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November 10, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-11-10

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Potok retains his

Don't ask Chaim Potok to choose
a favorite among his novels. "That's
like asking someone to choose among
his children," said the famous father
of three.
As the author of eight best-selling
novels, Potok does not exaggerate the
difficulty of that choice. From intro-
ducing the rebellious painter prodigy
"MyName is AsherLev," tochroni-
wing his own experiences as a chap-
lain in "The Book of Lights" and "I
Am the Clay," all of Potok's novels
resonate with the human experience.
Potok's passion emanates from his
upbringing as an Orthodox Jew and
as an observer of the world. In his
childhood bubble, Potok grew up in
an environment which frowned upon
secular, outside influences and
:ressed following Jewish values as
outlined in the Torah.
But at age 16, Potok looked into
literature and discovered new reali-
ties that challenged his Orthodox Jew-
ish woridview. "It was through read-
ing that I realized the power of the
novel, that you can shape reality with
wordsand sentences which bring forth
the deepest feelings and thoughts you
jve," Potok said.
And Potok hasn't stopped rebel-
ling. "The essential nature of modern
fiction is that it is rebellion," Potok
explained. "It's the individual who,
for whatever reason, regards himself

or herself in tension with his or her
For Potok's characters, the im-
plicit tension in rebellion intensifies
with each turn of the page. This con-
flict is central in "My Name Is Asher
Lev," a book which Potok considers
"a metaphor for my work as a writer."
Asher Lev is a young Yeshiva
student who has agift for drawing and
painting. In the beginning, Asher's
mother coddles his gift and encour-
ages him to "make the world pretty"
through drawings of sunshine, birds
and happy people. But Asher's post-
war world is far from pretty, and he
becomes sated with the compulsion
to paint the truth as he interprets it.
Asher's fidelity to truth becomes
an unplanned rebellion against the
socialconventionshehas been taught.
His father tells him not to rejoice in
the demise of even the Jews' greatest
enemies. But during class, Asher
draws a distorted, mangled picture of
Stalin in his coffin. His teachers re-
mind him that the Torah is law. But
Asher desecrates his Torah text by
drawing a picture of the Rebbe -the
highest spiritual leader in the com-
munity -on one of its sacred pages.
His mother orders him to return di-
rectly home after school. But Asher
spends every afternoon he can steal in
the local museum sketching crucifix-
ion scenes and nude women.
Lev's inability to stifle his passion

for art transforms him into a reluctant
rebel, andhis dissidence alienateshim
from the community he calls home.
Potok attributes this tension to "the
religious community handing down
its value system, parental guidance,
and control. Such control can become
choking and runs into conflict with
the creative impulses a child might
have, especially if those impulses
seem to be threatening."
The religious community does not
unilaterally view Potok as threaten-
ing. "There has been no one reaction
[to my work]on the part of the Ortho-
dox community," Potok declared.
"Some appreciate what I am doing,
others do not. Some Orthodox institu-
tions ban my books and won't let
students read them,others assign them
as required reading."
While Potok draws on his reli-
gious background, he says he's not
pigeonholed as a Jewish writer. "The
fundamental theme [of my work] is
about what happens when individuals
from the heart of one culture encoun-
ter individuals from the heart of an-
other culture." This encounter, Potok
added, is not an exclusively Jewish
phenomenon. "It's an experience ev-
ery one of us has, whether Catholic,
Protestant, secular, South African,
Australian, Filipino or children from
small towns in Mississippi."
Potok doesn't have to worry about
appealing to a universal audience.

World reknown author, Chaim Potok, will speak at Hillel's Green Auditorium tonight at 7:30 p.m.

According to Maraca Zoslaw Siegal
of Philadelphia's Inside magazine,
his writings have been translated into
everymajor language, including Nor-
wegian, Chinese and Hebrew. "The
Chosen," Potok's most famous novel,
is now in its 66th paperback printing.
Although Potok is primarily anov-
elist, he has succeeded in other ven-
ues as well. Most recently, he has
written "The Tree of Here," a
children's book. He is currently work-
ing on a non-fiction book about the
life of Soviet Refusenik Vladimir

Slepak and dissonance in the former
Soviet Union.
Even with all this diversity in his
repertoire, Potok knows writers face
the danger of becoming too comfort-
able, of losing the passion that has
propelled them to write.It is the same
problem with Asher Lev when his
teacher of 20 years tells him, "You
are better today than when Ifirst taught
you. But you do it too easily. There is
no sweat under your armpits."
Potok explains that writers, like
artists, can "become so good with the

technique of what you do that you
lose the passion that generated the
work when you were younger. If you
create without passion and only when
things are under control, then you
have created something cold."
Is Potok in danger of losing his
passion? Is he still sweating?
"I don't know," the writer an-
swered, "but if I'm not, there's some-
thing wrong with what I'm doing."

Chaim Potok speaks at Hillel's
Green Auditorium tonight at 7:30



Concert presents dancers thesis

Thesis ... Concert. While many of us would spend our
time deliberating between these two alternatives, some
talented people fulfill both simultaneously. This weekend
five dance majors will combine their efforts to produce the
1993 Bachelor of Fine Arts and Dance Arts Concert.
Seniors, Danielle Archer, Michelle Proctor, Jeremy Stew-
ard and Michael Woodberry, will perform their own
choreographed works in "Undeniably Deep and Heavy."
A thesis concert enables dance majors to experience
the same pressures that choreographers and producers
must face on a day to day basis. "We basically are running
the whole production ourselves," Lisa Darby explained.
"We have to perform a solo and choreograph agroup work
as a requirement."
Unfortunately, responsibility goes hand in hand with
artistic freedom. Music, lighting, costumes and public
relations must all be arranged within a tightly restricted
budget. Nevertheless, Jeremy Steward enjoys the latitude
since, "We're all able to shape the performance and give
it whatever kind of theme we want to." The final product
promises to be an exciting and unique collection of works
as each dancer inevitably contributes their own personal
Some students spend weeks complaining and procras-
tinating about their thesis, while other people begin brain-
storming before the topic is even assigned. Danielle
Archer transcends both categories since she knew her
thesis would be interracial relationships as early as her
sophomore year. Archer's experiences as an African
American woman inspired her to choreograph "Prism."
Using a mixture of musical styles, Archer arranged a
group number with four black men anda white women to
the music of Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley and Santana.
As the piece progresses, "You can see the combination of
jealousy and bitterness since Iam not, quote, 'as beautiful'
as they all are. My solo culminates in a moment of self-
realization." Archer added, "It doesn't have to be about
interracial relationships. It's aboutgetting over one part of
your life that has always been a problem, or a series of
stepping stones. After you gain strength from the first
trial, you can move on to the next step." After reaching the
point of self-acceptance, Archer wants everyone to share
in her confidence. "No matter what we as individuals
believe about ourselves, we are all beautiful. There is

always something that makes you unique."
While some of us feel the need to pencil 'free time' into
our daily planners, other people welcome spontaneity in
their lives. "I don't like having a set idea and then fitting
people into that idea. I had to let the piece change and
evolve," Steward explained. "At first, I thought it was
going to be specifically about illness, and how it affects
your life. Now it's more abstract. Through courage and
compassion, a group of people help support one another
through their feelings of loss."
A thesis concert enables dance
majors to experience the same
pressures that choreographers and
producers must face on a day to
day basis.
In "Fear of Fall," Jeremy Steward identified his danc-
ing style as "post-modern, which incorporates the
performer's voice and gestural movements." Instead of
treating the dancers as receptacles for his own ideas,
Steward encourages them to contribute to the production
as well. "I have given the dancers three words to work
with; courage, compassion and comfort. I've asked them
to come up with gestures that stem from these words and
incorporate them into the piece."In the end, Jeremy wants
the audience to feel "a sense that we are all in some ways
connected to one anothereven though our experiencesand
struggles might be different."
With five individual choreographers, one cannotprom-
ise an overabundance of continuity, but diversity is cer-
tainly guaranteed. As Steward observed, "The choreogra-
phers all have different styles that they focus on. Some are
more balletic, modern or jazz oriented." This weekend the
senior dance majors will share the fruits of their hard work
and personal struggles experienced here at the University
of Michigan. Hopefully, the audience will also be pre-
paredtosharein something "Undeniably Deepand Heavy."
The 1993 Bachelor of Fine Arts and Dance Arts
Concert will be performed in Studio A of the University
Dance Building, November 11-13 at 8p.m. Tickets_
are$S and available at the door; one hour prior to

Most bands take a little time off at some point in their career, but Concrete Blonde continues to roll on without
looking back. After reaching a mainstream audience with the hits "Joey" and "Everybody Knows" and their third
album, "Bloodletting," the band has been touring and recording consistently. Thankfully, the pressures of the road
have not sapped the band of their energy or creative powers. Johnette Napolitano, the band's distinctive, throaty
lead vocalist, explores her fascination with Mexican culture on their ambitious new album, "Mexican Moon."
Currently touring to support their fifth album, Concrete Blonde brings their powerful, melodic rock & roll to the
higan Theater tonight. The Oblivious opens the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are only $17.50 in advance.

Read and
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_ _
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