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November 30, 1994 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-11-30

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Facing our future through Chekov's 'Sisters'

4y MELISSA ROSE BERNARDO
The future is one of the most fright-
ening and yet most omnipresent is-
sues in the life of a University stu-
dent. What am I going to do with my
life? Where am I going from here?
What does life have in store for me?
These questions weigh on students'
minds much like a dense fog, and they
spend their four years trying to feel
-teir way to the answer.
The University Department of
Theatre and Drama doesn't have all
the answers, but it can at least offer
some solace - in the form of the
Anton Chekov's play "Three Sisters."
One would never imagine that a late
19th-century play would have any-
thing to do with a student's life in
1994, but director John Russell-Brown
disagrees.
* "It's about education, about youth,
about young people left on their own
trying to figure out their own life.
That's terribly contemporary!" he said
of the play, which runs for two week-
ends in the Trueblood Theatre.
He continued, "It's also about
young love - about romanticism and

sex. It's about what happens when
you marry too early. What happens
when you meet the person whom you
find it impossible to love, yet who
appears on paper to be the sort of
person you want to marry? What do
you do? What does he (or she) do?"
These and other themes resonate
throughout this masterpiece of West-
ern theater. Undoubtedly Chekov's
most famous work, "Three Sisters"
focuses on Olga, Masha and Irina (the
title characters), three over-educated
young women who are trapped in a
small Russian village. Living with
their brother Andre (Ward
Beauchamp) and their misfit of a sis-
ter-in-law Natasha (Debbie Keller),
the sisters (Rebecca Winston, Cecilia
T. Grinwold and Heather Dilly, re-
spectively) long desperately to return
to their childhood home of Moscow.
In the course of the play, the sis-
ters and Natasha look past their lofty
dreams of Moscow into their inner
selves, and make many life-altering
decisions. Brown was drawn to the
play for that reason.
"(These women) accept the hand
of fate, and they accept what they are
- they burn to accept what they are.
That is courage in my book, and it's
something I enjoy trying to affirm in
the play," he said.
Despite the gift of Chekov's fluid
script, written with the smooth, low-
key ironic style characteristic of the
famed dramatist, "Three Sisters" pre-
sents numerous challenges for Brown
and his cast. The bulk of those chal-
lenges comes in its staging.
"It's a pig of a play," Brown con-
ceded. "Meals are served, lamps are
lit, carnivals come - God knows
what happens. A great deal has to be
staged, and you can't cheat it."
Not only does the play require 12
strong actors, it requires another 12
just to help set up the stage. "Three
Sisters" requires very complicated

stage properties, none of which can
be eliminated or mimed. For that rea-
son, Brown made the difficult deci-
sion to cut the play's marketing bud-
get in order to give more money to the
props and costumes. He feels his de-
cision also accentuates the actors'
educational experience.
"I had to make a choice: posters or
properties - and there wasn't a mo-
ment of hesitation," he said. "What's
the point of asking someone to be in a
Chekov play when they have to mime
the properties? Or when they have to
pretend that a dress is new when it's
just the same dress with a different
bow? It's not fair on the actors."
So Brown and designer Nephelie
Andonyadis had the challenge of
cramming every last samovar into the
Trueblood. To achieve this, the the-
ater has been elongated - at times to
a length of 80 feet - with the audi-
ence "piled up" (as Brown said) on
two sides. Audience members will sit
between seven and 20 feet from the
actors. This is a departure from the
staging of a Chekov play at the turn of
the century, which was traditionally
on a proscenium, or picture-frame,
stage with painted scenery.
"It's very difficult to do such a
realistic play and project to an audi-
ence sitting below you," he said. But
the close quarters of the Trueblood
also have advantages. "We can't use
makeup and false beards and things
like that. But I think that's a small
price to pay for the intimacy. ... That
(closeness) should increase the sense
of audience participation," he added.
In addition to the intimacy inher-
ent in Chekov's family drama, his
dialogue, themes and issues are in-
credibly complex for even the most
experienced actors. The biggest chal-
lenge for this cast of young actors,
Brown said, has been perfecting the
shape of the play.
"There's so much detail that it's

very difficult to get a sense and pace
of the whole. Everything is so inter-
esting that you tend to give too much
attention to it, and the whole thing
becomes lumpy.
"It's like a very rich cake: the
mixture has to be perfect for it not to
be a soggy mess. And to get that
mixture right is very difficult. To get
it light enough in the right places, to
have enough time for the dark places
really to register but not swamp the
play. These are matters of great deli-
cacy," he explained.
And as a director, Brown is mak-
ing discoveries of his own. "That's
the trouble with working on Chekov.
Your own inadequacies become very
obvious because he's such a master.
"And I'm learning wonderful
things about the resources of my ac-
tors. One of the greatest pleasures has
been the way in which some of the
actors have grown, drawing strength
from Chekov. And that's not me -
that's Chekov," he said.
Potential viewers shouldn't be
scared because "Three Sisters" is a
period piece. And its interpretation
by student actors makes it all the more
relevant to a University audience.
"The fact that it's set in an ancient
world makes the image unfamiliar
and therefore able to surprise," Brown
said. "You can often see the present in
the past, but you can't see (that link)
when you live the present everyday."
"Three Sisters" is one of the most
often-produced plays in the Western
repertoireno doubt because Chekov's
themes still ring so true. Trying to
understand where you are and trying
to make your way in the world is a
problem that never goes out of style.
THREE SISTERS plays the
Trueblood Theatre December 1,2,3,
8,9 & 10 at 8 p.m. and December 4
& 11 at 2 p.m. General admission
seats are $12 ($6 students) at the
Michigan League. Call 764-0450.

Anton Chekov

'Hair' keeps growing and growing over the years
By JESSIE HALLADAY
What happens when a bunch of hippies get together on stage? If there is
more than pot and bellbottoms, it's probably the musical explosion known as
"Hair." This weekend the hippies will be MUSKET performers and they will
be taking to the stage of the Power Center.
"Hair" opened on Broadway in April 1968, in the midst of the anti-war
movement. It was a time when it was hip to "make love not war" and this
musical fit right in. The production started as an experiment in theater.
Tammy Jacobs, director of the MUSKET production, wanted to keep that
pirit alive. She has tried to create an "experience" rather than merely a
spectacle.
"It's about sex, drugs, love, war. It's all those extremes," Jacobs said.
James Rado and Gerome Ragni came up with the idea for "Hair" based on
the people they saw everyday while looking for work in the New York's East v Y
Village. Finding Galt MacDermot to do the score made the team complete.
Since initial limited run in 1967, controversy and heated emotions have
followed every production of "Hair." The nude scene has probably been hotly
debated. Productions have even been closed down because of the nudity. } -
Jacobs said that deciding whether or not to do the nude scene was the
*ubject of much conversation. She felt that the cast members should have the
choice about doing it or not. Finally, it was decided that about half of the cast{
will do it. Jacobs insisted that it is done in a very "tasteful, symbolic way."
The story follows Claude through his decisions about whether or not he
should join the army and fight in Vietnam or flee to evade the draft. The action
revolves around Claude and his hippy friends as they engage in an orgy of sex,
drugs and music. '
Jacobs hopes people will come with an open mind, ready to experience the
power of the play. She feels that part of what makes the play is the audience's
ability to become a part of the show. "It's not a passive show," she said.
"I want people to feel like they were sucked back in time," she said. She also
'popes that people will learn something about themselves, as well as this time
period.

"The Sorcerer," another engaging look at love and love potions.
Love conjurels all
By DAVID SHEPARDSON
Can anyone find true love without using a love potion?
In an era of crass commercialism and double-digit divorce rates, "The
Sorcerer" seeks to answer that heart-wrenching question.
This latest offering from the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan
Society (UMGASS) tells the story of a young noble couple, Alexis and Aline,
preparing to be married.
A modern-day director might pitch "Sorcerer," Gilbert and Sullivan's first
full-length comic opera, as "Alice in Wonderland" meets "Father of the
Bride."'
Alexis - in love with everyone and everything - convinces a local
sorcerer, John Wellington Wells, to administer a love potion to all attending
the banquet.
As the second act opens, the villagers awaken from the spell and instantly
falls in love with the first person they see, breaking down the barriers of rank,
wealth, education, age, beauty, habits and taste.
But chaos ensues as the romantic parings roam the village and Alexis,
envious of this supernatural bond, demands that Aline take the love potion.
Aline refuses.
Later, Aline reluctantly agrees but unfortunately sees Dr. Daly upon
waking and falls in love with the graying baritone. As couples roam the streets,
an evil Underworld god threatens to claim Alexis' soul.
The musical features lighthearted songs including "Dedr friends, take pity
on," "It is not love," "With heart and with voice" and "Happy young heart."
The cast is headed by Alex Brown, a vocal major in the School of Music,
and Kate Fitzpatrick, a recent University graduate.Brown, who plays Alexis,
has appeared in "The Pirates of Penzance" at Interlochen and played Nanki-
Poo in the "Mikado" last semester.Fitzpatrick, has appeared in the University
productions of "The Pirates of Penzance" and the "Mikado," as Yum-Yum.
The mysterious sorcerer, John Wellington Wells, is played by David Zinn.
Zinn has performed in several Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, including
playing Bunthorne in "Patience." The cast is rounded out by UMGASS
veterans and newcomers. Charles Sutherland, who plays Dr. Daly, is perform-
ing in his 23rd Gilbert and Sullivan musical.
Dan Model, who plays the lawyer, is appearing in his first UMGASS
production. Model, who is a first-year masters' student in the School of Social
Work, spent time in Australia and Europe, which he says helped refine his
accent.
Mary Locker, a Detroit-based casting director, is "Sorcerer's" director.
She said she is dedicating the performance to the memory of her two parents,
who passed away earlier this year. She directed "Patience" and "Gondoliers"
last year.
The 47-year-old UMGASS puts on two performances each year. "Sor-
cerer" was first performed in 1877 in London.
THE SORCERER will be performed at Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre,
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees
at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are $10, $8 ($5 students), and are available at the
Mendelssohn Box Office, in the Michigan League. Call 763-1085.

HAIR will be performed Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2
p.m. at the Power Center. Tickets are $8 ($6 students) at the Michigan
League Ticket Office. Call 764-0450 for information.

MARK FRIEDMAN/Daily
Friends look on as Claude burns his draft card. Bring your own head of hair
(and the rest of you) to the Power Center this weekend to see "Hair."

Tilsdale drives the bus in her motivating narratives

BY HELEN PIKE
When I met Sallie Tisdale a while
ago there was one question that I
wanted her to answer: How did she
manage to write about sex in a way
which was neither clinical, sleazy nor
cliched?
Part of the answer is to be found
by simply meeting Tisdale. She ar-
rived a little late, genuinely sorry at
having kept me waiting, and appeared
comfortable, casual and more than
.appy to talk about her fifth book. So,
ie big question: Was "Talk Dirty to
Me" an agony to write?
"Oh no," Tisdale launched in em-
phatically. "My voice was driving the
bus, as it were." This is how Tisdale
sums up the narrative force behind
her work. All of her books have had a

prostitutes, gays and straights from as
many walks of life as possible, Tisdale
nonetheless found her first week on
the road a nerve-wracking experience.
It was not voyeurism that kept her
going. Tisdale is a Zen Buddhist and
thus believes that our physical sensa-
tions are neutral and not to be judged.
We should practice compassion to-
wards others and towards ourselves

but we should not let that compassion
allow us to turn away from anything
that we find uncomfortable. Espe-
cially from something as fundamen-
tal as a person's sexuality.
Tisdale has been delighted with
the reception of "Talk Dirty to Me" so
far. "The most nasty reviews have
come from older men who think that
See TILSDALE, Page 8

$ALARY
$ UPPLEMVENT$
ARE HEREI
Salaries for Faculty and Staff at

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