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March 20, 2001 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-03-20

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So little room...
Go online and check out the fine
arts stories that didn't make it into
today's paper, and while you're there,
pick your favorites for the TV Tour-
ney via the Daily forum.
michigandaily. comr/arts

~ae duBw Pli
ARTS

TUESDAY Q
MARCH 20, 2001

{

Off-opera 'Perichole'
an escapist's dream

Courtesy of Maria Vasilkovsky
Maria Vasilkovsky's surreal animated "Fur and Feathers" was a stand-out of this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival.
perientation, animatin
omakefor memorable AAF

By Andy TaylorFabe & Ryan Blay
Daily ArtsWriters
The Ann Arbor Film Festival has a 39-year history of
showcasing talented filmmakers early in their careers (just
ask Gus Van Sant and George Lucas, both past winners) and
is always worth the price of admission. As every year, the
experimental film festival brought to light many new talents,
while returning favorites tried to redefine their respective
niches.
The film ran the gamut from Zachary Scheuren's "Dunkler
kann Es Nicht Werden," which was complex and dark as its
title, to Nancy Andrews' innovative "Hedwig Page, Seaside
Librarian, a favorite with both audiences and critics, taking
home two awards.
Andrews combined puppet animation and live action to tell
the story of a librarian who retires to the coast, only to begin
circulating her prolific seashell collection, which she has
organized by the Dewey Decimal system. Never underesti-
mate the popularity of a puppet boxing. The film won the
"Screeners Choice for Narrative Integrity" award, as well as
the "Marvin Felheim Special Jury Award."
The "Detroit Filmmakers Coalition Award" went to Dever
Rochon and Lydia Modica for "Whippersnapper," a short
film about a boy who refuses to accept that his grandfather's
recent stroke has left him immobile and unable to speak. He
plays with his grandfather, wheels him around, and tries to
make him "snap out of it" by irritating him to the point where
he will stop pretending. Somehow the film manages to make
the grandfather's horrible situation seem manageable, as
everyone around him loves him. "I can still have fun with my
grandpa," the young boy says, "whether he likes it or not."
And what film festival could possibly be complete without
a nod to '70s exploitation flicks. Winning an honorable men-

tion was Shawn P Morrissey's "Automatic Meat Probe" is a
strange and jarring parody of action films. Using footage
from a fight scene that looks like it is out of a B-movie, Mor-
rissey uses jumpy, frantic camerawork and fast motion repeti-
tion of the fight that creates an assault on your senses.
Strangely entertaining while still poking fun at the genre, it is
a visually unique film.
One of the most visually stunning and evocative films was
Maria Vasilkovsky's "Fur and Feathers," an animation short
done with paint on glass. The dreamlike interactions between
the elf-like man and woman who are featured in the film are
surreal and strangely funny, and the swirling blue colors of
the film were mesmerizing.
Another favorite was Ann Alter's "Team Red," a shocking
documentary about three subjects- two women and a man, all
infected with HIV- with an unusual task: they are part of a tit-
ular group whose mission is to infect powerful corporate
executives with AIDS. All three subjects, dead since the film
was produced, stated with no uncertainty that what they were
doing was no worse than the corporations seizing and
destroying land. The frank discussion about the stigma of
HIV and the activities of "rich white men" infected, was eerie
and brilliant.
Festival veteran Jay Rosenblatt scored honorable mention
with one of his two brief entries, "Nine Lives (The Eternal
Moment of Now)," a one-minute look at the life of a cat.
Rosenblatt's second entry was the quaint story of his child-
hood fear that worms could rain down from the sky.
While any film festival, by nature, is a mixed bag, this
years AAFF scored on several emotional levels, offering
funny, sad, irreverent and frightening reminders why film as
an art form lives on. For a full list of this years winners,
check out the festival's official website at wwwaafilmfest.org.
- Daily Film Editor Lyle Henretty contributed to this report.

By Laura Deneau
Daily Arts Writer
Romantic-comedy, opera and
escapist's dream all describe Jaques
Offenbach's operetta, "La Peric-
hole." It's a different sort of opera,
closer to a musical than traditional
operatic pieces.
"It has great dance numbers, lots
of ensemble pieces, and the plot
moves through
the songs," said
o nConductor
Steven Byess.
La "It's just
Perichole delightful; you
can see why
MendelssohnTheatre Offenbach was
March 22 through 25 so popular."
As a roman-
: . tic comedy, the
plot revolves
around dreamy
themes of
misidentity and
love and is
played out in ironical twists with
hoppin' melodies. Byess calls the
music "fun, spirited, and fast," like
a swanky party. And best of all for
American audiences, "La Perichole"
will be sung in English.
Originally set in 19th C Peru, an
exotic dream-place for Parisian
audiences, Joshua Major, director of
the production, cunningly relocated
the show to a 1950s beach town to
capture an exotic aura for modern
audiences.
"Perichole needs an environment
that is exotic, mythical, and self-
indulgent. These days we attach
those labels to beach locations -
Fiji, Mexico, Tahiti and the
Caribbean," Major said in a press
release. "Our recollection of the
1950s has been similarly romanti-
cized. That romanticism has caused
a resurgence of '50s culture with its
frivolous clothes and drinks such as
cosmopolitans and martinis. By
combining the exoticism of a beach
locale with the mythical and whim-
sical qualities of the 1950s, we
believe that we are creating an envi-

ronment on stage where this story
can happen."
The story takes some absurd
turns, even for an opera. Perichole
and Paquillo are street-singers in
love, who seek marriage. On the
crowded streets of a 1950s beach
town and at a Viceroy's drunken
party they sing to make enough
money for a ceremony. Luckless,
Paquillo departs to raise cash. At
his departure the Viceroy, who
observes Perichole's performance
with love in his eyes, offers Peric-
hole a place in his court. Torn but
tired of poverty, she accepts, leav-
ing a small, apologetic note for
Paquillo. A decree dictates that all
women of the court must be mar-
ried. Obeying this law, the Viceroy
instructs his men to find for Peric-
hole a husband. Coincidentally, they
find Paquillo, now desolate and
drunk, to marry Perichole. But
Paquillo is too drunk at his wedding
to recognize his bride. Instead of
being happy he remains depressed
until the next morning, when he
becomes aware that Perichole is the
bride beside him. But considering
what's happened, he blows up. Peri-
chole and Paquillo then struggle to
happily end their passion as compli-
cations abound.
Offenbach was famous for his
ridiculous comic operas with fairy-
tale plots, which later inspired
Gilbert and Sullivan. He had a pro-
lific career, composing over 100
stage works, including "Orpheus in
the Underworld," "La Vie Parisi-
enne," and "The Tales of Hoffman."
Originally trained as a cellist at the
Paris Conservatory, he composed
music for both the voice instru-
ments. In 1855, he rented a theater
to begin staging his first attempts at
comic opera composition.
Joshua Major recently directed
more than 80 opera productions
including "The Marriage of Figaro,"
"La Traviata," "Don Giovanni," "La
Boheme" and most recently, "Le
Tragedie de Carmen" at Boston
University. Steven Byess is a Visit-
ing Lecturer in Music; he is also the
Music Director of the Cobb Sym-
phony Orchestra in Georgia and the

courtesy of University Productions
The Three Cousins (Megan Besley Alfssa
Mercurio and Kimberley Dolanskl) get
pornographic in "La Perichole." S
Associate Music Director.of the
Ohio Light Opera.
Vincent Mountain is the scenic
designer for the production and has
done previous work on "Falstaff."
The costume designer, Meghann
O'Malley is an undergraduate stu-
dent in the Department of Theater
and Drama making her mainstage
debut. Lighting Designer He*r
Chockley's works has been seen in
"Falstaff" and "S'lichot." The
Choreography, designed by Lisa
Catrett-Belrose, completes, the
design aspects of the perform-arie.

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