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September 21, 1990 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-09-21
This is a tabloid page

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In the basemenfit's

"Oh my God, it's a great big
huge leopard print dress,"
exclaimed Basement Arts' Kristin
Fontichiaro, as she rifled through
a dusty trunk of old costumes.
While other theater operations
may throw away such an
outlandish costume, you never
know what may be needed in
Basement Arts.
Working out of the Arena
Theater in the basement of the
Frieze Building, the University's
own underground theater is true
to its name. Basement Arts works
with material and a budget that
by Mary Beth Barber and
Elizabeth Lenhard

can only be compared to New
York's experimental off-off-off-
Broadway. The dingy Arena
Theater, with its rough brick
walls and collapsible chairs, sets,
and platforms, doubles as a
classroom during the day. The
black curtains and shadowy
atmosphere call to mind the
secret meetings of a group of
rebels or a speak-easy of
Prohibition days.
The student-run program is an
innovative development of the
theater department that for
several years has been providing
an almost unheard-of artistic
opportunity for University
students.All shows are directed,

som'ething 1
produced and performed by
University undergraduates. One
of the most appealing aspects of
Basement Arts to a poor
university student is that all
shows are free. The $2,000 annual
budget is funded by the
Department of Theatre and
Drama and the School of Music.
This works out to about $100 per
show, a drop in the bucket
compared to the overall budgets
of the two schools. Most funds go
to pay for royalty fees.
Basement Arts is a theater of
choice. Not only do students carry
out all aspects of production, but
they often write the plays as well.
This leaves freedom for any mode

of personal expression. Last year
the repertoire spanned from
Tracers, an off-Broadway play
written by Vietnam veterans, to
Waiting for Lefty, a piece written
during the depression to spur on a
strike. Jon Steiger, an tsA senior,
believes that there are advantages
to the smaller theater. "Tracers, I
think, is a show... that can be
done in a normal setting - or a
larger, more traditional setting -
but in a smaller arena I think it
was more powerful, and we are
able to involve the audience
more." WaitingforLefty however,
would not work on a traditional
stage, and is perfect for the Arena.
The Union Hall setting calls for

personal involvement v -the
audience, as the cast members
break down the fourth wall and
persuade the spectators to join in
their strike.
This year, as in the past,
promises a variety of work, from
political commentary to drama to
comedy. Mainstream pieces
include The Zoo Story by Edward
Albee and Geography of a Horse
Dreamer by Sam Shepard. But
everything in the Basement has a
twist. "Normally Geography has an
all-male cast," said Eric Fehlauer,
co-chairperson of Basement Arts,
"but [in our production] it's going
to be almost all women." And
although well-known playwrights,
Shepard and Albee are certainly
not traditional. Their innovative
techniques and styles first

A long and
complicated analysis...

"The only way for ajournalist to
look at a poltician is down"
It is late, but down the hall,
the news staff are grappling with
deadlines, the doctrines of
objectivity, fairness, balance,
truth and decency. And these are
fine ideas, but I am more
comfortable with greed, lies,
lunacy and evil scum-suckers,
which these days leads to those
involved in the waning Savings
and Loan crisis.
When the S&L debacle first
hit the headlines early in 1989,
the projected cost of bailing out
the failed thrifts was estimated
at $150 billion. All across the
country, millions of people failed
to get upset. By July of this year,
the real cost was looking like
$500 billion, a figure even
beyond the comprehension of
my scientific calculator. By my
primitive calculations, the S&L
disaster would cost every
American over $2,000. Two
thousand bucks apiece, please.
Yes, YOU personally owe two
big ones to the government.
Spread your payments out over
the rest of your life. Pay at the
Treasury Desk. Again, there was
a resounding national non-
uproar. Newspapers stopped
calling the S&L fiasco a scandal.
Apparently, no one was
"Jesus wept," I thought.
"What sum of money will upset
these people?"
The answer materialized about
a week into August, when the
price of a gas fill-up rose by a
dollar, followed by a national
freak-out and the largest military
mobilization since the Vietnam
I could sense a newjoi de vivre
,a new raison d'etre (and other
things solely explicable in
French) in Washington,
especially in the news media.
The media had been having a
difficult time with the S&L
crisis, which was not easy to .
explain on television, until Neil
Bush managed to get himself
embroiled in his own S&L
fiasco, to the mortal
embarrassment of the
Republican party.
Many journalists had no idea
where the whole mess had come
from, and most editorial
comment in newspapers was
by Rnin G. Lynch

confined to cartoons, where long
and complicated analyses were
not required to apportion the
blame. Came the Persian Gulf
crisis. Flags, tanks, F-15's flashing
into the desert twilight, unctuous
thumbs-up and a villainous
dictator who provided his own
fooage... good Lord, call the front
desk, we're back in business. Fire
the S&L experts, we won't be
needing them anymore...
There was a similar reaction in
Congress. During the 1980s, the
S&L industry had contributed
$11 million to members of
Congress, who had obligingly
kept the regulators off the backs
of the thrift owners while they
cleaned out the till to the tune of
$500 billion. Savings and Loan
corporations had traditionally
operated on the 3-6-3 principle:
pay interest on deposits at three
percent, make loans at six
percent, play golf at three o'clock.
But in the early 1980s, thrifts
found themselves lending long (in
mortgages) and borrowing short
(in savings accounts), and when
interest rates soared, their
fortunes sank.
Thrift owners called for
deregulation, to open up new
sources of income. Despite
warnings from the financial press,
and urged on by its industry
patrons, Congress deregulated the
thrift business in 1983. For the
next six years, S&L officials
invested in shady deals of every
ilk, from oil exploration to buying
art. The banking practices were
unsound, and many deals
floundered. In one thrift, Vernon
Savings, % percent of the loans
went bad.
If ever Congress had been
caught with its hand in the cookie
jar, this was it. As recently as
1988, 61 Senators and 333 House
members listed significant
donations from the S&L industry.
The most visible culprits were
the "Keating five," the five
senators who had accepted huge
contributions from Charles
Keating, whose Lincoln Savings
and Loan corporation went into
Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April
1989, with a loss of $2.5 billion.
Sen. Donald Riegle (D-Mich.)
was one of the Keating five.
Riegle, along with the other four,
claimed that the contributions did
not buy his influence. Keating
had other ideas. "One question,
among the many raised in recent
weeks, had to do with whether
my financial support in any way

influenced several political
figures to take up my cause," he
was quoted in Smart. "I want to
say, in the most forceful way I
can: I certainly hope so." Riegle
eventually returned all of the
money given him by Keating: a
total of $78,250. In total, he
returned in the range of $120,000
from sources tied to the S$L
industry, but it looks like more
than a routine damage control
problem this time.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich) is up
for re-election in November, and
he also has returned money from
sources that could be considered
"tainted." He returned $2,000
from one source, and is returning
$7,500 to a law company in New
York that had worked for Keating

(although Keating has employed
up to 77 law firms at one time).
On a comparative scale, Levin
appears clean. His opponent Bill
Schuette is doomed anyway,
especially in Ann Arbor, where he
made a brief appearance with
political albatross Dan Quayle
slung around his neck.
It looks like Congress has
slithered its way out of yet
another potentially disastrous
situation, but it is said that people
get the government they deserve.
Politicians have long been
accused of heinous deeds, but
proof of their crookedness does
not come along very often. And
besides, who wants to wallow
through a long and complicated
analysis to find that proof?


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S5 WEEKEND *SeptpIlr 21,1990

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