as the minority. The show
opened to popular and critical acclaim
in June 1987 at the Powerhouse
Theater in Los Angeles and has since
toured throughout California theaters.
Sponsored by the MSA Minority
Affairs Committee and the Univer-
sity Asian Student Coalition-Asian
American Lecture Series, tonight's
See Narita, Page 10
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