Tuesday, February 14, 1989
The Michigan Daily
Andre De Shields: Theatre
BY CHERIE CURRY
Only a few performing artists are
ever fortunate ,enough to find the
path to national recognition. Even
fewer are able to find it solely
through natural talent.
Andrd De Shields found the path.
Without any formal training, he
succeeded as a Broadway and televi-
sion actor, singer, choreographer and
De Shields first achieved national
recognition for creating the title role
in the Broadway production of The
Wiz and became known for his
show-stopping performance in the
Broadway production of Ain't Mis-
behavin'. De Shields also won an
Emmy Award for his performance in
the 1973 NBC special of Ain't Mis-
behavin'. His other television credits
include two PBS Great Performances
Specials, Ellington: The Music
Lives On, and Alice in Wonderland
(as Tweedledum), I Dream of Jean-
nie-I5 years later, and a film,
De Shields also received the
1987/88 Joseph Jefferson award for
his direction of the Chicago premiere
of George C. Wolfe's The Colored
Museum, won two Audelco awards
for directing and choreographing the
AMAS production of Blackberries,
and directed at La Mama E.T.C., The
Denver Center Theatre and More-
house College. Currently a Martin
Luther King, Jr./Cesar Chavez/Rosa
Parks visiting professor at the Uni-
versity, DeShields is directing the
University's production of The Tro-
With impressive credentials such
as these, DeShields had reason to be
confident, and his undaunted manner
revealedd his pride as he spoke dur-
ing an interview made possible in
spite of his hectic schedule.
D: Why did you choose to direct
the University's production of Tro-
De: We wanted the Theatre and
Drama department to be able to em-
brace more minority and women
concerns. So it made sense that a
show that was based on a woman's
point of view allowed non-traditional
casting of African-Americans, Latin
Americans, Asian Americans, as
well as white performers.
D: I heard somewhere that you
used a lot of make-up on some of
the actors' faces to darken their
De: Oh yeah! I like to use the
D: Could you define that?
De: Of the 26 members in the
company, 5 of them are Black ac-
tors, but I needed another 5 Black
performers to fill out those people
who were playing the Trojans who
were going to be the non-white cul-
ture in the play. In those situations
where the actor or actress is white,
we are putting Negro #1 make-up on
them so that they look as if they
come from the Eastern part of the
D: Is that what it's actually
called, Negro # 1?
De: The make-up is called Negro
#1, yeah, exactly. And it looks like
a cafe-au-lait complexion. And there
is no attempt to embarrass anyone or
to make any kind of negative racial
comment. It's simply that because
the conflict in the play is between
cultures that are separated along the
lines of color antipathy we needed to
be able to show that the Greeks were
white and the Trojans were non-
D: Was there a message you
hoped to convey other than what was
written in the script?
De: Yeah, absolutely! The mes-
sage that I want the audience to leave
with in their heads is that it is those
things that are different about the
people of the world that should bring
us together in a harmonious plan of
co-existence. The things that are dif-
ferent should not keep us apart.
D: What kind of involvement, if
any, have you had with the Black
De: I've done two activities
sponsored by the Black Theatre
Workshop. The first was an evening
of cabaret in the Basement Arts
building. Many of the students from
the University performed, and so did
I. Black Theatre Workshop also pre-
sented me in a symposium style at
the Mary Markley resident hall. I
brought in a couple of videos of
things that I've done and showed just
clips of them. Then, afterwards, I sat
and talked with people. I've also
spoken twice to the drama classes
that Charles Jackson teaches. And,
out of this, I'm hoping that Black
Theatre Workshop will support our
production of Trojan Women.
D: Do you prefer directing to act-
De: Well, I gotta tell you, I love
them both, but when I'm performing
as an actor, what I'm learning is
how to follow, and when I'm work-
ing as a director, what I'm learning
is how to lead, but they both feed
each other because I've been on both
sides of the fence. My specific goals,
I think, are going to be best realized
as a director.
D: Did you study acting at either
the University of Wisconsin or the
New York University?
De: No, I didn't at the University
of Wisconsin. My degree is in En-
glish and at the New York Univer-
sity, I'm studying Afro-American
studies. I'm one of those people
whose talent is a gift from God. It's
instinctual, it's natural, and I don't
want to lose it in the claustropho-
bic, traditional kind of conservative
atmosphere of the classroom where
people think they can learn the liv-
ing arts from a textbook.
D: What does acting mean for
De: Acting is the most satisfying
means of self-expression that I've
discovered in my life. Acting is also
an opportunity to effect social
changes and to reach out to people
that you wouldn't necessarily have
an opportunity to reach. It isn't or-
dinary to be able to communicate
with 2000 people a day - well you
can do that in the theatre. Acting on
the legitimate stage is live, so you
are in the presence of reality as it
happens. You see the person's
sweat, you smell the person's funk,
you watch the person make a mis-
take. You are there to glory in the
miracles that the person creates, and
by the end of the evening, you've
exchanged some meaningful infor-
D: I noticed you received awards
for your choreographing, as well as
directing. So you've had some kind
of dance training?
De: Nope, I'm a Black man, so I
can dance (smiles). But because I
have this unique approach to per-
forming, there are people who want
to borrow some of that from me. As
I travel around the world, people see
my very special approach to orches-
trating relationships 'cause that's
what I think choreography is. It isn't
so much as having a vocabulary of
dance. It isn't so much as showing
people what step to do as it is how
to make their human interaction
D: You've been in some films.
Do you prefer acting in theatre to
acting in film?
De: The satisfaction is so differ-
ent from each of the disciplines. For
instance, when you're acting on
stage, you have to make sure that
2000 pairs of ears, 2000 pairs of
eyes are taking in what you are pro-
ducing and you have to project it to
Andr6 De Shields, who first achieved success playing the title charac"
ter in the Broadway production of The Wiz, is currently directing the
University production of The Trojan Women.
the last person in the last seat of the
last row. In the movies, you're only
playing for one eye and one ear -
the camera and the microphone.
D: It seems like many people
don't give a lot of credit to film ac-
tors - it's viewed sort of as a cop-
De: Well, it is not a cop-out, but.
the reason why credit isn't given to
the film performer is because the
magic of film says that you if you
make a mistake, you just stop and
do it over again. The work, the
sweat isn't done by the actor, it's
done by the editor. On the live stage,
there's no such thing as editing. If
you make a mistake, there it is.
D:What do you hope to accom-
plish for the future?
De: I'd certainly like to have
much more work as a leading man. I
want to continue to set the example
for the thinking Black man. That's;
one of the images that's missing
from all the media - the Black in-
dividual who is thoughtful.
D: Before we end this interview,'
do you have any lingering thoughts?
De: Yeah, I want to say that I feel
particularly blessed, particularly
lucky to be able to be on the Ann
Arbor campus and working with
such very talented people and an ex-
tremely supportive Theatre and
'Drama department, and to be able to,
work in such a professional-style
theatre like the Mendelssohn. I've
also been able to take part in some
of the other programs... there's so
much that's culturally enlightening,
it's almost hard to do everything.
But I just don't want to leave with-
out saying thank you to the Univer-
sity of Michigan and thank you to
the very hard working, very talented
students who have made up the cast.
Buy and Cell not worth the investment
BY DAVID LUBLINER
What do you get when you takeWall Street
and replace all of its stars with a half dozen out
of work actors? Probably something resembling
Buy and Cell. Yes, you read the title correctly.
And if you think that joke is bad, try the movie.
Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds) stars
as Herbert Altman, an up-and-coming yuppie in-
vestment banker framed by his conniving boss
and sentenced to 13 years in prison for insider
trading. In jail, Carradine meets up with a crazy
concoction of characters that includes Michael
Winslow (the master of vocal sound effects of
Police Academy fame), ex-boxer-turned-actor
Randall "Tex" Cobb, professional wrestler Roddy
Piper, and 1970s comedian Fred Travelena.
This motley crew of desperate performers are
all prisoners at a maximum security prison, ex-
cept Cobb, who plays an ugly, grunting guard.
The cast also features two gifted actors, Malcolm
McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Time After
Time), as the evil warden, and Ben Vereen as
Shaka, the prisoners' ring leader. Both actors
have far too much talent and prestige to be in-
volved in this.
The warden seeks to use his new prisoner's
knowledge of the financial market for his own
profit. Altman refuses to comply. Instead, he
finds a more noble cause deserving of his finan-
cial genius: investing money on the part of the
prisoners to help refurbish the prison. But don't
say the word invest too loudly because the neu-
rotic Altman sneezes every time he hears the "I"
What ensues are a series of scenes in which
the prisoners read the Wall Street Journal, discuss
excess cash flow, and aspire to be just like Don-
ald Trump. And the farfetched turns into the ab-
surd as Altman designs an elaborate scheme to
get rid of the warden and take vengeance on his
While the plot deteriorates, the personality of
the characters remains entertaining. Travelena
plays an annoying schizophrenic who switches
back and forth between a nice guy named Tony
and a Mafia hit man named Marco. In one scene,
Travelena goes berserk in the prison cafeteria,
dances on the tables, and acts out film scenes.
"Yo Adrian," yells Travelena as he pretends to be
Rocky Balboa jogging down the streets of
Altman's cellmate is a hustler named
Sylvester Swan (you can call him "The Sly"),
portrayed by Michael Winslow. If you haven't'
had enough of those ridiculous sounds that com-
prise most of Winslow's talent, he returns this
time with some new ones.
Lise Cutter plays Dr. Ellen Scott, a psychol-"
ogist, whose job it is to help the prisoners with.
the emotional problems of living in jail. It isn't
long before she also assumes a role in Altman's
plan of revenge, as well as providing the love
interest in the film. Dr. Scott is the only woman
in this movie, unless you count the scantily-clad.
females who are brought in to entertain the
troops in honor of Sly's birthday.
In advising Altman on how to survive in jails
Sly warns him of Rule Number #1: Don't ask
too many questions. If you plan to see this film,
take his advice.
BUY AND CELL is playing at the State Theater.
John Candy does an impersonation of a member of the audience for
his movie Who's Harry Crumb? In their case, however, they also fell
Cliched plot makes
BY MATTHEW ZACHARIAS
I saw the advertisements for Who's Harry Crumb? ' and thought: This
looks bad, but I'll enter the theater with an open mind. I did. But I left it
embarrassed for John Candy and sorry for the betrayed, joyless audience that
suffered through it.
The film is an hour and a half of clichdd antics and humor with the depth
of a mud puddle. The plot also completely lacks originality: a millionare's
daughter is kidnapped; on comes Harry Crumb to save the day; he is totally
incompetent; he detects foul play; a cheap antic here, a cheap antic there, et
cetera, et cetera.
Not even cameos by Joe Flaherty (Second City T.V.) or James Belushi
could pull Crumb from the depths of lameness. Jeffrey Jones, the emerging
cult hero from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, stars as Crumb's sleazy boss, El-
liot Draison, whose primary objective is to throw Crumb's investigation off
course. Draison hires Crumb in the first place because of his "legendary"
reputation as a bungling private dick.
But the giveaway story also contributes to the film's shortcomings. Per-
haps if the "mystery" of the film was not revealed in the first five minutes,
it would held the attention of the audience and would not have been such an
anti-climactic catastrophe. The only redeeming qualities of Crumb were
Candy's elaborate costumes - ranging from a Don King-styled hairdo to an
oversized jockey - and Shawnee Smith, who proved her acting potential as
she teamed up with Crumb to find her kidnapped sister.
This is only the second feature film for director Paul Flaherty ( Joe's
Lyle Lovett and His Large
On his last one, Pontiac, Lyle
Lovett had just about burst the seams
of the faded Levi's straitjacket of tra-
ditional country Western music. It
took a pretty great leap of faith to
accept that the rockabilly gusto of
"She's Hot to Go" and the softly
swaying jazz of "She's No Lady"
were at all at home on the range.
With his latest, outstanding effort,
Lovett explodes out of the country
Western boundaries to produce a
fully-realized song cycle that refuses
to adhere to any single genre.
"N1rP Tr Am, " fn'r inotn. n~~'lt.r-
"I Know You Know" is a tradi-
tional jazz ballad, beautifully sung to
the woman who's "somewhere in
between/ This morning and late last
night." Here is the best song on the
record, because it matches a killer
melody with the self-conscious poet-
ics of a Shakespeare sonnet. The
honesty of his love for her even gets
conveyed in the silences between the
Just for a change up, country
Western star Lyle Lovett delivers, for
some strange reason, a straight
country Western love song. "I Mar-
ried Her Just Because She Looks
Like You" could have been written
by Mickey Gilley or any one of
those hacks, only it's a lot better.
flashes of offbeat funk. This stuff
was interesting, and different for
sure; sort of like a Minneapolis
Motown. Enter Taja Sevelle. Your
first reaction would probably be
"What the hell?" Here's this hot,
untalented woman trying to seri-
ously make music. I thought the
purple one had learned his lesson
with Apollonia 6. Guess not.
As a dance track, this is offbeat
and convincing enough. While her
contemporaries construct their music
from progressive-type sounds all too
common on the radio, various synth
sounds and drum technology, here
producer Bennett dredges up some
nasty bass, a jazzy solo, and a weird
throwback disco percussion. The
The Madness Begins
A four-song EP from
Minneapolis metal mongers Power-
mad, The Madness Begins, thrashes
along mightily. The three originals
display both the band's metal chops
and editing sensibilities - no ten
minute metallo-epic jerkoffs here -
Powermad crams their warp speed
double-bass drum fueled runs and
half-time instrumental breaks into
four minute songs instead. The cover
of the Ramones' "Gimme Gimme
Shock Treatment" is excellent also.
I wonder though, why an EP?
Why not wait until the band had
worked up enough material for an
-.1....n 'M'~- .. J.fi ., a. Ar