The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 16, 1989 - Page 7
Playwright P. J.
Birdie takes off
makes the personal universal
Soph Show production showcases new talent
BY KENNETH CHOW
L ONG Time Since Yesterday, a
play by P. J. Gibson that portrays
middle-class Blacks, obsessive love,
and deteriorating friendship, has been
playing in the Trueblood theater for
a weekend and has been well-re-
ceived. Gibson herself attended the
performance last Thursday. "I always
go to them if I'm invited," Gibson
said. "I want to see if my plays are
universal. If a play works in Min-
nesota, and it works here in Ann Ar-
bor, then I know it is."
In LTSY, five college buddies are
reunited after the death of their close
friend, Janeen. As the story unravels
through a series of flashbacks on
past events, the audience finds out
that Janeen committed suicide after
her husband Walter caught her in bed
with Panzi, a lesbian. Through this
episode, Gibson criticizes middle-
class, professional Black organiza-
tions that are designed to educate
poor Blacks into the middle class.
"Their intentions are honorable,"
said Gibson, "but what they turned
out to be is something different."
According to Gibson, these parents
"use their children as their tools to
survive." Janeen is a prosperous
woman with parents who belong to
the Trees, a fictitious social organi-
zation. In the play, Janeen is heavily
influenced by her parents. She mar-
Gibson criticizes middle-
class, professional Black
organizations that are
designed to educate
poor Blacks into the
middle class. "Their
Gibson, "but what they
turned out to be is
ries Walter because of their respec-
tive parents' wishes. "These people
aren't going to do anything to disap-
point their parents in their lives -
not until their parents are dead any-
way," said Gibson. And in the play,
Janeen seduces Panzi into commit-
ting adultery after the funeral of the
former's father. "And that's why
(Janeen) kept saying that she felt
good even though she knew it was
sinful. It's because she finally did
something without her parents' con-
Another of Gibson's criticisms
on such organizations is their atti-
tude toward Blacks of other classes.
"Of course, when you have some-
thing like that, it is also very arro-
gant," and along with the arrogance
the "discrimination of light-skinned
Blacks against dark-skinned Blacks"
has developed. Gibson knows this
well, since she was born into a poor
family and was a victim of class dis-
crimination. This is probably best
reflected by Alisa, a successful
woman who was abandoned by her
parents as a child. Alisa keeps the
secret away from her well-raised
friends until the day of Janeen's fu-
neral, for fear of the same discrimi-
As to how well the actors per-
formed, Gibson remarked, "Every
production is different. Sometimes
actors can make a line which has
never worked before work, but then
sometimes (an actor misses lines)."
Gibson then adds that she liked the
interaction between Laveer, Panzi,
and Janeen in a flashback scene in
Act II. Gibson continues, "It is hard
for this cast to understand the part
because the characters are supposed
to be products of the '60s, and they
(as 20-year-old actors) don't have
that knowledge." Nevertheless, "they
are still women, so they know how
a woman is supposed to feel," and
within the limits, the characters were
Gibson spent only three days in
Ann Arbor, but she "really enjoyed
the town" - especially the window
shopping trip she had with some of
the cast members.
ARE A GREAT
WAY TO GET
BY JAY PEKALA
DECKED out in poodle skirts, bobby socks, slicked
hair, jeans, and saddle shoes, the cast of the Soph
Show is busy preparing for tonight's opening of
Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, and Michael Stewart's
Bye Bye, Birdie. The musical premiered on Broadway
in 1960 and includes such tunes as "One Boy," "A Lot
of Livin' to Do," "Put on a Happy Face," and "Kids."
Cast member Kathy Garchow says, "It's incredible
how students can put on a production like this. The
whole show is run by students." And R.C. student and
chorus member Tonya Powers added, "The best thing
about the show is the cast. They're incredibly talented."
The cast for this show is made up of first-year stu-
dents and sophomores who have been rehearsing under
Director Wendy Lippe's watchful eye. "We interviewed,
and Wendy has a good background," commented Co-
producer Janet Komorn. "She shone from the other di-
rectorial candidates." Komorn says she's incredibly
pleased with the way the show has turned out. She con-
fided that at the first rehearsal, she thought it would
never pull together, but after all of the time and dedica-
tion the students put into Birdie, the results are pleas-
antly surprising. Co-producer Stephanie Glogower also
reiterated how much fun she thought the show was go-
ing to be.
The story of Birdie rests in the culture of the late
1950s. It's the story of a teen idol (not unlike Elvis)
who announces that he's going into the military.
Young women fall at his feet, mothers swoon, and
men long to be so hip. As a promotion cooked up by
Birdie's manager, there is a drawing to chose a woman
who will receive one last kiss before Birdie goes into
the army. Added into the story is the manager's secre-
tary who wants to marry him, and his mother who
doesn't want the marriage to go through. Actor
Michelle Watnick, who plays the mother, Mrs. Peter-
son, describes her as, "an old Jewish woman who's not
actually Jewish, and she doesn't want her son to marry
his Spanish secretary."
Costumer Carrie Stevens told me, as she was in the
midst of fashioning shriner's red fezzes, that she had an
interesting time creating the costumes for the whole
cast. "The '50s have brought themselves into the '80s.
Some people even have saddle shoes," she added.
In order to preserve his macho, pelvic-thrusting im-
age, actor Tom Daugherty (who plays Birdie) did4't
want to share too much of the secret of his appeal, but
he did jest, "I'm only in it for the babes."
BYE BYE BIRDIE will be performed tonight, tomorrow
and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Lydia Mendelssohn
Theater in the Michigan League. Tickets are $5.
Alice on a well-tied shoestring
* * ATTENTION: Supreme Course
Transcripts, the LS&A lecture notetaking
service, has the following notes avail, at
Aiphagraphics Printsho s at 715 N. Univ.:
Anthro 101, Anthro 161 Anthro 368, Astro
101/111, Astro 102/ll , Class Civ 101,
Comm 103, Comm 320, Econ 201, Econ 202,
Econ 395, Geog 101 Geol 100, Geol 101,
Geo 107, Geol 115, col 222, list 160, Iist
200, list 332, lust 366, Physics 125, Physics
140, Physics 240, Poli. Sci. 395, physiologs
101, Psyh 171, Psych 331 psych 36.Cal
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Friday Nov. 17 3 to 8pm
ALL fjResNDS W LLCOME to
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BY LORENZO BUJ
W HILE much of the academic
world is presently mired in the
postmodern discourse of simulacra
and textuality, Aaron Davidman qui-
etly invokes such terms as
"subjective expression" and "organic
Davidman is directing Alice in
Wonderland, this week's offering
by Basement Arts, the student group
that puts on weekly performances in
the Arena Theatre, in the basement
of the Frieze building.
Alice is taken from the Manhat-
tan Theatre Project's 1970 adaptation
of Lewis Carroll's text. Director An-
dre Gregory (My Dinner with An-
dre) and his small crew went
through two years of rehearsals be-
fore they unleashed the play on East
Coast and, eventually, international
Looking at Richard Avedon's
photographs of that production, one
sees to what extent Gregory invoked
the kinetic, the contorted, the gym-
nastic muse. Davidman is no differ-
ent. With stage manager Bob Bell-
knap at his side, and with only three
weeks of preparation, he has man-
aged to generate irrepressible bodily
energies from his core group of six
actors: James Ludwig, Joshua
Leavitt, Elissa Cohen, Molly
Surawitz, Lucy Liu (as Alice), and
Davidman believes that "the po-
tential for expression is in human
beings, not in the text, or in props
and costumes." He finds process the-
ater, experimental theater "more ex-
citing" when compared to the bour-
geois aesthetics of stage realism and
naturalism, and has little time for
"couch dramas of the Neil Simon va-
riety." Lewis Carroll's text, on the
other hand, "pursues the silly and the
nonsensical" and so challenges the
moral sobriety of its "high Victorian
As one may expect, Alice will
be minimalist but certainly not
static. There will be no shortage of
physical intensity as bodies crawl,
sprint, or sprawl across stage, as
faces twist and grimace, as voices
range broadly across emotional regis-
ters and language defies empirical
and metaphysical logic.
Even while working within the
$100 maximum alloted to them by
the Basement Arts budget, Davidnan
and his ensemble should have no
problem filling the Arena Theatre to
its 120 person capacity.
A laboratory/workshop for gtu-
dents, Basement Arts functions under
the Theatre department and the
School of Music. Its three under-
graduate co-ordinators - David, Le-
ichtman, Amy Forman, and Jennifer
Hahn - work busily, scheduling a
new show every week. Earlier this
term, they showcased Tracers, a
Vietnam story that was particularly
successful; they are currently receiv-
ing and evaluating applications for
next semester's lineup.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND starts
tonight at S p.m. It plays tomorrow
at S p.m. and on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Liberty. 65-8001. Lessons, repair, music.
II3ANEZ Electric Guitar & case. Must Sell.
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Frday. inThe Daily
MIDDLE EAST CULTURAL NIGHT
Celebrating the 1st Anniversary of
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Puerto Rican Association
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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18 8:30 PM - 12:30 AM
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