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April 20, 1993 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-04-20

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Page 12-The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, April 20,1993


Sills beats stereotype with success

by Melissa Rose Bernardo
Did you ever wonder what happens
to all the talented University students
after they graduate from the School of
Music? Stereotypically, they jet to the
Big Apple and become waiters. Very
few are never heard from again. Dou-
glas Sills isone Ualum whois currently
makig quite a name for himself in the
national tourof theaward-winning"'The
Secret Garden."
Sills graduated from the University
in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in
Music. Raisedin Michigan,he attended
the Cranbrook Institute in Bloomfield
Hills, and began his University studies
in LSA. A vocal teacher encouraged
him topursue formal musical study, and

so with the support of his parents, Sills
transferred to the School of Music to
study vocal performance. After two
years, however, he found the program
too rigid, and returned to LSA. "I was
interested in a wider range of subjects
than the music school allowed me to
pursue," he explained.
Sills got involved with "The Secret
Garden" through "the grapevine of ac-
tors."Through atenacious manager, the
recommendation of the prestigious
James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim,
"a lot of good fortune and a very pre-
pared audition" (plus some familiarity
with the director), Sills was able to land
what he feels is a "very plum part." He
said, "I think any actor is kidding him-

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self if he thinks it's all skill. It's good
fortune and a lot of different factors
coming togetherwhich createan oppor-
tunity like this."
Sills described the story as "a story
of love, healing and passage through
grief." Based on the children's book by
Francis Hodgson Burnett, "The Secret
Garden" tells the story of Mary Lennox
who, due to the death of her parents, is
shipped off to live with her hunchback
uncle, Archibald Craven. "It's the story
ofhow these two people-the little girl
'You have to make the
character real ... an
actor's job is to hear
information on stage
for the first time, even
through you've heard it
400 times .".
-Douglas Sills
and the man - come together to heal
each other from their losses," Sills ex-
plained. On Broadway, the show won
threeTonyAwards (SupportingActress,
Set Design, Book of a Musical), three
Outer Critics Circle Awards and four
Drama Desk Awards.
Sills plays Dr. Neville Craven,
Archibald's evil brother, and is the un-
derstudy for Archibald. During the De-
troit engagement, he will perform
Archibald for a week. Aside from the
lure ofa prestigious national tour for his
resume, Sills was attracted to the pro-
duction as an actor. "It was a darker
character, which is always very attrac-

tive to me. And it was a musical -- a
stage piece; living in LA much of my
focus has been on TV and film and
when not, it's been on more classical
theatrical expressions," he explained.
Sills finds a number of challenges as
a performer on a year-long national
tour. "You have to make the character
real ... an actor'sjob is to hear informa-
tion on stage for the first time, even
through you've heard it 400 times," he
"Additionally, thereare specificchal-
lenges to this piece such as dialect-we
speak in a high British dialect; physical
challenges -because it's aperiod piece,
and as a doctor in the early part of the
20th century, there's a different posture
and a different social class."
Asan understudy, Silismustbeready
to switch roles at a moment's notice.
'That's very challenging - to under-
stand both characters' journeys very
distinctly and very concretely so that
you don't confuse them," he said.
Sills is very attracted to the theme of
"The Secret Garden." "I feel very
strongly about the place of theater in the
community. I think to a degree as a great
source of healing and teaching, it has
been somewhat neglected and ignored
... But this piece enables an adult to
bring a child to the theater ... and to
have this journey together.
'The theater can be a transcendent
place - a place where you an leave
your difficulties and some of your joys
behind for a few hours and come and be
transported, and see your life in adiffer-
ent way through the distance of the-
ater," he said.


Douglas Sills plays the role of Archibald Craven in "The Secret Garden."

As it is based on the classic novel,
"'The SecretGarden"has immense value
as a teacher. "I think what this teaches
you is you have to let go and thathealing
usually comes when you open yourself
up, and (usually comes) in the last place
you'd expect... whetherthatbe through
a little girl coming into your life, or a
garden, or a servant, a friend, a book or
a theater piece."
The message of "The Secret Gar-
den" isone that reverberates throughout
the ages, and encompasses all genera-
tions. As Sills urged us, "Look for heal-

ing and growth in the most unexpected
performed at The Fisher Theater in
Detroit April 27- May 16.
Performances are Tuesday through
Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at
7:30 p.m., plus Saturday and Sunday
at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to
$42.50, with children's discounts
available. For ticket prices and
information, call the Fisher Box
Office at (313) 872-IOOD, or
TicketMaster at (313) 645-6666.

Quartet has long relationship with Beethoven


by Kirk Wetters
Approaching the 30th anniversary
of its founding, the Guarneri String
Quartet is still playing Beethoven. John
Dally, one of the quartet's violinists,
explained thereasons forthis long-stand-
ingrelationship."I think we all findnew
things. What keeps it interesting is the
fact that we have to keep playing well,
and of course we're playing the best
music everwritten, soitconstantlypulls
us up by our bootstraps and keeps us
alert," he said in a recent interview.

The Guarneri concert this coming
Sunday will consist entirely of quartets
by Beethoven. The quartets to be per-
formed are considered by many to be
among the most challenging and enig-
matic that Beethoven ever wrote.
Dally commented on the unique-
ness of the E flatmajorquartet, subtitled
"'The Harp." "The strange part about
'the Harp' quartet, of course, are the last
two movements," he said. "The last
'We try to make sure
that there are four
players and four
different sounds. That
one thing is sort of our
trademark ...'
-John Daly
movement which has the strange varia-
tions and the rather enigmatic end -
everybody's very surprised that it's
ended. It's over before they know it.
From the standpoint of the public, 'the
Harp' has never been a favorite quartet,
because of the way it ends; the varia-
tions are rather severe, and of course it
ends quickly, so the audience is never
quite prepared for it unless they're re-
ally familiar with the work."
Dally described some of the points
which contribute to the Guarneri's dis-
tinctive sound. "We try to make sure
that each of us individually has our own
sound," he said. "In other words, many

quartets try to blend perfectly so that
each person sounds like the other one,
so that it would be kind of an idealized
"We don't do that. We try to make
sure that there are four players and four
different sounds. That one thing is sort
of our trademark. We try to have four
individual personalities that one can
The final quartet on Guarneri's pro-
gram is also the final quartet which
Beethoven wrote. This quartethas been
perplexing to scholars and listeners alike,
some seeing it as a return to an acces-
sible,bourgeois aesthetic from the spiri-
tual intensity of the other late quartets.
Others find great profundity in the
quartet's final movements.
'The third movement has that won-
derful chorale-like hymn-like quality,"
Dally explained. "Andof course the last
movement, which has the 'Es muB smein'
('It must be') quotes - there again,
people try to figure out what he
(Beethoven) means by that. There are
lots of theories, some very lofty and
some very ordinary; one is that he
couldn't pay the rent, and others at-
tribute very lofty sentiments to that.
And then it ends, with kind of a jaunty
In live performances, many things
may effect the interpretation, often in-
cluding basic physical factors. "They
effect all four of us in different ways;
there are a lot of things, for example,

fatigue, how much coffee you drank,
how nervous you are," Dally said. "It
may be that you sense that somebody
else is a little more tired than usual -
you might have enough stamina that
you can give a little extra to make up for
it. There are little things that happen all
the time."
Dally speculated on the develop-
ment of the quartet's style. "Somebody
once asked, where did we play our best
Beethoven, andlI thought itwas our first
(recorded) cycle, back in 1968, but the
others were horrified; they said we play
much better now," he said. "I thought
the very first time we played the cycle
was thebest. Ithad themostenergy, and
that's when we took the most chances.
"I think that. they (the interpreta-
tions) have evolved by themselves. I
don't think there's any conscious effort
by the four of us to make them evolve in
one direction or another, I think that just
happens, that's the process of melding
four voices. It's influenced by the natu-
ral aging process, the assimilation of
ideas as you grow older. Sometimes
things mellow out more, sometimes
they get more stark in nature."
QUARTET will perform Sunday,
April 25 at 4 p.m. in Rackham
Auditorium. The concert is a benefit
to support the University Musical .
Society and Chamber Music America.
Tickets are $26, $30, $33, & $35.
Call 764-2538.

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Phone (212)581-3040
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