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October 14, 1993 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-10-14

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Just stay out
"A boycott is never an end within
itself. It is merely a means to awaken
a sense of shame within the oppres-
sor, but the end is reconciliation."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The University of Michigan
School of Law must decide next week
whether it wants to be in the business
of casting shame when it considers a
proposal to thrust the school into the
ongoing Colorado boycott.

. celebration of life in t

he face of death

£2

By MELISSA ROSE BERNARDO
ILLUSTRATIONS BY JORDAN ATLAS

The Queer Law Students Associa-
tion raised the issue when it proposed
that the Law school bar Colorado-
based law firms from using campus
facilities to recruit, in accordance with
a nationwide boycott spurred by
*Colorado's notorious Amendment 2.
Colorado law firms that oppose the
discriminatory amendment would be
exempt from restriction.
If the faculty joins the boycott, it
might send the righlt message about
anti-gay discrimination. But it will
surely send the wrong message about
the mission of a public school.
No doubt, Colorado voters made a
wrong decision by passing Amend-
Wment 2, which prevented local gov-
ernments from passing gay-rights pro-
visions and reversed progressive laws
in Denver, Aspen and Boulder.
Since then, city councils (like Ann
Arbor's), Hollywood types and at least
one other law school (New York Uni-
versity) have entered the fray.
There are several reasons why the
Law school here should not follow
*their lead. The first is that it would be
contrary to what should be a school's
primary mission: providing opportu-
nities for learning and debate, and,
secondarily, giving students the tools
for professional advancement.
The gay law students group, be-
lieves the Law school should also
promote a social agenda. In this case,
it can't do both. By barring Colorado
firms from recruiting, the school
wouldbe working against its students,
who might want to find jobs there.
This raises a second point, that by
affirming the ban, the faculty would
be unfairly imposing a political deci-
sion on students who may disagree.
Civil rights for gays and lesbians
is an evolving legal issue. Gay mar-
riages, military service and Constitu-
tional protection are issues yet to be
Oresolved. There need not be unanim-
ity among the faculty or students in
the Law school. Presumably, students
would be outraged if the faculty
adopted a universal position on other
legal issues, such as Roe v. Wade or
racial gerrymandering. The faculty
should not discourage debate by sub-
scribing a "correct" position on some-
thing that is a matter of opinion.
It can be argued that the Colorado
boycott (which has received criticism
by some liberals for blaming one state
for the nation's sins and punishing
even progressives who live there) is
more a political than a legal issue, so
issues of academic freedom are not at
stake. If that is the case, the faculty
has no more business taking a stand
than if it were to endorse a particular
health care plan.
Two comparisons must be
avoided. One is the University Board
of Regents' bold move last month to
outlaw discrimination against gays
and lesbians. By previously forbid-
ding discrimination against most other
groups, the regents were sending a
bad signal to the public, and discrimi-
nating against homosexuals.
But Michael Silverman, of the
Queer Law Students Alliance, is
wrong when he says that for the Law
School, "not doing something is as
much a political statement as doing
something." By refraining from the
Colorado boycott, the Law School
would in no way discriminate against

- w

I 7129 ?M~nw3

e theater has always been hailed for its confrontational potential. Issues
Tl hat are shut out at home are welcomed, discussed and relished in the
fltheater. So within the past few years, to go along with the turmoil brought
by the AIDS epidemic, a new genre of plays and musicals hit the Great
White Way. Now dubbed the Gay White Way, "gay plays" represent a
new era in American theater.
So when the Musical Theater Program presents "Quilt, A Musical Celebration," is
it just buying in to this faddish new theatrical genre (which will probably fade away once
people can say the words "gay" and "AIDS" without snickering or cringing)? This
musical narrates the creation of various panels of the AIDS memorial quilt. Can it not
be classified as just another gay play?
"No," stated an emphatic John Schak, director and co-writer of "Quilt."
"When people say 'gay play' ... when somebody tells me this is a 'gay' issue, I say
'where do you think homosexuals came from?' From other homosexuals? No. Every
homosexual person or lesbian woman has straight parents for the most part, straight
brothers and sisters, relatives and friends. They don't exist in a vacuum, and the people
who end up alive afterwards - after people die - and make quilt panels are to a large
extent brothers, sisters, friends, parents, children, nieces and nephews, students," he
explained.
Clearly, AIDS can no more be called a "gay disease" than "Quilt" can be classified
as a "gay play."
As opposed to works like "Falsettos" and "Angels in America," "Quilt" is centered
around a mammoth work of art - it is not, like those plays, a depiction or a comment
on people's lifestyles. "Angels" is a mammoth work of theater-a portrait of a Mormon
wife and her repressed homosexual husband, a drag queen dying of AIDS and his
straying lover, a closet homosexual Reaganite lawyer in a high government position. But
"Quilt" is on a different level.
Schak happened upon "Quilt" when he was looking to direct a project with some sort
of political or social overtones. He saw a section of "Quilt" in a workshop and was
immediately attracted.
"I liked the writing, but I also liked what it was about and the point of view," he said.
As it happened, the writers (composer Michael Stockler, lyricist/librettist Jim Morgan
and librettist Merle Hubbard) were looking for a director. Soon after they sealed their
partnership, an offer of production came from the University of Maryland, and because
the offer came with a director, Schak was made a co-author to protect his investment in
the show.
Schak worked on the Maryland production, and continues to work on it now ("In fact,
there is a number being written as we speak"). Since he has worked at the University as
a visiting lecturer and director ("Into the Woods," "A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the
Ukraine"), he brought the show to Brent Wagner, the head of the Musical Theater
Program. "Brent already knew a lot about it because (Michael Stockler) is a very old
friend of his," Schak explained, "And (he) saw it as an opportunity to do something that
was on the cutting edge as far as issues go, and also because it offered a lot of parts."
"Quilt" is structured as a revue - individuals come out and they tell their own stories.
Schak elaborated: "In the beginning we have an opening number, in the end we have
a closing number. And in between, we examine people who have made panels for the
NAMES Project AIDS memorial quilt. We examine one block of the quilt in which there
are 32 panels, so we need about 26 people. And we hear their story. So most of the stories
are told as either a song or a monologue; there are a few scenes, a few duets, but ... it's
so episodic."
"Quilt" does not depict, directly, those who have died. It is the story of those who
survived them, and the panels constructed in their memories - gay, straight or
whatever. People like you and me.
The stories told in "Quilt" are all too real. In his 30 years or residence in Greenwich
village, Jim Morgan himself witnessed most of these stories. "Anyone who's lived in
New York since the '80s has lost a lot of people to this disease," Schak commented.
"All the things that happen in the play are real," he emphasized. "Some of the
characters are absolutely one-to-one. The two major through-line characters, Wess and
Karen, are based on real people exactly." "Quilt" is not a montage of the people who have
died of AIDS, but rather the representation of their loved ones who survived them, and
made the panels as testaments to their love and memories.
The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt has a rich history. In 1987 a San
Francisco man lost his lover of 13 years to AIDS. America was drifting blindly through
the Reagan years, and at the time there was no acknowledgment of the epidemic, let
alone a government policy.
"There was no leadership, no voice, and just out of immense frustration this man
made a panel -he just decided that he was going to make a memorial for his lover. What
he chose to do was to make a quilt panel, which was three-foot by six-foot - the size
of a grave," Schak explained.
Word of this memorial spread, and pretty soon other people wanted to do the same.
This led to a workshop, and within months there was a display in Washington of over
1000 panels. The NAMES Project was created to handle the quilt, which is now roughly
the size of 12 football fields, numbering over 24,000 panels, weighing 29 tons and
growing every day.
The quilt also incorporates the American tradition of quilt-making. "Women, who
basically had no voice in the culture - like they do now - used quilts to memorialize
and celebrate. And into the quilts they wove their own history, they wrote personal
messages, social messages," Schak explained.
"So basically the quilt was a platform for the disenfranchised, for the disempowered,
and it's been taken over again by the disempowered in a time of disenfranchisement to
speak out."
Portions of the quilt will be on display during the run of the musical, so audiences will
be able to put a picture with the stories they see and hear. On a larger scale, Mayor Ingrid
Sheldon, in conjunction with the city of Ann Arbor and the University, declared October
18-24 AIDS Awareness Week.
Schak himself requested an AIDS Awareness Week be declared. "You've got to

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