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February 10, 1994 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-02-10

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, February 10, 1994 - 7

.Culture meets theater

continued from page 1
an last year's production. She had
oeen looking for a venue to create a
scholarship fund for University stu-
*ents of color in performing arts for a
long time.
"(Students of color) in the per-
forming arts here are admittedly terri-
oly, terribly underrepresented," she
-:ommented. (In last fall's production
of Wole Soyinka's "The Lion and the
Jewel," for example, the majority of
;he cast was comprised of non-perfor-
mance majors.)
Since last year, the scope of the
*CMP has grown to include not only
an expanded production of "The Col-
ored Museum" but many lectures,
readings and discussions by promi-
nent actors, designers, directors and
playwrights of color. Included are
playwright Ntozake Shange ("For
Colored Girls Who Have Considered
Suicide/When theRainbow is Enuf'),
Lighting designer Dawn Chiang (the
*Toronto revival of "Showboat," last
year's "Brigadoon" at the Univer-
sity), playwright Velina Hasu Hous-
ton ("Tea," "Necessities"), actor/di-
rector/playwright Muriel Miguel
("TheRez Sisters"), actor/playwright/
producer Jude Narita ("Coming into
Passion / Song for a Sansei").
University Theater department
members Victor En Yu Tan (ac-
claimed Broadway and off-Broadway
Olighting designer) and OyamO (rec-
ognized playwright) will also partici-
pate, and U professors Hilary Cohen
and Enoch Brater will moderate dis-
Additionally, interactive exhibits
will garnish the week's events. Using
a morph program exhibit visitors can
put their images into a computer and
"alter" their race. Also, a simulated'
Slave ship will allow visitors to expe-
rience what it was like to travel the
seas as a slave.
"The Colored Museum" is a pot-
pourri of vignettes performed in dif-
ferent theatrical styles, running the
gamut from musical to drag.
"The premise is you're in a mu-
seum and you're looking at these 10
exhibits, and each exhibit presents a
different aspect of African American
ife. It runs from slavery to sit-coms,"
Nessen said. "It pokes terrific fun at
our ideas of what African Americans
are about and it hits very hard and
poignantly, issues of racism and iden-
"The (show) is a living example of
what we are talking about when we

(say) that theater needs to address the
needs of the people and respond to
them and perhaps create a different
kind of theater," Nessen continued.
The students and artists partici-
pating in the show and its surround-
ing events are wholeheartedly com-
mitted to the group's goals. "This has
been a real multicultural effort on the
part of the students. Students of every
race, creed and color have come to-
gether and not put aside our differ-
ences, but openly acknowledged our
differences to work toward a com-
mon goal," Nessen stated.
The group is receiving support
from many venues. Playwright
George C. Wolfe waived the perfor-
mance rights; the speakers have been
incredibly willing to participate; the
University donated the use of the the-
ater. In addition, Ann Arbor Mayor
Ingrid Sheldon has proclaimed the
week of February 9 through 16 "Col-
ored Museum Project Week."
Unfortunately, Nessen often sees
people sitting back and putting up
with the way things are. "Instead of
complaining about the lack of diver-
sity, lack of multiculturalism, lack of
dialogue on these issues," she said,
"let's do something that allows us to
engage in the very things we don't
believe are here and see if that can
effect some sort of change."
Continued from page 1
footnotes about what Native culture
is about," she said.
Hence the existence of Spider
Woman Theater (off-Broadway in
New York City), which is the longest
ongoing Native feminist theater in
the country. Their main thrust is cre-
ating a greater place for Native Ameri-
cans in society, using theater as the
"We spend a lot of time educating
and talking to the generations. We as
role models say 'You can do this -
you can be an actress, you can be a
playwright, you can be a performer.'
And I think that's very important -
that we have these tools for propa-
ganda, these tools to spread word
amongst ourselves," Miguel ex-
"We-all ofus -are responsible
for seven generations. Every single
(Native American) in the world is
responsible for seven generations."
While Miguel centers her career
around the desire to better represent
Native Americans in society, GyamO
does no such thing.

The Colored Museum
Project events schedule
Thursday, February 10: Performance of "The Colored Museum," 8
p.m., Trueblood Theatre, $6 students, $12 general.
Friday, February 11: Performance of "The Colored Museum," 7 and
10:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 12: Lecture/Demonstration: Jude Narita, 11 a.m.,
Rackham Auditorium. Panel #1: "Multi-Ethnic Theater in the 21st
Century: Defining Working Principles ofMulticulturalism"; Dawn Chiang,
Velina Hasu Houston, Ken Johnson, Ruben Sierra; 1:30 p.m. Panel #2:
"The Politics of Multi-Ethnic Theater"; Baikida Carroll, Muriel Miguel,
JudeNarita, Oz Scott; 3:30p.m. Reading: "Tea" by Velina Hasu Houston;
5:30 p.m., Trueblood Theatre. Performance: "The Colored Museum", 8
p.m. Exhibit: 7 - 10:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 13: Panel #3: "Accessibility and the Performing
Arts in the 21stCentury"; Baikida Carroll, Dawn Chiang, Muriel Miguel,
Jude Narita, OyamO; 10:45 a.m. Panel #4: "Collaboration and the Arts:
'For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow
is Enuf"'; Baikida Carroll, Oz Scott, Ntozake Shange, Victor En Yu Tan;
1:30 p.m. Panel #5: "Direction, Movement and Conflict: The Future of
Multi-Ethnic Theater"; Ken Johnson, Velina Hasu Houston, Ntozake
Shange, Ruben Sierra; 3:30 p.m. Performance of "The Colored Mu-
seum," 4 p.m. Panel #6: "Academia and the Artist: A Dialogue Between
Artists and Academics"; Gary Anderson, Baikida Carroll, Eric Fredricksen,
Muriel Miguel, Lester Monts, Ruben Sierra; 5:30. Reading: "Spell #7" by
Ntozake Shange, 6:15, 2518 Frieze. Performance of "The Colored Mu-
seum," 8 p.m. Exhibit: 3 - 10:30 p.m.
Monday, February 14: Brown Bag with Ntozake Shange, 12 p.m.,
Trueblood. Reading: "Fried Chicken and Invisibility" by OyamO, 5 p.m.,
2518 Frieze. Reading: "Actos" by Luis Valdez, 6:30 p.m., 2518 Frieze.
Exhibits: 7 - 10:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 15: Performance of "The Colored Museum," 8
p.m. Exhibits: 7 - 10:30 p.m.
Wednesday, February 16: Performance of "The Colored Museum,"
8 p.m. Exhibits: 7 - 10:30 p.m.
All Panel discussions will be he d in Rackhan Auditorium. Exhibits
are displayed in the A rena Theatre (basement of the Frieze Building).
All events are free unless otherwise noted.

Muriel Miguel focuses on creating better images of Native Americans.

"That's not my goal," he stated.
"My goal is just to try to write a good
play, and then to write a better one
next time.
"I don't really attach my writing
to some socio-political goal. I'm not
using it to crusade for better anything,
except maybe different perspectives
on the human condition."
In light of Miguel's goals, perhaps
it seems OyamO is neglecting his
responsibilities to African-Ameri-
cans. One could even go so far as to
say that he is selling into the seductive
"white mainstream" in American the-
"I think that when art becomes
something that is only used in a socio-
political kind of way, it tends to be
weaker. It tends not to work as well,
except for those people who are rally-
ing around that particular socio-po-
litical cause," he explained.
"That's a big debate raging among
a lot of black artists right now ...
people wanting to show blacks in a
positive image. My attitude, very
frankly, is that the most positive thing
that a black artist can do is to write or
create a good work of art that will
stand for a long time, and that is a
positive image," OyamOemphasized.
Miguel could just as easily be ac-
cused of compromising her art for the
sake of a socio-political agenda. But

neither Miguel nor OyamO can be
blamed for a lack of multi-ethnicity in
the American theater, and both of
them should be lauded for their re-
spective efforts. Since the theater is
such a universal art form, there is
certainly a place for their radically
different tactics.
Regardless of their opposing view-
points, both Miguel and OyamO ex-
pect the CMP to answer some of these
questions. Certainly no one expects
the CMP to completely remedy the
state of American theater, but every-
one is eager to look ahead. Still, each
playwright will contribute in his/her
own way - Miguel with her "go-out-
and-get-'em" style, and OyamO with
his "let the question take its course"
Miguel said, "I always remember
that if you're going to do something,
you have to do it yourself. You can't
depend on anyone else. You have to
be brave."
OyamO said, "I think the question
of multi-ethnicity in the American
theater will soon answer itself. Within
50 years, when the majority of the
people in this country will be people
of color, and I think it will be a lot
easier to discuss that question. Right
now it's very difficult."

Brandon Moore wonders which romantic movie to rent
from Liberty St. Video for his hot date on Valentine's Day.

I. 5

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