16 A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 11, 1999
RC class remembers Goethe
with production of 'Urfaust'
By Jeant Lee
Daily Arts Writer
Wrapping up a series of events commemorating German
writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 250th
anniversary this year, a new translation of Goethe's play,
"Urfaust," will be presented this weekend in the Residential
Friday and Saturday
Written around 1775, Goethe's
"Urfaust" is the earliest version of his
well-known "Faust," the romanticized
story of the professor selling his eternal
soul to the devil in return for limitless
joy and knowledge.
"It was Goethe's first attempt to write
dramatically," said RC Drama Prof.
Martin Walsh, director of the production.
This weekend's production will be a
staged reading, with lights, costumes and
scripts, rather than a full-fledged produc-
tion. As part of a midterm project for the
RC Drama course on Brecht, Walsh said
it is as much of an educational event as
"We are just taking an attitude to Faust that is not reveren-
tial," he said.
Prof. Dan Farrelly said the Brechtian implications in Urfaust
lie in its disjointed fragments, more so than in the ideas of the
"Urfaust is really a series of episodes. Each scene stands
alone, but they are also connected," Farrelly said, mentioning
the Brechtian idea of knots on a string and how each scene cre-
ates its own peak and knot to contribute to the whole play as
still a constant, single string.
"Urfaust is rarely done, while Faust is performed frequent-
ly," Farrelly said, noting how this makes the early work signif-
icant for new areas of interpretation in theatre.
This weekend will provide an opportunity for people to
encounter a rare classic work being reinterpreted and to see a
work-in-progress production of a play that has just recently
Farrelly came in from the National University of Ireland at
Dublin at the beginning of the week to participate in workshops
with the actors of "Urfaust" before seeing his work go up this
"It is part of a long cooperation between the Residential
College and the Goethe Institute of Ann Arbor," said Institute
Director Uwe Rieken, who organized this weekend's event.
"We just want people to know that this is just a normal thing
we do here," said Walsh of the Goethe anniversary production
of "Urfaust," noting the University's attitude toward theater as
that of educational enterprise.
"There is the possibility of an audience discussion after the
readi which is a very Brechtian thing to do," Walsh said,
addiat he has taken "a superficial Brechtian spin" in
direc 'the play, including using captions, but that the play
itself really Goethe."
New Zealand-born Russell Crowe is quickly gaining popularity with American audiences
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Los Angeles Times
Russell Crowe wore a crocodile tooth
on a cord around his neck.
In town the other day to promote
"The Insider," Michael Mann's new
movie about tobacco whistle-blower
Jeffrey Wigand, the 35-year-old New
Zealand-born actor, interrupted an inter-
view at the Argyle Hotel to shout epi-
thets at a televised rugby match. He
took a reporter to task for describing
him as proud. And at times he was so
blunt in his assessment of Hollywood
that when he revealed that he had wres-
tied a tiger on the set of the upcoming
Roman epic "The Gladiator" it was
easy to picture the cat in a headlock.
In other words Crowe - whose pent-
up portrayal of a brutal cop with a vul-
nerable heart in the 1997 noir hit "L.A.
Confidential" let American audiences
in on something Australians have
known for years - appears in person to
be exactly the tough guy you might
"People accuse me of being arrogant
all the time. I'm not arrogant, I'm
focused," Crowe growled at one point,
responding to reports that his strong
opinions about acting can make him a
challenge on a movie set. "I don't make
demands. I don't tell you how it should
be. I'll give you (expletive) options, and
it's up to you to select or throw 'em
away. That should be the headline: If
you're insecure, don't (expletive) call"
But if that's the headline, here's the
surprising story that goes with it: This
man's man, who recently rode 4,000
miles around his adopted Australia on a
motorcycle, also has a sweet streak a
kilometer wide. He is a collaborative -
and unusually generous - performer
who has fought to cut his own screen
time to protect others' roles. He's a
softy for animals - he can't bring him-
self to slaughter any of the cattle he
keeps on his 600-acre farm seven hours
northwest of Sydney, so the cows (some
of whom have names) have become his
There's absolutely nothing safe about
Crowe on screen. He brought a neo-
Nazi skinhead to scary life in Geoffrey
Wright's 1992 "Romper Stomper" and
played a computer-generated killer
opposite Denzel Washington in Brett
Leonard's 1995 "Virtuosity." And when
not inspiring fear, he's often taking
.roles that some might se'e as risky:
Playing a gay plumber in the Australian
film "The Sum of Us" or a sarcastic
gunslinger in the spoof "The Quick and
But it is Crowe's leading role in
Disney's "The Insider" that has every-
body talking these days. He plays the
tightly wound Wigand, whose decision
to reveal a tobacco company's secrets to
CBS' "60 Minutes" made him and his
family the targets of a smear campaign.
Crowe is 17 years younger than the
52-year-old Wigand (he gained 35
pounds for the part and wears a gray
wig), but his physical transformation is
not what you'll notice first. Instead,
what's most striking is Crowe's
restrained fury. From his carefully knot-
ted necktie to his practiced golf swing,
Crowe's Wigand is a painstaking and
deliberate man, and one you don't want
"What Russell is doing, which is so
difficult, is he's conveying the anom-
alies of the man, not what's symmet-
rical and easily observable," said
Mann, who believes Crowe and his
co-star, Al Pacino, who plays "60
Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman,
"have one thing in common as actors:
courage. They have no fear of embar-
rassment. (The trick is) nailing awk-
wardness. Not nailing grace. Nailing
grace is a lot easier."
Mann laughed at the memory of
Crowe's discovery that the real Wigand
wasn't as good a golfer as the one the
director planned to portray in the film.
Crowe saw Wigand's sorry golf game as
a key detail that helped explain why
Wigand ultimately failed to fit into cor-
porate culture. Conversely, Mann wnt'.
ed to use a few scenes of a more profi
cient Wigand hitting balls at a driving.
range to highlight the man's self-disci-
pline and loneliness. The director was.
willing to fudge the truth a little, to
make his point. But for Crowe, it didn't
fit and he said so. Repeatedly.
"He's totally an actor. Totally. I don't.
know what goes on between roles.' said-
Mann, his voice deeply respectful even
as he remembers the golf debate.
Crowe, he said, resembles a young
Marlon Brando. "Look at 'On the-
Waterfront,' at 'Streetcar' or even
Young Lions,' and you see this Vaw,
powerful talent that's dead serious and
accomplished. That's Russell to me I'm
dying to work with him again."
Crowe values straight talk, and tic
rarely stifles himself. For example, on
the set of "The Gladiator," in which he
plays a Roman general who is unlaw.
fully imprisoned and condemned. to.
participate in the blood sport of the day,
he spoke up about the accent, which he
thought was all wrong.
"My character was Spanish, and I
wanted to do Antonio Banderas with
better elocution. But they wouldn't let
me," said Crowe - a proven vocal
chameleon who believes a proper
accent is essential to a fully realized
character. "They didn't want peopleto
be distracted by it. But I felt when you
say you're Spanish 50 times in the
course of the movie, I should be doing
the accent. Instead, basically everybody
in the movie does, you know, Royal
Shakespeare Company two pints after
Nevertheless, he loved working on
the film, due out next year from
DreamWorks, partly because it is so
rare as an actor to get the chance to do
an epic and partly because direc
Ridley Scott, he says, "is Picasso.'"
Crowe has been acting since he waadh
years old, when he got his first speaking
part on a TV show. Show business was
in his blood - his parents were loca-
tion caterers, and his grandfather was a
cinematographer. Crowe jokes that he
was the only one in the family stupid
enough to work on the other side of the
Crowe also has genuine admiration
for other actors. He's such a fan of Jodie
Foster (whom he's never met) that when
she had her baby last year, he sent her a
couple of tiny rugby jumpers. And
when his movies wrap, he always tries
to trade the canvas director's chair with
his name printed on it for the chair of
one of his co-stars. ("I've got Kim
Basinger," he says happily. "Now that's
(expletive) cool, isn't it?")
"I think you've got to be a fan first to
be able to be a performer," Crowe said.
"Acting has a lot to do with living in the
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