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January 14, 2000 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-01-14

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 14, 2000
Uber-actor Macy conveys boy-scout appeal-

Bebe Miller brings her company of dancers to the Power Center this weekend.
miller aCe o. hts
ower entr

By Jennifer Gates
Fr the Daily
How do we call ourselves?"
Answering her own question, Bebe
Miller's first, most obvious answer
would more than likely be, "dancer
and choreographer." Having re-estab-
lished her dance roots while a student
in a Merce Cunningham master class
at Ohio State University more than 25
years ago, Bebe Miller has since gone
on to create 47 works and a company
of her own. Her string of awards
includes two
"Bessie" New
York Dance and
P e r f Perform ance
ebe Millet Awards and a
Company Guggenheim
Power Center Fellowship.
The Bebe
SJanuar y 15 at 8 Miller Company
is coming to
Ann Arbor for
the first time in
10 years. This
performance of
"Going to the
Wall" and
"Rhythm Studies" promises to
explore through movement what
Miller sees as "thoughts of how we
are as individuals.'
The ensemble work "Going to the
Wall" began with an "idea of race; as
an African-American directing a
white company, that (race) was on
my mind," Miller said. "I wondered,
what do they really feel about this
situation? As we progressed I'd like
to think we were stripping away
more of the artifices and superficial-
ity. I wanted to debunk the dancer
myth and come to a real dialogue."
In addition to creating the choreog-
raphy that touches on such private,
yet communal subjects as "sexuality,
personality and history," Bebe Miller
also wrote original text for the piece

that is combined with music by Don
Byron, The Fugees and Nonchalant.
"You know," she said, "You dance
with your dancers and you sweat with
them and they lift you and you lift them
and you don't know if they believe in
God! Once we find out that we are all
different, to a certain extent it's very
freeing ... we get to rough places. and
then go beyond them"
Miller claims to be "always in ser-
vice to an idea." For "Rhythm
Studies," the idea was dance as
"memoir." For Miller's first solo in
t0 years, Miller said she asked her-
self, "How did I get to be there ? And
I kept coming back to rhythm, to
beat, as how I chart myself. Later on
in my career, I got much father away
from the beat" By creating her auto-
biographical solo "Rhythm Studies,"
Miller said she was, "coming around
to rhythm again, to a full circle -
no, no, there is no full circle, maybe
a spiral."
Without a doubt, Miller is an
explorer, although she hesitates to
say that her works are all about iden-
tity, fearful that they will then
"sound like a sociology experiment."
She is, after all, a dancer. Aside from
movement as a way to explore "how
we call ourselves," Miller likes
dance for the simple reason that
when watching dancers move, "We
hear their breath and see their sweat
and they can see us ... we rehearse in
perimeters so we can live in a
There will be a free public inter-
view with Bebe Miller and a show-
ing of her film "Three" at the
University Dance Building tonight at
7 p.m. Events related to the perfor-
mance also include a free public lec-
ture Saturday at 7 p.m. in the League
Koessler Library on "Identity and
Process in Bebe Miller's

Tie Los Angeles Tunes
When William H. Macy's friends
come over to his house, they play... cha-
It's one of those inside Hollywood
secrets. Pals like Helen Hunt and Hank
Azaria, Kristen Johnston from "3rd
Rock From the Sun," high-powered
executives like Jamie Tarses, who until
recently ran ABC's entertainment divi-
sion, her brother, writer Matt Tarses,
director Jon Turteltaub - Macy has
them all playing charades.
"It's so completely queer, we love it,"
he says, leaning back in a chair at his
dining-room table and turning bright red
with mirth. "Turteltaub, he's a god."
Unhip? Extremely. But at Macy's
modest Spanish-style house just off
Melrose Avenue, nobody gives a good
goldam. Among actors and directors, the
man is venerated asa master of his craft.
"Everybody wants to say they knew
Bill Macy before everybody else did.
That's a testament to how cool he is,"
says Paul Thomas Anderson, the writer-
director of Macy's latest film,
"Magnolia" "He's very simple. I mean
that as a huge compliment. Very direct.
He doesn't have a lot of sugar, flour and
cherries on top of it.... He is so (exple-
tive) reliable. It's very comforting to see
him in a movie. Every time he comes up,
he's(expletive) Bill Macy and he's gonna
rock the house."
And in the past few years, he's been
rocking the house pretty often, usually
and most potently as the loser, the odd-
ball, the dork. He was a bumbling car
salesman who put a hit out on his wife in
"Fargo," a performance that got him an
Oscar nomination three years ago. Last
year he was an anti-hero in "Mystery
Men" and a lonely gay sheriff in "Happy,
Texas." And now, in "Magnolia," which
opened Friday, he's whiz-kid-turned-
failed-adult Donnie Smith.
Macy has had seasonal gigs on "ER"
as Dr. David Morgenstern and now does
guest spots on "Sports Night." He's a sta-
ple in anything David Mamet creates,
from "American Buffalo" to "Oleanna."
Basically, he pops up everywhere and is
reliably riveting.
So when some actor Macy has never
met comes over, "They'll say, 'I'm sooo
in awe of your work,"' he says. Then he
suddenly thrusts his face in your direc-
tion, the massive blond eyebrows go up,
the cheeks puff out and his eyes have a
glint of Howdy Doody: "Ten minutes
later, they're screaming, 'Be specific!
What are you, stupid?"' Pause. A big,
goofy grin. That's charades for you. "You
go insane"
He has renovated much of this house
with his own hands, tiled the kitchen,
vaulted the living-room ceiling,
redesigned the bathroom, installed the
picture windows that look out onto the
vine-covered back yard.
ie seems so impossibly un-
Hollywood. The phone rings. He
answers it, basso profundo: "Macy here"
He says corny things like "I'm hip to
that." He'll say "That's jive, man." He

refers to his wife, Felicity Huffminan (best
known as tough-as-nails producer Dana
Whitaker on "Sports Night") as "the
cat's pajamas." Truly.
Until four years ago when his career
got too crazy, Macy was a scoutmaster.
Aha! we think. All of this is starting to
make sense.
"I like Boy Scouts," he says, utterly
disarmingly. Who in this cynical town
would confess to such a thing? "I love
the idea of 'Be Prepared.' If you have to
have a slogan, isn't that grand?"
"One of the rules of acting is never
cop an attitude about a character," he
explains. "You must do the character's
bidding all the time. You can't say he's a
loser. Or he's evil. There's never been
someone who thought of himself as evil.
Even despots thought they were doing
the right thing.
"Oh, and never give up," he contin-
ues. "You can't ever give up. It's always
compelling to watch someone who
won't give up."
Even when the viewer knows the char-
acter's effort is utterly futile, as with
'Lundegaard, falling ever forward toward
disaster? Or the gay sheriff in "Happy,
Texas," in love with a straight criminal?
Or the lovelorn Donnie Smith, a lost
cause if there ever was one?
"Look," says Macy, warming to his
topic. "An actor's job is to create calm,
stasis. A writer's job is to create disorder.
The writer is constantly throwing traps,
little disasters"
He grabs a script that happens to be
sitting at one end of the table. He
explains: A good writer gives an actor
just what he needs and no more.
Most scripts don't do that. "I read
these scripts, and it just drives me to dis-
traction," he says. "They torture us with
this garbage." He reads a lengthy intro-
duction about some man driving home in
a neighborhood where the women drive
Mercedeses and the men are relegated to
driving Volvos. And he reads, whining:
" '(Camera) Angles of Volvos, no, not
new Range Rovers and Mercedeses
these are the mules and drones on their
way to work and on their way home'"
Snoooore. "You know what the shot is?
A car pulling into a driveway. I cannot
drive that car in such a way that it's clear
that my wife is driving a Mercedes. I can
only drive into the parking spot. The
audience wants to know one thing and
one thing only: What Happens Next?
Tell me a story"
But surely an actor like Macy spends
a lot of time on preparation, on back-
story, on the character's inner life?
Uh, not necessarily.
"The demands on a person when
they're acting are: Speak up, remember
your lines that's a huge thing and you
have to hit your mark," he says. "That's
not a big thing, but it takes up one more
bit of your attention. You take the direc-
tor's notes; that's one more small piece of
your mind.
Then you've gotta put all the attention
you have left on the other person (in your
scene) in order to get them to do what

,. t {,
x '. ..salt.,;. :. . .. .,

William H. Macy stars as Quiz Kid Donnie Smith in RT. Anderson's 'Magnolia:'

' t

you want them to do."
That's it? And real acting just comes
out? "You cannot stop it," Macy insists.
Macy's wandering childhood prepared
him well for the role of observer. He was
born in Miami and lived in Georgia
untilhe was 9. His father, an insurance
salesman, a failed contractor and a deco-
rated World War Ii bomber pilot, then
took the family to Cumberland, Md.
He began acting in high school but
decided to study to become a veterinari-
an at Bethany College in West Virginia.
It was the'n60s; he transferredto Goddard
College, an alternative-style school in.
Vermont, where he met professor and
playwright David Mamet, who became
his mentorcollaborator and promoter.
Eventually, Macy became Mamet's
teaching assistant and a willing vessel
for the playwright's terse, talky, psycho-
logically bruising style.
By the 1970s, Mamet had moved to
Chicago, and he, Macy and actor Steven
Schachter formed the St. Nicholas
Theatre Company, stagingcontemporary
plays and some of Mamet's works.
Mamet created the central role in
"American Buffalo" an arrogant loafer
who plans a robbery for Macy.
It was Mamet's incendiary "Oleanna"
in 1992 and Macy's portrayal of a pro-
fessor falsely accused by a female stu-
dent of sexual harassment that got many
people talking. "The play made the audi-
ence so angry (that) they would yell at
the stage, they would yell at each other
they would just yell;' recalls Macy.
In Boston a man stormed out of the
theater in mid-play, shouting, "My God!
My God! It's inhuman!" Mamet was in
the house and wrapped his arms around
the man to calm him down. Macy mar-
veled at the response: "He was so
enraged by the play, this guy almost
burst into flames."
Though Macy had some success in
television in Los Angeles, he finally tired
of the hackneyed guest roles he was
offered and stopped taking them. He
began to find more mainstream charac-
ters, on "ER;" in "Mr. Holland's Opus,"
co-writing television murder mysteries
such as "Above Suspicion" in 1995.
But after "Fargo," his life changed
dramatically. The press called. He shot

his mouth off. He called friends toa
ogize. Oops.
But he's been working like a madmn
since. In 1997, he was in "AirPFp
One, "Wag the Dog" and "B' kie
Nights" The next year, he was in
"Pleasantville," and he co-wrote and
starred in the TNT movie "A Slight Cae
of Murder" playing opposite Huffman,
who finally married him two years ago.
(They had dated for years, then broke-up
for five "I was miserable every mina"
and he finally gave her a ring an .
wiggle room.)
Is he exhausted? Well, he has' been
working too much, finishing a film on
Friday and starting another on. -n
Monday. "Too many times, the only
thing that's gotten me through is skhegr
talent;' he confesses, and he isn't brt-
ging. "I've always had 18 balls in the air,
but I need to watch the bottom line. Do
better work. I want to see my wife'.
Brrring. Brrrring. "Macy here." Te
actor picks up the portable phone in the
kitchen that he tiled, then crumples in
half onto the counter as he listen's.
"Mmm-hmmm. Oh, (expletive)"
The payoff for Macy's success 'of
recent years has been his attempt to
move from his handmade house to a
property on two acres in the Hollywood
Hills, his first and only attempt at living
like a movie star. Unfortunately, it's not
going well. You might say it's bee
demoralizing experience not unlike
those endured by his characters: a diff%-
cult architect, an untrustworthy contrac-
tor, a Kafkaesque zoning commission.
He's fired everybody and started over.
Now the real estate agent is on the phone
with yet another snafu.
He swears some more and shoots that
forlorn expression across the room."The
whole thing is just poison," he s
rather plaintively.
Clearly the guy is not cut out for the
Hollywood life. "We're gonna miss this
house;' he deadpans. "But not any time
soon." And certainly not before racy
throws his wife a birthday partyHis
coolest friends will be there. Guess what
they'll play? Musical charades.
"It'll be great" he says, brightening.
"We'll drink like fish and howl att e





Friday, January 14, 7:00pm
McIntosh Theatre
Miles Chapin is the author of "88 Keys, The Making of a
Steinway". The lecture is sponsored by Steinway & Sons,
Hammell Music and the School of Music Piano Department.
Saturday-Thursday, January 15-20
Media Union Gallery
Student Showing.
Sunday, January 16, 8:00pm
Britton Recital Hall
Monday, January 17, 2:00 (School Music portion)
Rackham Auditorium
Performances and Readsngs by: Dean Daniel Washington,
Prof. Shirley Verrett, Prof. George Shirley, Prof. James
Standifer, Karen Johnson, Brenda Wimberley, SoM Choral
Group performing Negro Spirttuat s nducted by Augustus Hill.
Tuesday, January 18, 4;3Opm
Britton Recital Hall
Principal trombonist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra per-
forming works by Strauss, Dbu y Saint-Saens and Frank
Tuesday, January 18, :#pm
St. Francis Catholib Church, 2250 E. Stadium Blvd.
Kevin Hildebrand, Jean Randall, danelle O'Malley, Rose Van
Mersbergen, Rakhee Sun, Bah's Eighteen "Leipzig"
Friday, January 21, 8:15pm
Hill Auditorium
Free Admission, however, tickets required (limit four per family).
Tickets available at Hill from 4:00pm on January 21st.
Events are free and wheelchair accessible unless otherwise specified. The EV Moore
Bldg. (main School of Music Bldg.) and the Stearns Bldg. are located on Baits Dr., North
Campus (US 23 to Plymouth Rd., Plymouth to Broadway, Broadway to Baits). Events
Hotline: (734) 763-4726 Concert Information: www.music.umich.edu

F ~ FF with his0.,

The Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives
is now taking applications for
Student Leader
positions for the King/Chavez/Parks
Summer Institute Program

Application Deadline is January 21,2000
Student Leaders are needed for a 6 week commitment0
(June 11-July 21, 2000)
which includes a two week paid training program. Student
Leaders work with diverse groups of high school students
residing in the residence halls with the students and serving'as
role models and guides. Room and board is covered the entire
6 weeks in addition to a salary. Student Leaders should be
outgoing individuals that have a commitment to helping
students traditionally underrepresented in higher education to
pursue a college education.
Applications and job descriptions can be obtained at
The Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives
3009 Student Activities Building
For additional information contact
Gloria Taylor or Silvia Carranza

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