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February 11, 1993 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-02-11

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Page 4- The Michigan Daily-Weekend etc. - February 11, 1993
'High school show'gets serious treatment at the 'U'

by Laura Alantas
Known as the quintessential high school show,
"Our Town" often does not receive the serious
treatment that it rightly deserves. The University
Department of Theatre and Drama, however, hopes
to change that.
"Many high schools do 'Our Town' because it's
not controversial, it's cheap (since there is minimal
scenery) and because it's a great play," said director
Philip Kerr, head of Performance Training in the
Department. "It's for the latter reason that we're
doing it."
What hasmade "Our Town" an American classic
is its depiction of life in Grover's Corners, New
Hampshire at the turn of the twentieth century.
Wilder did not attempt to paint a "Norman Rockwell
illustration," as Kerr put it, nor did he write a piece
of "journalism." Rather, Wilder wrote "Our Town"
to bring attention to the value of everyday life. "Our
Town" celebrates the seemingly mundane and un-
important events in the lives of the Gibbs and Webb
families, and reveals their beauty.
The play, divided into three acts, highlights a
different date and event in each act. Act One,
subtitled "Daily Life," depicts just that. We learn
about the history of Grover's Corners and meet the
town's citizens, including the Gibbs and Webb fami-
During the opening act, Wilder shows how both
women and men interact among themselves. From
these scenes, Kerr found a strong message: "One of
the main wisdoms that Wilder shows us is that when
the women get together, they seem incredibly busy,

but they also seem to tell the truth," Kerr said. "The
men, on the other hand, boast, lie, or justmake small
talk. I've accentuated, enlarged upon the image of
two women talking because it's very important to
In Act Two, "Love and Marriage," the love story
between Emily Webb (Jennifer Johns) and George
Gibbs (Chris Stapleton) unfolds. Stapleton describes
George as, "a kid who wants to succeed, make his
parents proud, and who has a love for his small
town." The audience witnesses not only their first
discussion of their love for one another, butalso their
marriage vows.
The last act, "Death," deals with Emily's death.
We see Emily in heaven, with many of the other
characters whom we have met. Emily gets the op-
portunity to visit earth, though, so that she may taste
the sweetness of life for one last time.
'We're so used to death in life being conveyed
with amale hero mucking up in war, a hero who fails
at a task, and then enters a state of death," noted Kerr.
"In 'Our Town,' though, it's nota war hero who dies,
but a woman who dies in childbirth, in a real,
immediate way ... It interested me that the woman
is the vehicle for the exploration of death in the play."
The character of the Stage Manager (CeCe
Grinwald) guides the audience through this visit to
Grover's Corners. "The Stage Manager determines
what the audience sees, how long they see it, what's
important in the story, what'snot. She knows every-
thing about the town: the past, future, present. She's
omnipresent and omniscient," said Grinwald. "The
Stage Manager is also very generous. She's sharing

this incredible experience of life with the people,
hoping they'll come out of it enlightened."
Traditionally, a man plays the role of the Stage
Manager. Wilder, in fact, played the role himself.
During the 1930s, "the job of a stage manager in the
theater was one that a man had," explained Kerr.
"Now, though, a greater percentage of stage manag-
ers are women." His casting a woman in the role,
therefore, gives a more accurate reflection of the
reality ofthe'90s. All in all, having a woman play the
part "doesn't make a hill of beans," said Kerr. "Not
having a man gives the part a different flavor, but it
doesn't tip the balance."
When Wilder wrote "Our Town," he intention-
ally scaled down the use of sets and scenery. The
only set pieces that are called for are a few tables and
chairs, a couple of ladders and a lattice or two.
"He [Wilder] didn't want to use scenery because
he demands that the audience participate and use
their imagination. They can't sit back. They must be
engaged," explained Kerr. "It's more work to see
'Our Town,' but Wilder insists on it."
"This is not the 'Our Town' people have seen in
thepast," insisted Stapleton. "There'smore to it, and
the audience can hopefully get more from it."
"It's truly a special play," Kerr went on to say. "I
wanted to go back and discover it again ... Essen-
tially whatwe are doing is re-investigating an Ameri-
can classic."
OUR TOWN will be performed February 11-13 at
8p.m. and 14 at 2p.m. at Lydia Mendelssohn
Theatre. Tickets are $14, 10, and $6 with student
I.D. (limit two); Call 764-0450.


"Our Town" is one of our favorite shows, one to see over and over.



Hollywood cashes in on comics

- -


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by John R. Rybock
Movie companies are concerned
with only one thing - money. When
people flock to a movie and it makes a
lot of cash, Hollywood's natural reac-
tion is to try andripitoff-itis anatural
side-effect of capitalism.
Thus, it was inevitable that when
"Batman"passed the $100 million mark,
movie producers ran to the closest comic
book store to find a 'new' idea for a
movie. So now, in the land of movies,
one can go to Spago and see moguls
eating and talking about the "X-Men."
In a way, it makes sense. After all,
Hollywood itself is nota highly original
place. The movie people have not been
there long enough to have their own
historical past to build on, so they im-
port everything, including ideas, and
comic books offer them ready-made
heros, villains, and story lines. Voila!
An instant, ready-to-shoot film for the
fast-food generation.
Today, comics are popular. Any
Wednesday, gotoDave'sComics around
three o'clock and watch all the people
flock in. With strong followings, mov-
ies centered around such characters as
"The Punisher" are sure to succeed.

O.K. "The Punisher" was already
made into a movie, and you probably
never heard of it. The makers of "The
Punisher" turned it into a Dolph
Lundgren vehicle, with no character
and plenty of violence.
Hollywood, along with many non-
comic readers, fails to understand the
complexities of a comic book and its
characters. This is illustrated by a com-
ment I hear a lot: "Superman was killed
as a publicity stunt so that D.C. Comics
could make money."
Granted, there is truth in that. The
entire escalation of the mother-of-all-
battles between Superman and Dooms-
day was played up in such a way to
guarantee maximum bucks for the bang.
But it also is allowing for amajor trans-
formation of the Superman character.
(Yes, heiscoming back. Whyelsewould
there be a subscription offer in the "Fu-
neral for a Friend" series.)
At his birth so many years ago,
Superman was an ideal hero. He un-
dauntedly fought for "Truth, Justice,
and the American way." He was pure
good vs. Lex Luther's pure evil, and at
the time, it worked. But over the years,
,comic readers were becoming more

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interested in complex characters. In the
same way that television audiences
moved from "Leave it to Beaver" to
"Roseanne," those of us paying $1.25
(minimum) an issue wanted someone
like Wolverine, who by basic definition
is a hero, but who has a dark past and a
nasty temper.
Over the years, the people behind
the Superman titles have worked to
make him more "human." The fights
became fiercer, with Superman coming
outofthembruisedand bloodied. Itwas
not enough, and thus an elaborate plot
was hatched to kill the Man of Steel and
then bring him back changed.
All of this is lost on Hollywood,
however. Of the many layers to the
character of Frank Castle, ak.a. the
Punisher, only the surface layer made it
to the silver screen, never exploring all
the forces which brought him to wage a
one-man war.
All of the psychology that goes with
characters such as the Punisher is ex-
plored on the pages of the comic. With
the Comic's Code, when violence does
occur, only a certain amount may be
shown. This leads to wonderful artwork
in which an entire story is told in one
frame. None of this makes it to the
screen. Only the mindless violence of
the Punisher was put on celluloid.
The aforementioned "X-Men" r
people born with an extra gene
which gives them some ability not found
in "normal" people, and they struggle to
gain acceptence in society. The parallel
with the civil rights movement is clear,
but this will undoubtably be lost in any
movie version.
When Hollywood learns to take
comicbooks seriously, only then should
they try to make movie adaptations.
Movie executives should leave Spago
go to the local comic shop, and research
the characters so they getabetter under-
standing of the underlying forces in the
comics. If they are going to make a
movie at all, they should at least, for
once, try to do. it right.

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