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March 16, 1994 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-03-16

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University faculty to
read works in progress
Julie Ellison might be one of the few poets who has been illegally
Ellison, a Faculty Fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for the
Humanities, will be reading a brief section about her eavesdropping experience
from a poem in progress, "More Real: An Open Letter to Katherine Anne
Power," on Thursday night. During the early '70s she was illegally wiretapped
by the New Haven police department during the Black Panther trials; the story
was hidden from the public for eight years. However, she is using the incident
as an examination of larger issues. "I'm interested in the whole question of
surveillance by others, of self-surveillance, and the often retrospective emotions
of disgust and embarrassment," she said.
Ellison will join Rei Terada on Thursday night at Rackham to read from
their works in progress. Both are faculty in the English Department and authors
of several published poems and pieces of critical work.
Terada has been in the English Department for four years, most recently
teaching courses on 20th century modem and contemporary American and
Ellison will be reading a brief section about her
eavesdropping experience from a poem in
progress, "More Real: An Open Letter to
Katherine Anne Power."
English poetry. In 1992 she wrote a book on the poetry of Nobel laureate Derek
Walcott. Although she has written mostly critical work, Terada has published
poems in many publications and received awards from several organizations,
including the Academy of American Poets. She is currently at work on a
manuscript entitled "Columbarium," from which she will be reading excerpts.
"I'm attracted to language that is extravagant and intellectual, preferably
simultaneously," she said, describing her critical work. She also looks for this
when she writes. "I'd like my poems to make the point that you don't show
intensity necessarily by talking about 'emotional' subjects," she said. "We
don't know in advance what are 'emotional' subjects."
Her poems run the gamut from how art enters life to ironic poems about her
family. One thing they have in common is a skepticism about the world. "The
fact that you're a skeptic doesn't mean that you can't describe precisely what
you're being skeptical about," she said.
Julie Ellison also tackles a wide variety of subjects for her poetry. Her work
in progress, a poetry manuscript entitled "The Worry Prayer," is a collection
of several different poems that range from "the material and emotional
fluctuations of the middle class to the operatic moments of everyday life." The
individual poem entitled "The Worry Prayer" describes parents' worry as a
kind of magical or protective thinking.
At the University she taught a doctoral seminar in comparative literature
on "Theories of Emotion". Her work at the Institute has a more historical
context, focusing on literary treatments of emotion in the 18th century and the
development of colonial structures. "I spend a lot of time reading plays full of
weeping men and speculating on the origins of liberal guilt," she said.
The birth of Ellison's son in 1983 made an important difference in her life
and her poetry. "This altered my relationship to myself as a woman and to other
women in important ways," she said. "This allowed me to get beyond the
excessively father-oriented poetry and quite constrained poetry I had written
JULIE ELLISON and REI TERADA will be reading at Rackham
Auditorium on Thursday at 5 p.m. Admission is free.

The National Theatre of the Deaf's rendition of "Under Milk Wood" promises to be "a total experience of the senses."
lady brligs Theatre of Deaf to lif

When the poet Dylan Thomas
wrote "Under Milk Wood," he had
conceived of it as a radio play - "a
play for words." Even though it first
premiered on the stage of New York's
92nd Street Y two weeks before
Thomas' death in 1953, the BBC later
produced it for radio, and it has since
been remembered as an aural script
rather than a visual one.
Now, in honor of the play's 40th


anniversary, a version of "Under Milk
Wood" is touring the country,
stopping in Ann Arbor for a
performance on Thursday at the Power
Center. One element of the production
might have shocked Thomas, though:
it's by the Tony award-winning ...
National Theatre of the Deaf.
An earlier rendition by the NTD
of the play, titled "Songs from Milk
Wood," debuted in 1970 and featured
in its ensemble Phyllis Frelich, who
subsequently won a Tony award for
her role in "Children of a Lesser God."
Frelich here will serve as the sign
But despite the presence of a sign
master, "Under Milk Wood" will be
more than simply a spoken word
performance with a lone signer
shunted off to the side of the stage as
a token concession to any deaf
audience members. Instead, eight deaf
actors and three hearing will
synthesize American Sign Language
and speech into what advisory board
member Shanny Mow has called "a
total experience of the senses."
The beauty of "Under Milk
Wood," a picturesque description of a

night in the dreams and a day in the
life of the residents of a small Welsh
town, resides not in what Thomas
wrote, but how he wrote it. In fact, the
poet himself commented: "I did not
care what the words said overmuch. I
cared for the sound that their names
and words describing their actions
made in my ears. I cared for the colours
the words cast on my eyes."
So why would a company
composed mostly of deaf performers
focus their attentions on a play that so
depends on the language?
Don't think that Thomas is the
only master of words that the NTD
has tackled, either. In the past, they
have performed works by e. e.
cummings and Gertrude Stein, and
just last year did an adventurous
production of "Hamlet" which they
called "Ophelia."
Founding artistic director David
Hays has an answer. "We want people
to see words and thoughts in a new
way, blazoned in the air," he said.
"Beautiful language, seen and heard."
The NTD has, in fact, always had
a "love affair" with Thomas' language,
and the short playlet that will precede

"Under Milk Wood" in performance
will explain that. "The Spinning Man,"
written and directed by hearing actor
Will Rhys, who will introduce the
audience to the NTD company and
will elaborate on the reasons for their
passion for Dylan Thomas.
Such passion that, for Haysw
"Looking back over 27 years of
creating Sign Language theatre,
nothing has quite the resonance -no
- the startling wake-up call as our
(original) 'Under Milk Wood.' I knew
that Sign Language and voice was
good theater. I just didn't know 'til
then that it could be THAT good.
Since that time when this piece burst
upon us, we've felt as good about4
other works we've produced. But our
version of 'Under Milk Wood' will
always be, for me, the play that brought
us full to life."

Checkoutthenewalbum by
played in its e nt Irety at

performed at 8 p.m. on Thursday,
March 17 at the Power Center. The
performance is designed for all
audiences, hearing and deaf
Tickets are $16.50 and $10. Call
763-TKTS or Ticketmaster at 313-


Arab-Israeli conflict through comic art


At3249 t Song WSMarch
orat214 S. Main on Thurs.March

Joe Sacco has just committed commercial suicide and
has lived to tell about it. The weapon? Taking himself too
seriously. It will kill a comic artist every time.
Sacco, a trained journalist who has been drawing what
he calls "grotesque caricatures" for the latter half of his
career, had used comics as a medium for communicating
political ideas in the past. His latest comic series, entitled
"Palestine," chronicles through cartoons what Sacco
described "life under the Israeli occupation."
Unfortunately for Sacco, the dichotomy between comic
book readers and politically conscious readers has not
synthesized to create a viable market for his work. Sacco
admitted that, when formulating the idea for Palestine, he
did not have a target audience. "I was hoping it [Palestine]
would appeal to people who wouldn't dismiss comics as
a medium, people interested in alternative means of
presenting material", the young comic explained. "I can't
imagine anyone over 40 looking at this."
The under-40 crowd might be reticent as well, given
the political and emotional nature of Sacco's work. The
first five books of his nine book series describe torture,
massacres and interrogations the Palestinian people have
endured while living under Israeli occupation in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip.
Sacco gathered the material through personal
interviews with refugees and militants during a two month
stay in the West Bank two years ago. In that respect, he
claimed that his journalism training enabled him to ask the
right questions and document the most harrowing stories
of torture. Yet while his comic strip may contain true
information, Palestine does not attempt to show both sides
of the' Arab-Israeli cnflict.

drawings and quotations directly from the characters.
While there is no doubt that Sacco's characters have
suffered, the missing information about the nature of their
crimes is so glaring that the comic does not carry much
weight without it. Sacco only states that Palestinians cane
be arrested for belonging to an illegal organization, but he
neglects to mention that such "illegal organizations,"
including the PLO factions Fatah and the Popular Front,
are illegal because they were, until recently, committed to
the destruction of the State of Israel. Furthermore, his
detailed illustrations of robust soldiers with guns towering
over the feeble Palestinians do not address the stone-
throwing and terrorism of West Bank radicals.
Sacco reiterated that he is only showing one side of the
story. "It's important to acknowledge that the whole
situation is steeped in violence and that Palestinians have
done some pretty horrible things to draw attention to
themselves and to lash out against Israel. I can't agree with
those things. There's been some real butchery", he
continued. " But you have to separate those acts from the
injustice that has been done to the Palestinian people."
Sacco indicted the Israeli methods of interrogation,
not the individuals themselves. In that sense, he distances
himself from the issues and concentrates on personal
testimonies. He is not the first journalist to expose the
mistreatment of Palestinian refugees at the hands of the
Israelis; Thomas Friedman elaborated on the situation in
his acclaimed "From Beirut to Jerusalem" and Israeli
writer Yoram Binur discussed it in "My Enemy, Myself."
While Friedman and Binur were both critical of the Israeli
brutality, both balanced their accounts with factual
evidence and input from both sides. The absence of the
Israeli nersneictive in Sacco's workc will no doubht ince'ne

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17th from 6 to 8pM

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