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February 16, 1990 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-02-16

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0

ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Friday, February 16, 1990

Page 8

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Onward!

rewrites

Soviet

history

BY ILANA TRACHTMAN
THIS weekend, audiences at the Trueblood
Theater will be able to experience glasnost
firsthand. A project sponsored by the Insti-
tute for the Humanities, the Department of
Theatre and Drama and the Brecht Company
will not only produce, for the first time in
English, the controversial Soviet play On-
ward! Onward! Onward!, but will also
bring the playwright, Mikhail Shatrov, to
the university for a symposium on Monday
concerning images of Lenin.
"Without multi-party elections, without
freedom of the press and assembly, without
the free interplay of opinion, then any polit-
ical institution beins to rot...," Rosa Lux-
emborg warns V.I. Lenin in the play. The
characters, played by RC sophomore Amy
Freedman and Department of Theatre and

Drama professor Leigh Woods, are part of a
very special reinterpretation of Russian his-
tory. In Onward! Onward! Onward! 22
prominent figures in Soviet history visit
Lenin at his hideout on the eve of the Rus-
sian revolution of 1917, and through each's
unique philosophical and experiential per-
spective, explore what is to come of the rev-
olution.
Publication of the play caused a scandal
in the Soviet Union, even before it was pro-
duced. This is because Shatrov paints a criti-
cal picture of the Soviet history books' ac-
count of the revolution. Most significant is
that the Lenin Shatrov scripts takes some re-
sponsibility for the Stalin years. In addition,
certain people who have been conspicuously
missing from Soviet history books, such as
Leon Trotsky, figure prominently in the
play.

Because of the importance the reinterpre-
tation of Lenin's ideology plays in justify-
ing current events in Soviet politics, the
play is especially relevant right now. Jane
Burbank, associate professor of history in
LSA, wrote "So close is this link between
art and politics that a position on the play
was a sound indicator of where one stood in
general on Gorbachev and his program of re-
form."
The play also causes us to consider the
recording of history in general. "History,"
says director and RC drama professor Martin
Walsh, "is an act of interpretation. It is also
a product of the age that writes the history."
Burbank, Walsh, and Woods undertook
the production of the play after Shatrov
agreed to speak at the symposium. Of Sha-
trov's many plays, Onward! Onward! On-

ward! was chosen to be performed because it
has never been produced in English, it is his
most recent work, and it is newly translated.
The production has become both an intel-
lectual and theatrical pursuit. Burbank is
teaching a special course in the RC on the
Russianrevolution. Drama students in the
RC began a two credit mini-course in De-
cember to research the play. Over winter
break, students were assigned political per-
sonalities to research in depth, in order to
give the actors a clear and comprehensive de-
scription of the characters' ideologies and
appearances.
The result is a "staged reading" or what
Walsh calls a "script in hand production."
Due to time constraints, a simple reading
was originally planned. However, enthusi-
asm has prompted over one-third of the play

to be memorized and blocked. It is staged as,
theater in the round, which means that the
audience sits on all four sides of the stage
and the actors play to the whole room. The
cast is made up of students and faculty.
Walsh both directs the performance and plays
Stalin, while Woods plays Lenin. The play.
also features RC professors Peter Ferrran and,
Bob Brown, and LSA professor John Lawler-'
Walsh says he hopes the audiences come
away from the "elaborate illustrated lecture"
with "a better sense-of events, and the ability
to interpret new developments (in Soviet af-
fairs) in more depth."
ONWARD! ONWARD ONWARD! will be
performed at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday
and at 2 p.m. on Sunday in the Trueblood

Veil uncovers
elements of culture

Blind

Boys

BY KENNETH CHOW
B EYOND the Veil, a play pre-
sented by the all-student Black The-
ater Ensemble, with a little help
from Basement Arts, comes appro-
priately during Black history month.
The play educates its audience about
African-American culture, history
and heritage. But it does so in a way
different from that of a narrative
anecdote.
The performance is kept on an
abstract level, and is made up of a
sequence of chronological events.
Through the events, various aspects
of the African-American experience
are depicted. The performers take up
a variety of roles such as proud
slaves, sorrowful people with cheer-
ful masks, and non-conformists but
the clichdd natureof these roles puts
them in danger of being mistaken for
stereotypes.
With symbols and gestures, the
play touches on simple African vil-
lage life, the capturing of Black
slaves, and the assimilation of
Blacks into a white society. Then,
with poems and songs, it moves to a

bring gospel
to the masses

more abstract level, exploring the
psychology of African Americans
through different stages of history up
to the present day. "It's easy to tell
history, but it's the poems that cap-
ture ideas and concepts," said
Michelle Wilson, one of the play's
two lyricists.
Wilson said it wasn't difficult to
find documents on Black history in
the libraries. However, after research-
ing the, 1960s, she says she con-
fronted unanswered questions about
modern history and realized that she
must fill in the missing pieces of in-
formation by herself, from her own
knowledge and experience as a mem-
ber of the new generation. Others
can also gain knowledge from this
research, Wilson says.
"Beyond the Veil is more than
just a performance," she says, "It's
an experience to raise one's own
conscience."
BEYOND THE VEIL will be per-
formed today at 5 p.m. in the Arena
Theater in the Frieze Building.

BY PETER SHAPIRO
IT is truly a shame that the large
majority of the American popula-
tion knows gospel music only
through the church scene in The
Blues Brothers or from the white
bread heresies of Amy Grant or
even, God forbid, Stryper. Gospel
has given rise to the only
uniquely American art form, aside
from the almost extinct Native
American culture: blues and its
subsequent hybrids.
Synthesizing European choral
singing and African-American in-
terpretations of Bible stories in
the form of spirituals, gospel was
the first musical form with
African tonalities to gain
widespread acceptance in the

Western world. Despite the pres-
ence of these so-called "blue
notes," gospel music is at once
soothing and ecstatic. This versa-
tility has allowed it to influence
every form to come after it; the
scales and communal exuberance
in jazz, the wavering melisma in
the blues, harmonizing and
falsetto in doo-wop and soul, and
all of these in rock 'n' roll. All
this, of course, ignores the fact
that gospel has started the careers
of everyone from Aretha Franklin
to Little Richard to Otis Redding
to Sam Cooke.
Aside from Mahalia Jackson,
whose career lasted nearly 60
years, the longestgospel career
without going secular belongs to
See BOYS, page 9

0

Save this photo. These autographs may be a collector's item one day.
An added benefit is the extra group member in this limited edition
picture, only $9.99 with a free Ginsu knife thrown in for good measure.

NYC

Opera revives bohemia

7k4m
Cta41d

BY MARY BETH BARBER
FEW tickets are left for the New
York City Opera National Com-
pany's performance of Giacomo
Puccini's La Boheme this weekend
at the Power Center, sponsored by
the University Musical Society.
Avid opera fans bought tickets as
early as last April, resulting in an al-
ready sold-out Saturday night per-
formance and packed houses for both
performances on Sunday.
The traveling company, an off-
shoot of the NY City Opera and
founded by the legendary opera star
Beverly Sills in 1979, features some
of the best young talent in the field
and is a training ground for young
singers and performers, says Michael

Kondziolka of UMS. "It's exciting
to hear young talent and know these
are future stars," he continues.
"Residents of Ann Arbor don't get to
see opera that often," especially of
this high reputation.
La Boheme is the tale of four
young artists attempting to survive
on Paris' Left Bank in the early 19th
century, socializing with the other
bohemians at the romanticized
Parisian cafes, not unlike our own
Ann Arbor esoteric hangouts.
Rodolfo, the poet, falls in love with
Mimi, only to have their love
doomed by poverty. While their love
is tender, the on-and-off romance of
the painter Marcello and the fickle
Musetta reaches a crescendo with the
bitter argument and parting of the

i

t

L..

couple. Mimi and Rodolfo are re-
united, but only moments before her
death.
Supertitles, simultaneous visual
translations of the original Italian
projected above the stage, will en-
able even the newest of opera-goers
to understand the story without ob-
structing the drama; the titles para-
phrase the text to clarify without in-
terrupting the action.
Two prominent individuals of the
company are Michigan graduates: the
29-piece orchestra will be conducted
by University School of Music
graduates Mark Gibson, the com-
pany's new music director (evenings)
and William Robertson (matinee).
Because of the overwhelming
popularity of this event and the fact
that this is the only stop in Michi-
gan for the company, up to one-
fourth of the audience will be from
out of town, predicts Michael Gow-
ing of UMS and Burton Memorial
Tower Box Office Manager. Those
desiring tickets should get them
quick; this isn't an event to miss.

p.m.and 8 p.m. and can be pur-
chased at the Burton Memorial"
Tower Box Office from 10 a.m. to 6
p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 1
p.m. tomorrow. Prices are $20-$30.
A limited number of student rush
tickets for the Sunday night perfor-
mance will be on sale tomorrow be-'
tween 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. For more
information, call the Burton Tower
Box Office at 764-2538 during busi
ness hours.
2171a1

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