Page 4-The Michigan Daily-Weekend etc.- March 5,1992
Is it TV, or is it life?
by Stephen Henderson
W hat you see isn't always what you really get.
That's particularly true when you watch TV -just take a look at
any three-hour block of prime time programming, where the Cosby "life is
a bowl of cherries" syndrome still dominates and where hype always
But sometimes, strangely enough, what appears on the tube makes more
sense than life itself. Things get all topsy-turvy and twisted around, and it's
hard to tell exactly where we stand - or where we should be standing.
A few recent goings on illustrate just that.
Take, for instance, the California trial of four of the Los Angeles cops
who were videotaped brutally beating motorist Rodney King after pulling
him over for speeding. At some point since that incident, almost everyone
has sat in their living room and watched as the officers used taser gunsbilly
clubs, their fists and feet to beat King nearly to death. It's been aired
countless times on local and national news broadcasts.
I'll never forget the first time I saw it. At first, I was sure that it was a
re-enactment, or maybe even just some fictional show. Once I found out it
was real, I was horrified. And there was no question in my mind about what
the consequences should be for the police who so brutally beat that man:
They ought to be fired and charged with assault with intent to kill. There
was no other rational course to follow, as far as I was concerned. And I'm
sure I wasn't alone in that sentiment.
But that isn't what happened.
L.A. police chief Daryl Gates went
a long way to defend his officers' bru-
tality, first pointing toKing'spastcrimi-
nal record and then to his department's
"sensitivity" to thecommunity it serves.
Moreover, once it became public
that the L.A. police had a history of
using unbridled force - particularly
against people of color - with Gates'
tacit approval, the chief refused to step
down. Gates recently changed his mind, e t e
rand will resign from his position. th tepiur,
But what strikes me as being most
ridiculous about the incident is that the officers who beat King are now
standing trial for "using excessive force." No assault; no intent; just
excessive force, which carries a much lighter sentence.
None of that makes sense given the beating I saw on TV.
A similar example of this sort of confusion is last summer's videotaped
assault of a suburban Detroit woman. A group of teenagers attacked her at
the city's annual fireworks. That tape was also seen on living room
television sets around the world, and looked to me like it was clear cut: the
four or five teenagers in the tape were mercilessly kicking and punching the
woman on the ground.
But once again, the reaction to the incident doesn't follow what I saw
Detroit's mayor has refused to acknowledge the beating for what it was,
opting instead to make excuses for what happened and pressure the police
to stall the investigation.
And so far, the trials for the people on the tape have turned up little in
the way of adequate punishment. The woman who supposedly led the
attack has already been acquitted of two charges.
So where does that leave us?
We all saw the tapes of both beatings; most of us were shocked and
outraged by what we saw. But somewhere in the process, the system broke
down and failed to respond appropriately.
I always hear (and sometimes write) about the power and influence TV
has over our society and how that's probably a bad thing.
But both of the widely-seen videotaped beatings offered us the chance
to use television's power to do something good, to see that justice was done.
Unfortunately, our society doesn't seem too eager to take advantage of that
Directors, actors and advisors work on an original
adaptation of Lysistrata. This production was a highlight of the
RC Players' fall season.
RC Players: Really Casual and Really Cool .
by Jenny McKee
M ention the
'I.'6 Residential Col-
° lege to someone,
and you're likely
" to get a response
" -" that perpetuates
its stereotype; words like "weird,"
"artsy" and "avant-garde" are sure to
surface. The program offers its par-
ticipants many advantages, however
- one of them being a theater
group, the RC Players, within East
The RC Players offer a great op-
portunity for residents who may not
be majoring in theater but have a
strong interest in it. And you doesn't
even have to be a member of the
Residential College to participate.
"Right now I'd say it's about half
and half," said RC Players Board
member and publicity coordinator
Peggy McGhan. "A lot of people
that are on the Board live in East
Quad, but they might not be in the
Nancy Skinner-Oclander, secre-
tary of East Quad's representative
assembly and RC Players Board
member, added, "The East Quad rep.
assembly tries to get people invol-
ved because the rep. assembly is the
link to all of the rest of East Quad."
The organization is almost com-
pletely run by the students. "RC
Players is currently the only (theater)
group in East Quad," said McGhan.
"We do have some faculty advise-
ment that goes on from the drama
department head (Martin Walsh).
We sometimes have people who are
not necessarily involved in the RC
direct, and sometimes we have fac-
ulty people direct, but it is generally
Due to the success last semester's
"Lysistrata," the RC now offers what
is called the RC Ensemble, a two
credit course. The response to the
class was overwhelming.
"We actually got about forty
people," said Skinner-Oclander,
"which is a huge amount for RC
Players. They tried to make it so you
not only worked with a different di-
rector each time, but the people in
your group would be different, so
you got to know everybody. It's very
casual, just like the RC in general.
"Anybody could sign up for it.
We had a huge number of people
that had never been in theater before
coming to this class ... Some of the
people in these plays have lots of
theater experience, and some people
have never been in a play before.
This is the first opportunity that RC
Players has ever had to conduct a
class of its own," said Skinner-
McGhan thinks that the pro-
gram's openness is its core. "We
wanted to give people an opportunity
to be on stage - they can't get into
acting classes in the theater depart-
ment because if you're not a B.F.A.,
B.A. or theater major, you can't get
in," she said.
"The really cool thing about the
RC Ensemble is it's so casual," said
bas 4 on how much you can im-
pt ' and what you can do, and ev-
erybody's really supportive of ev-
Request proposals, which suggest
productions that could be performed
by the Players, can be made by any-
one. The troupe is very interested
and willing to consider plays written
by students, but none have recently
The Players Board ultimately de-
cides on what will be produced.
Funding for all the shows can come
from a combination of different
sources: the hall dues in East Quad
chiefly make up the Players' fund,
but the representative assembly, the
Residence Halls Association, the
MSA, and the RC drama department
are also asked to help.
What kind of shows appeal par-
ticularly to the Players?
"We're more interested in doing
things that don't get done very often
- we're not interested in making
money off any of the productions we
do," said McGhan.
"We enjoy making money, but
we're more interested in the process
of doing the show than we are in the
actual product. That is to say, we're
not interested in a show that's going
to sell - we don't do highly popular
shows. I don't want to say we're an
avant-garde group, but we try to do
things that are less than main-
McGhan continued to explain
why. "One of our main goals has al-
ways been to give opportunity where
other places don't. We want to give
people this learning opportunity;
that's what the whole thing's about.
That's why we give people the op-
portunity to get exposed to plays that
they might not get exposed to other-
"Even if it's a play that's a stan-
dard, traditional-type play, say a
Shakespeare play or Moliere, they're
not necessarily going to be done in
the style that you would expect them
to be," said McGhan.
Often, the people involved in the
plays have multiple jobs and respon-
sibilities. There is usually a big
cross-over between the cast and the
technical crew. McGhan described
A fair reconstruction
I magine Uncle Tom's Cabin performed from an African-American per-
spective. Then add a dash of rap for background music. Next throw in the
San Francisco Mime Troop for dramatic flavor. What you get is I Ain't Yo'
Uncle, An African-American Rewrite of Uncle Tom's Cabin, fresh out of the
oven for performance tonight. It stars Edris Cooper, Sophia Chumley and
Lonnie Ford as Tom. Harriet Beecher Stowe's powerful anti-slavery novel,
said to have been a catalyst for the Civil War, was originally adapted into a
play by George Aiken. Now African-American playwright Robert Alexander
has creatively used both works as inspiration for the show.
"We totally deconstructed the novel," said Alexander. "I don't say I
adapted it, but I sampled it."
For the first time, Tom, an almost silent character in the novel, is given a
powerful voice. "Tom is a guy who has been stuck with an image problem all
these years," said Alexander. Stowe portrays the character as saint-like but
Alexander digs beneath that meekness to depict Tom as a passionate man.
"When you see docility within a black person, it is usually because he is
wearing a mask," said Alexander. "We make (Tom) human - warts and all."
I Ain't Yo' Uncle will be performed at the Power Center tonight only.
Tickets are $16.50, $12.50 for students. Call 763-TKTS.-Jessie Halladay
the situation as "really a self-sup-
porting, tight thing with all this sort
of networking of jobs. Everybody
does more than one thing."
"The actors put up and take down
the set, help with the costumes and
the publicity - everybody helps
out," said Skinner-Oclander. Besides
exposure to different technical as-
pects of the production, an actor may
also play more than one role.
It sounds like quite a load, but the
Players view it as a better total
learning experience; they gain more
respect for the other elements and
people involved when realizing what
each job entails.
Turning disadvantage into advan-
tage seems to be a regular practice
for the Players. They struggle with
the turnover of members and with
getting access to the RC Auditorium
in East Quad. There are many differ-
ent groups in the RC that need the
auditorium, and for this reason, the
Players have to be especially flexi-
As a result, some productions are
done in the Halfway Inn (the snack*
bar in East Quad), and some are
done in the courtyard. Furthermore,
varying locations add freshness and
spontaneity to the group's perfor-
"You get a lot out of the fact that
there are a lot of challenges - not
enough money, not enough space,
not enough people, not enough time
- so you learn to work around it,"@
said Skinner-Oclander. "It's helpful
that everybody's friends."
There are more facets to the
group than simply its casual atmo-
sphere and its members learning all
the skills involved in theater. "The
people who are involved are really
excited about theater and really in-
terested in it, especially the people
on the Board," said McGhan.
"That's part of the reason why we do
so many different things. It's not so
much that there aren't enough people
to go around - I enjoy the things I
do for the RC Players.
"Even though sometimes it seems
like a lot of work, I really am glad
once it's done and I can say that I
had a part in this production. It's
really exciting to see the whole thing
come together, and to know that you
made the commitment to it, and it
turned out the way you wanted it to.
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