The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - January 30, 1992- Page 5
Oobleck isn't too far Gone to stop in A2
by Maureen Janson
* Looking for some diseased, sadis-
tic, gluttonous, two-dimensional,
subatomic, dysfunctional, wormlike
alternative theater? Go to the origi-
nal play Gone, written by Mickle
Maher - formerly of Ann Arbor's
Street Light Theater which is now
Theatre Oobleck of Chicago -
when they return to their roots at
the Performance Network this
Gone is the fascinating satirical
fantasy of four feisty individuals in
an excrement-obsessed province.
They run into beings from another
dimension - tiny folks - when
they decide to escape from their flat
Oobleck sprouted from the
minds of a few writers who wanted
to' see their one-acts produced. In the
past four years it has grown to great
success in Chicago where the writ-
ers have been churning out new, in-
triguing pieces of theater. Accord-
ing to Maher, Chicago was a much
more reasonable choice for moving
into the big-time than New York.
"It's cheaper and easier to gain
recognition," he says.
In 1987, members of Street Light
Theatre began relocating one by one
to Chicago, performing in church
basements and community centers.
Then, feeling the need for more co-
hesion, they decided to produce
works out of a space that they could
call their own.
Renting the back room of a cafe,
their works. One of the group's
members usually writes original
material for the entire ensemble,
who are free to suggest rewrites. If
an actor is not comfortable with
reciting a particular line, s/he can
Dedicated to presenting "orig-
inal, experimental and socially
relevant work in the performing
arts," the Performance Network has
played an integral role in nurturing
Oobleck in its early stages.
Now in their tenth anniversary
season, the Performance Network
continues to carry out its mission
despite having lost all state funding
under Governor Engler. Ann Arbor
audiences may remember El Pre-
sidente is Not Himself Tomorrow
by Danny Thompson and Earth be
Damned by Jeff Dorchen, vintage
Oobleck staged at the Network.
Maher, Thompson, Dorchen, Da-
vid Isaacson and Barbara Thorne are
original members of Street Light
returning in the cast of Gone.
Chicago actors make up the rest of
the group. As in traditional Oobleck
policy, the admission is a $5 dona-
tion - "more if you've got it, free
if you're broke."
GONE will be performed at the Per-
formance Network tonight through
Saturday at 8 p.m. For more infor-
mation and reservations, call 663-
In the '70s the dance floor and media worshipped glamorous singers
with great voices, but now divas who look less-than-perfect remain
unknown except for their voice. Most true divas are not the pre-
pubescently thin nymphs that record companies stick on the covers.
They are large women, real women; how else could they belt out a huge
voice that everyone wished they had, regardless of their sex? Give
Marky Mark credit for giving us a glimpse of Loleatta Holloway in his
video, more P.C. than Black Box's fake singer on their album cover.
The new divas of the '90s are the ultimate in dance consumerism
because they have one-shot hits and sing absolutely inane lyrics to
delightfully repetitious 122 beats per minute music. They end up dissed
and unknown because the music is so lightweight.
No one cares about the cult figure anymore, just the sound. These
singers have a voice that can turn the hook of a song into an addictive
mind trap. After a night at the club there is actually a woman inside
your head who relentlessly screeches "everybody everybody," or
"finally it has happened to me," or "La Da Di La Da Da," or the ever-
popular, "it's such a GOOD vibration ..."
The dance diva genre has its shining stars and trash elements.
Crystal Waters is the trash element - the woman can't sing or dance
but was undeservedly dubbed the "Donna Summer of the '90s." Yeah,
as if. Yet even Waters produced an offshoot: Ce Ce Penistons' babbling
in the beginning of "Finally." While Crystal Waters unabashedly
flaunted her lack of talent, Ce Ce Peniston tried to hide her flaw in vocal
monotony, but hey - it's still a great song!
The real shining star of divaland is Loleatta Holloway. The general
public knows her as woman sampled behind Marky Mark, "it's such a
GOOD vibration," as well as any given female sample of '91. I would
argue that she does all the vocals on Black Box's Dreamland; there was
a legal dispute and she's only credited with singing "Ride On Time."
You be the judge. It would be great if Holloway could cut her own
dance album and forget the Euro-trash business.
Real divas have staying power and flexibility. I predict Tammy
Wynette will be the real new Donna Summer of the '90s, after the first
true crossover from country to techno singing with KLF in their remake
of "Justified and Ancient." She has the voice and the history; it's the
kind of song you'll wish you'd liked sooner. The vote is for Wynette.
Gone is a diseased and wormlike play. But what about the sex scenes?
and eventually moving to a larger
space on Chicago's north side, they
introduced themselves under the
name of Oobleck and have been pre-
senting their eclectic brand of enter-
tainment ever since.
Much of what contributes to
Oobleck's uniqueness is the empha-
sis on group contribution within
change it. All the staging and block-
ing is done by consensus.
This director-less approach is es-
pecially effective in intimate the-
ater settings such as the Perfor-
mance Network. "We know the
comfort of the space," says Maher,
"There is a good quality of energy at
Seveny-five years ago this week - January 27, 1916 - a long
history of curricular theater at the University began when Charles Rann
Kennedy's Servant in the House was performed on a simple stage in
front of a plain set of curtains and lights.
The show, performed in long-gone University Hall, was the first
production for which students received credit. It was a result of the first
theater class, Play Production. The Theater Department was born out of
the Department of Speech and developed by Thomas Clarkson
Trueblood, after whom the Trueblood Theatre was named.
Trueblood came to the University in 1884 to give a six-week
course of lectures about speech. His program was so well received
that it eventually became the first speech program offered for credit in
Classes in Shakespearean reading and interpretation were the only
connection to the dramatics during the early years of theater, although
plays would be staged on an informal basis.
Now, 75 years later, more than 1,000 plays have been presented in
conjunction with the University. With the help of professors Richard
Dennis Teale Hollister, Valentine Windt, William Halstead and many
more from past and present, the Theater Department has grown, despite
set-backs, into a thriving entity of its own.
This week, the tradition of student theater continues as The Base-
ment Arts opens its winter season with a production of Greater Tuna, a
fast-paced comedy about a day at a radio station in Tuna, Texas.
Continued from page 4
back in that time, it seemed to be a
more diverse situation," says Tom
Godfroy, the manager for quirky
popsters Southgoing Zak.
"The U-Club had a lot of stu-
dents, and the Heidelberg showcased
more obscure acts. It was much
more fun back then. They were more
concerned with presenting good mu-
sic than just making money."
Matt O'Brian, the bass player for
Big Chief, grew up in Ann Arbor,
and remembers the time when it was
a mecca for new, live music.
"My first show ever was Johnny
Thunders' Gang War, with Wayne
Kramer, in the VFW hall under-
neath the Seva restaurant. The Wif-
fle Tree, over on Huron, used to be a
club as well. That place has the
most history. The Who played there
on their first U.S. tour. Ann Arbor
used to be a major stop for bands
like that. Back then, it seemed like
there was a club on every block."
The two places in town that do
showcase original, live bands are the
Blind Pig and Rick's.
"The Blind Pig is one of the best
clubs to play in, and it always has
been," says Chris Johnston, the vo-
calist for popular East Lansing
band, the Hannibals. "It has a great
reputation, as far as the people that
go there, and the P.A. is great.
"Rick's has grown leaps and
bounds, as far as what they do for
the bands, in the past year. Reposi-
tioning the stage, putting in a new
P.A. ... They seem to have the band's
best interest in mind."
But even if Ann Arbor does have
two good clubs, one still has to
wonder what caused the sharp de-
cline from the countless clubs that
once populated the city.
Most fingers point towards the
'powers that be,' from the Univer-
sity itself to legislative crackdowns
on drinking and other ordinances.
"I think it's the continued Birm-
ingham-ization of Ann Arbor"
deadpans Big Chief's O'Brian.
"Anything that's loud and re-
bellious is frowned upon by city
council and various other organiza-
tions here in Ann Arbor. They make
it really hard for a bar to get a
liquor license and have live bands."
Godfroy echoes these senti-
ments. "Everything is getting so
conservative here, and music is not
exactly a conservative item. Just
starting with the new pot law,
that's an indicator of how things are
going. Then they moved to the frats,
not allowing them have open par-
ties, then to no kegs, et cetera, et
This increasingly critical social
eye definitely has had an effect on
the clubs themselves. Todd Headric,
manager of the Blind Pig, laments
about what he sees as a worsening
situation for clubs to showcase
original live acts.
"Between Michigan raising the
drinking age, and the higher cost of
doing business, it's nearly impossi-
ble for lots of clubs to even open
their doors. It's so expensive to run
a bar these days. All of the new vice
taxes have forced us to raise prices,
and liability insurance is astronomi-
cal...that's what eventually killed
Joe's Star Lounge."
When asked what it would take
to revive our dying club scene, all
voices chimed a resounding chorus
of "more clubs!" But other than the
recent (and very quiet) reopening of
the Heidelberg, the idea of any new
bars opening appears to be little
more than just a pipe dream. You're
more likely to catch acts like Big
Chief or Southgoing Zak in Toledo,
Detroit or even Flint, than here in
their hometown. And that's a sad
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