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October 20, 1999 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-20

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 20, 1999 -9

YV revives old hits,
recycles past classics

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'813' pays tribute to joy of
American literature, love

Los Angeles 'Times
HOLLYWOOD - Wrestling. Prime-
Vme quiz shows. Weekly amateur hours.
"The Wonderful World of Disney."
Concerned young doctors. Picking out
some regular woman and making her
dreams come true.
.The millennium may be drawing
toward its conclusion, but television pro-
grammers appear headed back to the
future, turning to shows and formats
recalling the medium's infancy in the
1950s.
ABC's success with "Who Wants to
a Millionaire" - which heralded the
quiz show's return to prime time in a big
way during August -has only fueled the
sense you can go home again, plucking
concepts from TV's past and recycling
old ideas in slick new packages.
"Millionaire" has left every program-
mer wanting its own prime-time quiz
show, with NBC developing a revival of
"Twenty-One" - notorious for spawn-
AW the quiz-show scandals of the '50s--
while CBS toys with an updated version
of "The $64,000 Question" Fox weighs
in with its own hastily assembled entry,
"Greed," next month. With a few short-
lived exceptions, such fare hasn't visited
prime time in decades.
Still, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
CBS' Friday lineup includes "Kids Say
the Darndest Things" - derived from a
segment on the '50s Art Linkletter series

"louse Party" Its running mate last sea-
son, the 50-year-old "Candid Camera," is
waiting in the wings for a return engage-
ment.
While not quite "The Original
Amateur Hour," which ran from 1948 to
1970 (the last decade as a daytime show),
or "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" (the
top-rated show of the 1951-52 season),
"Your Big Break" captures some of that
spirit with a karaoke twist - bringing in
amateurs and letting them impersonate
favorite singers in front of an audience,
all in pursuit of stardom, fabulous prizes
and, at minimum, a few of those 15 min-
utes of fame Andy Warhol talked about
everyone getting sooner or later.
"When I first saw it, I said, 'This is so
old it's new again," notes "Big Break"
producer Dick Clark, who based the
show on a European format and knows a
little something about sipping from the
Fountain of Youth.
Several factors may be responsible for
this mini-renaissance, from a dearth of
new ideas to a hunger for affordable yet
recognizable concepts to fill channels
that keep sprouting up like weeds.
Yet the notion of reviving '50s formats
also seems somewhat incongruous with
TV's emphasis on youth; after all, most
of those in the 1 8-to-49 age demograph-
ic - the principal currency of network
sales departments - weren't born or
were barely cognizant when the '50s

By Jean Lee
For the Daily
"A great spark that leaps between
the author and the reader - if you
can put a soul in that spark - I guess
that's what literature means. It's as
great as having a great gulp of wine
or being in love," said playwright
Allan Dreyfuss.
An Ann Arbor resident for the past
four decades, Dreyfuss reveals this

Courtesy of ABC
"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"
re-invents the '50s show "Twenty-One."
progenitors of these shows were in their
original glory days.
While seemingly raiding America's
past, "Millionaire" hews closely to a
British series that has been wildly success-
ful in the United Kingdom. Some of the
new programs bear no more resemblance
to their predecessors than "ER" does to
"Dr. Kildare," which began making the
rounds in 1961.7Thompson points out that
updated versions of old standbys tend to
be infused with a different sensibility,"'just
dripping with '90s American irony"
Clark - whose "American
Bandstand" made its debut in 1952 -
suggests certain ideas remain timeless,
and that the entertainment industry's
emphasis on youth means that network
executives in a position to approve pro-
jects often come to the table with little
sense of their history.

love of reading
Ann Arbor Civic
Theater
Oct.21-24

and literacy in his
play, "8 13:
A m e r i c a n
Fiction," which
won First Place
in the 1998
Community
T h e a t r e
Association
P1 aywrit ing
C o n t e s t.
Dreyfuss' new
play will come
alive for the first
time tomorrow
night as part of
the Ann Arbor
Civic Theatre's
Series, a new per-

Preserving the posthumous reputa-
tion of lalliway and safeguarding
the culture and economy of Haskill is
Jane Press' ultimate challenge, as
she also deals with the intentions of
three desperate suitors.
"There are a lot of sweet stories
going on in this play. There is not
only the love of reading, but also
three men who say 'I love you' to
Jane Press," said director Wendy
Sielaff.
Sielaff said that she is focusing on
the love-story aspect of the play in
her production concept, making ref-
erences to the personal history of
real-life literary legend Hemingway.
"There are several plots going on,
but it's always fun to focus on the
love story," Sielaff said, highlighting
the entertainment value of the play
for all audiences.
Sielaff also mentioned the excite-
ment involved in producing a new
work and said she hopes that this
play and the Civic Theatre's
Premiere Series will send student
playwrights the encouraging mes-
sage that "if you write a play, it can
be produced."
"It's a great opportunity for a
director and a cast," she said. "We
get to be the first people to create
Jane Press and the Halliway Public
Library. No one can say 'Oh, we've
seen this before."
Dreyfuss, who has sat in on a few
rehearsals to anticipate the opening
of "813: American Fiction," also
commented on the excitement of see-
ing the play - his first full-length

play to be produced - go up for the
first time. "It's the director who real-
lv calls the shots," Dreyfuss said,
adding that even he does not know
what will be presented on the stage
tomorrow night. "That's why it will
be so thrilling."
"Everyone has a different wrin-
kle," he said. "No one knows what
will go into the wastebasket and
what will survive. That's wlv the
theatre is such an interesting thing."
"There are a lot of creative souls in
Ann Arbor," Dreyfuss said, noting
the rich culture of our own Michigan
town. "it's just that the real commod-
ity in everyone's life is time." He
said he hopes that students will be
able to spare some of that time to be
"reminded that not all books are text-
books and notebooks."
The tribute to literature in "813:
American Fiction" conies directly
from the playwright's own passion
for reading.
"When I was drafted to WWII, the
only thing I took in my pocket were
15 or so Shakespearean sonnets. You
realize the glory of the words when
you're in a lousy place," Dreyfuss
said. "The beauty and the encourage-
ment one derives from the words and
their wide-encompassing impact
lasts for a long time."

Premiere Studio

Taylor combines pop, classical
in performance with symphony

By Mike Spahn
Dailv Arts Writer
In 1993, singer, songwriter and devoted arts supporter James
*aylor. embarked on a new adventure.
_After nearly three decades of traveling across the country
with his band, performing hits from 18 albums, Taylor wowed
audiences by joining forces with symphony orchestras.
And now, after winning another
Grammy award for his 1997 album
"Hourglass," Taylor has returned to the
road for a series of orchestrally backed
James concerts in a tour that sold out as quick-
Taylor ly as its dates were announced.
"Initially I had some concern over the
Orchestra Hall propriety of a pop musician performing
in a classical context; like a mule in a
Tomorrow at 8 p.m. horse show," Taylor said in a written
statement. "But we were made to feel so
welcome and at home the last time
around ... and here we go again!"
Taylor will perform three shows with
the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this
weekend, the first at 8 p.m. tomorrow
night at Orchestra Hall in Detroit Saturday and Sunday Taylor
continues downtown, and then moves on to Grand Rapids for
show the following Tuesday.
The shows are sure to include arrangements of many Taylor
hits, from "Fire and Rain" to "You've got a Friend" Musicians
in the DSO were given arrangements of the artist's music com-
posed by Taylor's friend Stanley Silverman weeks ago, accord-
inig to DSO officials.
Taylor first attempted symphonic arrangements of his music
for the first Rain Forest Benefit at Carnegie Hall in New York

in 1993.
After the Rainforest benefit, Taylor said that it "gave me my
first opportunity to perform with such accompaniment and I
loved it."
After a show with John Williams and the Boston Pops later
that year, and appearances at successive Rainforest benefits,
Taylor and company embarked on a full scale symphony tour
in 1995-96.
The DSO joined Taylor for two shows that year.
"We booked this, our second tour of symphony orchestras,
after the happy experience of our first tour in 1996," Taylor said
in a written statement.
On tour, Taylor brings with him not only a bassist, piano
player and percussionist, but also conductor Arthur Post, resi-
dent conductor of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach.
Post, along with three other conductors that will travel with
the tour at different times, was hand selected by Taylor because
in him Taylor saw the youth and talent needed in music.
Taylor's move to classical music, which he admits came late
in life, has given him great enjoyment.
"That the world of classical music has seemed somewhat
remote and inaccessible to me and other popular musicians is,
I think, a shame,"Taylor said.
Taylor's tour spans the country, stopping in 16 cities from
Chicago to Los Angeles. The shows at Madison Square Garden
last month drew huge crowds and various guest performers.
Taylor speaks highly of orchestras. imploring Americans to
take advantage of these sometimes overlooked resources.
"Although my own introduction to this community has hap-
pened at a late date and quite haphazardly, the people I have
met, their discipline and dedication to a profound and resonant
artistic tradition, have changed utterly the way I hear musicnand
have opened a door for me," Taylor said.

formance series which features orig-
inal plays by Michigan playwrights.
Titled after the library system of
Dewey Decimal Classification,
"813: American Fiction" provides a
glimpse into the small fictional town
of Haskill' Michigan during the '70s,
where dedicated librarian Jane Press
faces the challenges of maintaining
high standards of literacy in a paper
mill town beset by unfavorable eco-
nomic conditions.
"What I want to do is excite peo-
ple about the joy of literacy and to
encourage them to get into the corner
with a book, to get out of yourself
and your surroundings and travel
with that book," Dreyfuss said,
adding that the impetus for this play
came from a colleague who had
worked in a paper mill. "Just the idea
of all those books, all that paper,
was what inspired Dreyfuss to create
the world of Haskill and Jane Press
as a tribute to the joy of reading.
The "wrinkle" in the story, accord-
ing to Dreyfuss, comes from the
chance discovery of the lost diary of
Haskill's Nobel prize-winning novel-
ist Walter Emmons H alliway. In the
time that has passed since his death,
the town has attached itself with
pride to the Halliway myth, adorning
t-shirts and pillows with this literary
figure, and speaking of the good ol'
days with "Wally" - a name which
Halliwav, as everyone who knew him
was aware of, detested.

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