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December 10, 2009 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2009-12-10

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4B - Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4B - Thursday, December10, 2009 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

From Page lB
and the design crew took pains
to create a set and costumes that
would be historically accurate
but not so specific as to take away
from the play's universal themes.
More than anything, the setting is
a metaphor for the characters' psy-
chological damage.
"It might have been a church,
but now it's a hospital," Kerr says
of his setting, "So there's a sense
of transformation and decay, and
yet curative hope, going on all at
"Dingy" and "decrepit" are two
words costume director Rachel
Jahn, a senior design and produc-
tion major in the School of Music,
Theatre & Dance, used to describe
Kerr's rendering. The set and
costume designs reflect a color-
less, broken world. The attention
to detail is impressive, from the
nostalgic black-and-white fam-
ily photos taped above a cot to the
eerie brown gas masks that Jahn
constructed from authentic peri-
od-era masks and store-bought
"We wanted there to be a sense
of history, and there's a lot of
things that are happening here ...
that you don't necessarily see, that
you don't necessarily know about,"
Jahn says.
Mystery and mysticism, the
things "you don't see," are essen-
tial to the design of Macbeth. The
"Macbeth" witches (of "Double,
double toil and trouble" fame)
appear twice in the play to proph-
esize, as well as'inspire, the action.

For this production, Kerr chose
to portray the witches as nuns.
According to Jahn, this was the
most controversial costume deci-
sion. To lessen the controversy,
the witches lower a black veil that
rids them of their nun-ness and
turns them into a "non-entity"
before they utter their lines.
"We found all these different
'roles' for everyone to play inside
this world," Jahn explains.
Her costumes paint Macbeth as
a fighter pilot, wife Lady Macbeth
as a nurse and enemy Macduff as a
military surgeon.
Jahn spent her summer vaca-
tion mining Google Images and
library books for historical tid-
bits to use in the production - for
instance, the early 20th century
was full of facial hair, so many of
the male actors have grown beards
for the performance.
Obviously, blood is a major
component of "Macbeth" as well.
While the exact recipe is a secret
of the trade, Jahn mentioned Her-
shey's syrup as a possible ingre-
dient. The blood in "Macbeth" is
mostly what Jahn describes as
"old blood," dripping from dag-
gers or red-stained hands. Even
though Jahn calls her blood more
"minimal" and "graphic" than the
blood in some other productions,
it's still a concern when the ward-
robe crew does laundry between
The set remains the same
throughout all five acts of "Mac-
beth." Institutional gray cots
are lined up in a room that looks
grungy but seems to retain some
former glory with artful pillars
and arches arranged in the back-

Set designer Vincent Moun-
tain, associate professor of design
in the School of Music, Theatre &
Dance, brings out the humanity
in "Macbeth" in the little things:
bland grey clothes hanging on a
line, crutches haphazardly strewn
beside a hospital bed.
But none of Mountain's set
designs are present in the produc-
tion's minute-long trailer, which
readers can find on YouTube. Min-
imalist and abstract, it interposes
World War I photo footage with a
scene of Lady Macbeth symboli-
cally baptizing her husband in a
tub of blood. He emerges brutal
and forceful, a transformation
that occurs near the beginning of
An Ensemble Production
Wolfson's Macbeth will be
joined by Music, Theatre & Dance
junior Anna Robinson as Lady
Macbeth, along with a supporting
cast made up of mostly upperclass-
men, with one first-year Music,
Theatre & Dance student, David
Kaplinsky, who plays James.
"The director trusts you to be
self-motivated ... and allows you
the space to try new things in the
rehearsal process," Kaplinsky says
of his first college-level perfor-
When the production was
found to be lacking in "males of
size," Kerr found two Michigan
football players to round out the
cast. Both in the College of Liter-
ate, Science and the Arts, fifth-
year senior and starting offensive
lineman David Moosman and

senior quarterback David Cone
portray soldiers. Also unaffiliated
with the School of Music,'Theatre
& Dance, a 12-year-old Tappan
Middle School student will play
Little Macduff.
About 60 students auditioned
for the 29 roles in Macbeth, with
preference given to acting BFA
undergraduates. These BFA stu-
dents are required to audition

music, and actors have to find the
right cadence to make lines reso-
nate that might sound stilted to
modern-day speakers of English.
Kerr's actors don't use British
accents, which he thinks would
narrow down the play by speci-
fying the time and place of the
action. Instead, they focus on clear,
diction to bring the lines across to

Macbeth is essentially a
good man whose mind is
corrupted byhis wife.
- Thomas Wolfson, performer

Kerr sees as much of a psycho-
logical study as a linear progres-
sion in "Macbeth." What makes
"Macbeth" stand out are the snap-
shots of a fanatical Macbeth rant-
ing to a ghost as he hosts a dinner
party or a guilty Lady Macbeth
trying and trying to wash the
blood off her hands.
And it's these psychological
details that will be emphasized
in the School of Music, Theatre &
Dance's production to bring across
central themes of ambition, fate
and the supernatural.
Large themes require a large
space, and so, of this year's main-
stage plays, "Macbeth" is the only
one to take the stage at the 1,380-
seat Power Center for the Per-
forming Arts.
"To put something on in the
Power Center, it needs to have
size," Kerr explains, "and a Shake-
speare play ... usually has size to
it - it's dealing with big ideas, big
But there's still room for the
audience to add its own interpre-
tation to Kerr's sparse presenta-
tion of a bleak world.
"I think that's one of the things
theater can do ... (it's) not spelling
out all the details for the audience,
you have to work too. It's a little
different from watching a film on a
small screen in your living room,"
Kerr says.
At only $9 for students, it's not
much of a price difference, either.
Provided no sudden stroke of bad
luck hits before 7:30 p.m. tonight,
the University's production of
"Macbeth" promises a journey to a
traumatized world where "Fair is
foul and foul is fair."

for all mainstage productions
and must fulfill a "studio cred-
it" requirement by performing
onstage. This can be accomplished
through School of Music, Theatre
& Dance productions like "Mac-
beth," or in student-run shows
with Basement Arts or other orga-
Throughout the school year, the
Department of Theatre & Drama
produces five mainstage plays.
Shakespearean works are more
rare, though, the last one being
"As You Like It," performed last
One major difficulty in per-
forming Shakespeare is the lan-
guage. Delivering Shakespearean
lines is comparable to performing

Making Shakespeare clear is no
easy task - scores of high school
English classes have spent hours
puzzled over lines like "Things
bad begun make strong them-
selves by ill" (Act III, Scene II).
But in a live production, an actor's
delivery and facial expression can
make a big difference in the way
lines are interpreted.
Sometimes, directors with
a more modern take on Shake-
speare will change the script to
incorporate contemporary lan-
guage, but the only changes Kerr
has made to the original script are
a few cuts to make the action flow
more quickly.
"Shakespeare wrote scenes, not
plays," Kerr theorizes.

From Page 2B
writing? Absolutely.
We all know that correlation does not
imply causation. And with a test group size
of only 300, I can't help but be a little skep-
tical. But then I read the abstract. While
the psychological jargon reassured me that
that study was somewhat legitimate, I still
felt pretty defensive until the last sentence:
"Results provide new evidence for both

compensatory and complementary uses and
gratifications of entertainment media."
Now, I didn't read the actual research
paper (I decidedly refused to pay the $25
fee for access to the paper for a mere day.
Seriously, paying for access to a University
study? "That's the Michigan difference."),
but it sounds as though the study wasn't
designed to insult me and other TV lovers.
Shocking, I know. Watching television for
"compensatory and complementary uses"
probably isn't the healthiest way to fill the
void, but I'm sure we can all think of worse
things lonely people could do with their

time. And if it makes them feel better, who's
to say relating to a TV character is a bad
thing at all?
We all remember pretending to be Power
Rangers as kids. And while my particular
group of childhood playmates spent most of
the time arguing over who got to be which
color, there was always that one group of
kids that had it all figured it out. They didn't
just pretend to be Power Rangers, they were
Power Rangers. Maybe they were a little
weird, and maybe they were mocked, but
who were we to tell them they weren't actu-
ally Jason, Kimberly, Zack, Billy, Tommy

and Trini? While my fun was at a standstill
until little Robby sucked it up and accepted
that he was stuck as the Blue Ranger, they
were off enjoying themselves. Long story
short, the point is, even if they were identify-
ing with these characters because they were
lonely (and they probably weren't), they
were having a good time.
Having a good time - or, the "gratifica-
tions of entertainment media" - is what
decent television should be about. And if this
studyhas anylastingmerit,maybethe indus-
try will realize its power and takeit to heart.
If lonely people are relating closely to TV

characters, maybe watching their pseudo-
friends struggle and triumph would instill in
them a sense of hope. I'm notsaying we need
more programming like "Full House," but
watching my forlorn BFF Artie come out on
top every once in a while couldn't hurt and
would certainly make me happier.
In the end, who really cares if people are
relating to TV because they're lonely? First-
rate work is being appreciated, and people in
need of comfort are finding it. Besides, I'm
sure original Blue Ranger, Billy Cranston,
was a much better friend than little Robby

Stockwell, Mosher-Jordan, wwwoptionshousmgumichedu
Northwood III, North Quad, and----- ---------.. -. --.-.'.
more...all reserved just for you. The Time of Your Life.
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Growing up animated

By HANS YADAV like co
Daily Arts Writer lights a
off into

When reminiscing about our
childhoods, we more often than
not focus on the good memories
- the playing, the laughing and
the lack of responsibility. It's easy,
though, to forget those repressed
moments of terror in the night or
being alienated by peers and bul-
lies. Ultimately, in order to grow
out of childhood, we must at some
point dive headfirst into our fears
and conquer them.
"The Pagemaster" is a story
about a boy named Richard
(Macaulay Culkin, "Saved!") who
is scared of everything. His par-
ents are at their wits' end trying
to get him to take any risks in life.
Richard's dad even builds him
a tree house, but when asked to
come up and check it out, Richard
just gives a barrage of statistics on
the number of household-related
Finally, Richard's dad sends
him to buy some nails for the tree
house, and though Richard isn't
happy about venturing into the
world alone, he goes begrudgingly.
Arming his bike with a riot shield-

the loc
their bi
fies and
in a pui
the str
ian (Ch
of Desp
ard stun
a wond
tury Fo

ntraption complete with to any Disney film from that era,
nd sounds, Richard rides though great lengths were taken
the night as a storm brews to differentiate "The Pagemaster"
On his way, he encounters from those Disney hits. For one,
al bullies, who call him a "The Pagemaster" incorporates
for refusing to try jumping CGI to transition from a live-
ke ramp. action movie into a cartoon one:
tually, the storm intensi- When Richard wakes up from his
J Richard must take refuge accident, paint drops begin falling
blic library. There he meets on his head, and looks up to see the
ange, yet passionate librar- ceiling mural melting.
ristopher Lloyd, "The Tale By far, the quality that most dis-
'ereaux") who gives him an tinguishes "The Pagemaster" from
its Disney rivals is its maturity. For
children, certain scenes are truly
terrifying. When the literary char-
efore drugs, acter Dr. Jekyll (voiced by Leon-
ard Nimoy, "Star Trek") drinks a
Iacauly still putrid green potion, he transforms
into hishideously evil counterpart,
got trippy. Mr. Hyde, ina series of violent con-
Colors play a big role in the
ortant library card. Rich- film and contribute to these scary
mbles his way into the main moments as well. When Captain
and finds himself beneath Ahab (voiced by George Hearn,
derfully colorful mural of "Flags of our Fathers") sees Moby
storybook characters. Dick, insanity consumes him,
d slips, bumps his head, and and the serene blue ocean scene
up to find himself trans- is stained crimson and black to
into a cartoon. reveal the character's demonic
film, produced by 20th Cen- obsession for with white whale.
x, is made in a style similar The movie is also riddled with
allusions, irony and metaphors.
The allusions come in the form of
the various storybook characters
Richard encounters as part of the
central plot, but there are more
subtle ones incorporated as well,
like the raven from Edgar Allen
Poe's classic poem. The instances
of irony will escape most children
(like when one talking book criti-
cizes another book for not hav-
ing a spine), but at least the most
important message - and conse-
quently the central metaphor of
the movie - remains accessible to
all age groups. The obstacles Rich-
ard faces in the cartoon world mir-
ror those insurmountable hurdles
found in the real world.
Whether Richard actually
entered the cartoon world or if
he dreamt everything up remains
largely ambiguous. But on his ride
back home at the end of the film, he
sees the ramp he knew before he
would never able to clear and, sud-
denly, he is peddling toward it at
full speed - with a grin on his face.


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