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April 17, 2001 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-04-17

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10B -The Michigan Daily -Tuesday, April 17, 2001


Brecht play mirrors
political scene today

Chong and Bagby
revive collection of
Viking tales in Edda'

By Rosemary Metz
Daly Arts Writer
Pirector Kate Mendeloff's clear
brows eyes sparkle when she dis-
cusse, pdywrite Bertolt Brecht. Her
hands punctuate the air when she
describes "The Threepenny Opera,"
which the Residential College
Players will present on Friday and

Saturday at the RC Auditorium.
Student players have treated this
work as an allegory, commenting on
the present state of affairs in con-
temporary America.
Brecht and Kurt Weill have trans-
formed the 1730 work of playwright
John Gay, called the "Beggars
Opera," into this work of pointed
barbs about 20th century bourgeois

By Laura Doneau
Daily Arts Writer

I : ._

The bandit Macheath (Quinn Strassel) celebrates his marriage to Poly (Karen Ostafinskl).

capitalism. The opera echoes today's
political climate, and Brecht's biting

RC auditorium
April 20 & 21 at 8p.m.

wit and sharp
satire enhance
and magnify the
hypocrisies and
of a society
whose order has
gone awry. For
example, the
beggar's outfit-
ting shop has a
sign outside of
the establish-
ment, naming it

a faith-based charity.
Mendeloff describes this work as
Brecht's seminal piece, in which he
reveals himself as a satirist. She
refers to a quality in the play called
"verfremdungseffekt," which loosely
translates into "alienation effect."
However, she is quick to point out
that Brecht had no intention toward
alienation of the audience. Rather, ,
he was totally committed to a cere-
bral engagement of the work and the
audience. Mendeloff quotes the
playwrights' goal of making the
"familiar strange and the strange

"Rhinegold" is an ancient
Icelandic tale from a collection of
poems called the "Edda." The story
it tells is one of greed, about the
effect a treasury of dwarf gold

(made from the
Edda- Viking Tabs
of Revenge, Lust
and Family Values
Apri 25 & 26 at8 p.m.

magical riches of
the earth) has
on ancient
Germanic soci-
ety after the
jealous and
greedy gods
steal and cor-
rupt it. It is also
the basis of
Ping Chong and
Bagby's world
premier of
"Edda: Viking
Tales of
Revenge, Lust

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University of Michigan
Information Meeting & Video
CA 1 Wednesday, April 18, 2001
7:00 -9:00 p.m.
Michigan Union, Room 9
International Center
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and Family Values," which pre-
mieres at the Lydia Mendelssohn
Theatre April 25-26 at 8 p.m.
"The production has a feeling of
sitting around a campfire and hear-
ing this strange story in the night,"
said Chong, the show's visual direc-
"Edda," one of the greatest
sources of Northern Europe's early
tribal history, tells the stories of real
and imaginary people, gods, fami-
lies and their constant feuds. Bards
recited and sang the Eddic poems,
accompanied by instruments,
through the Middle Ages.
Chong and Bagby have revived
the poems for modern audiences as
one dramatic story orated and per-
formed by six singers and three
actors, sung in Icelandic and spoken
in English, with the dwarf cursed

courtesLy ofum
Benjamin Bagby and Ping Chong are
definitely on another level.
gold at its center. Despite concep-
tions of the Germanic fold tradition,
the show has a contemporary look.
In other words, the characters will
not be wearing horned hats.
"The performers are all on mov-
ing platforms that look like the hor-
izontal escalators you see at
airports," Chong said. "Most of the
story tellers are wearing black rub-
ber, and one character, a shaman, is
completely painted blue."
The story continues from the
god's hands, the cursed gold falls
into Fafnir, the dragon's possession,
and becomes the ambition of
Sigurd, a mythic hero with a super-
natural horse and a magical sword,
(forged by a dwarf) who slays the
dragon dead.
From the dragon's blood, Sigurd
draws magical powers, and yet, car-
rying the cursed gold from its den,
he finds nothing but trouble. After
marrying Brynhild, a magical girl,
Sigurd is surrounded by horrible
family jealousies, which end in his
Chong mentioned that the
Germanic people of the time were
unusually violent, but he finds a
strong relevance between these sto-
ries and the modern world. "They're
very bloodthirsty and violent, but
it's out in the open. Today we live
behind sweet words like democracy
to hide that same violence," he said.
He cited the fact that more people
have been killed in this century of
progress than in any other.
Because there are no surviving
musical manuscripts from the time
of the Eddie poems, Bagby's job as
musical ensemble director has been
By studying Icelandic traditional
music as well as music from the
Faroe Islands, Bagby has recon-
structed a repertoire of musical
modal gestures, which the musical
,group Sequentia will perform.
"It's like reconstructing a lan-
guage based on a few surviving
dialects of a modern language, but
one can trace many musical gestures
back to their origins and make very
plausible performance schemes,"
Bagby said in a press release.
Bagby is also the director of
Sequentia, a group based in
Cologne, Germany that specializes
in medieval music and has been per-
forming for over 20 years across the
globe, winning numerous awards
including a Grammy nomination.
The first vocalist at the Oberlin
Conservatory to earn a degree in
early music, Bagby later received an
honorary degree in medieval musi-
cal performance from the Schola
Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland,
where Sequentia was formed in
Chong, known for his stunning
visual direction, has always been
interested in cultural material span-
ning historical and mythological
content as well as social and politi-
cal themes. In his more than 30
major theatrical works, Chong has
used the American experimental
theater to synthesize other art forms
such as film, dance, music and fine
As a student Chong studied film
at the School of Visual Arts and
Pratt Institute, and his major influ-
ences are found in film. Though he
considered himself not aggressive
enough to enter the film industry,
performance and dance came natu-
rally to Chong. His career in theater
began with his work in Meredith

Monk's "The House of Foundation,"
and was greatly affected by the fact

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