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February 10, 2010 - Image 9

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010 - 9A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Wednesday, February 10, 2010 - 9A

Basement Arts goes to Hell

Geary explores the

Two freshmen direct
their first-ever
collegiate productions
Daily Arts Writer
Suffering through class may often feel
like a hellish experience. Starting tomor-
row, Basement Arts
" will present two The EM of
plays exploring the
topics of classroom CUkZation as
woes and purga- We KnowIt"
tory pains respec- d "Wi"
tively: "The End "bI
of Civilization as Tomorrow through
We Know It" and Saturday at 7 p.m.,
"Waiting." Friday at 11 p.m.
The directors of Walgreen Drama Center
the plays, Amanda Free
Cohen for "Civili-
zation" and Neal
Kelley for "Waiting," are freshmen pur-
suing their Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees
in Directing and will be displaying their
first works while at the University.
Both plays deal with the analysis of
human behavior and have surprising
"The teacher (in 'Civilization'), Tess
McCormack, comes into the class and
makes impossible demands of her stu-
dents," Cohen said. "Her reasoning is
that if the students of her top honors
class will do anything for an appeas-
ing grade, then there is nothing to say
about their future. It discusses what we,
as human beings, will do to survive and
rise to the top."
"('Waiting') is kind of an uncomfort-
able comedy. It is funny but it is not 'in
your face' humor. The audience might not
be sure when they should laugh," Kelley
. explained. "It's essentially a man in this
uncertain location facing an uncertain
future. There's this anxiety and despair
Burnside cooks
up a reading
Zel Visiting Writers Series:
John Burnside
Tomorrow at 5:15 p.m.
Helmut Stern Auditorium
Like the restaurant business, in
which it's difficult to consistently
prepare scrumptious meals for all
three meals, in the literary world,
it's rare to see a writer achieve
excellence in the literary trifecta
of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.
This is why writers like John
Burnside are like the master chefs
of literature. The renowned Scot-
tish author and poet will visit the
Helmut Stern Auditorium tomor-
row as part of the Department
of English Program in Creative
Writing's Zell Visiting Writers
Series, which brings established
writers to the University of Mich-
igan Museum of Art throughout
the school year.
In the last 10 years alone,
Burnside has proven himself a
prolific contributor to literature.
He has written 11 books of poet-
ry (the most recent being "The
Hunt in the Forest"), a collection
of short stories titled "Burning
0 Elvis," seven novels including
"The Devil's Footprints" and

"Glister" and a memoir. His
extensive body of work has been
recognized with several awards,
including Saltire Book of the Year
and Scottish Arts Council Non-
Fiction Book of the Year for "A
Lie About My Father," the Geof-
frey Faber Memorial Prize and
the Whitbread Poetry Award.
Adding another feather to his
cap, Burnside works as a Profes-
sor of English at the University of
St. Andrews. As an accomplished
writer and teacher, Burnside
should present a reading that's
both informative and inspiring.
Potential attendees should come
prepared to be served a delicious
helping of fiction, nonfiction and

and prolonged inevitability of fate. We're
tryingto capture the emotional state and
the journey of this character through his
unfortunate circumstances."
The freshmen directors were influ-
enced by bigger and overarching ideas.
Cohen said her play addresses the
cyclical nature of history.
"History unfortunately repeats itself,
and if we can't learn from our past mis-
takes then we're not going to progress in
the future," Cohen said.
"On a more positive note, I want the
audience to enjoy themselves, laugh
and connect with the characters. Even
though the moral is bleak, it's really
funny and sassy, and I hope they enjoy
it," she added.
Presenting a play that deals with the
complexity of purgatory, Kelley has
learned about life throughout his directo-
rial efforts with "Waiting" and has been
able to apply that knowledge to how to
present "life" in a theatrical setting.
"In theater you get to watch people
interact with each other, and deconstruct
human behavior right in front of you. You
learn to appreciate what you miss out on
everyday, which are those little moments
between people," Kelley said.
Cohen has unparalleled insight into
the "Civilization" script, as she knows
the author personally.
"The playwright's name is Mark
Kaufman. He lives in Los Angeles and
does commercial work and script writ-
ing," Cohen said. "He's a family friend.
His father knows my stepfather because
they work together. When I was young,
he gave me inspiration to pursue direct-
ing by letting me read a bunch of plays
and then asking my opinion of them."
Kelley discovered his script inadver-
tently, but itcomes from a big name which
could add some pressure to do itejustice.
"'Waiting' is written by Ethan Coen,
one of the Coen brothers, who has
directed a .lot of famous productions,"
Kelley explained. "I was just in Borders

one day and I saw it in the play section,
in a compilation named 'Almost in Eve-
ning.' I thought it would be a short and
challenging piece, as the characters have
very little back stories."
As freshmen, both directors have
found that actually being in the direc-
tor's chair is quite a challenge.
"It's interesting dealing with obstacles
as they come and trying to rebound. I've
learned that if you fix it as fast as you can,
it'll be alright," Cohen said. "Dealing with
the various technical aspects of the show,
it kind of gets you frazzled but you have
to know it's goingto work out in the end."
But despite their youth, Cohen and
Kelley feel they have enough relevant
experience to make successful college
"This is the first show I've directed,
but I've associate choreographed 'Hair'
through the company MUSKET, and
assistant directed 'Orpheus Descend-
ing' through Rude Mechanicals," Cohen
said. "I did alot of directing and choreo-
graphing in high school, because I used
to be on a varsity dance team."
"I directed two short shows by
Edward Albee called 'The Zoo Story'
and 'The American Dream,' " Kelley
said. "I'm from Ann Arbor, and I never
really thought I would go to U of M. I
always knew I wanted to study theater,
but found out that Michigan has one of
the only undergrad programs with a
directing concentration and I found that
interesting. Everyone works extremely
hard here and wants to see each other do
well. I think that's why the program has
such a good reputation."
When it all comes together, Kelley
wants audiences to enjoy themselves,
but also to leave the show having discov-
ered something about the way we live.
"I hope by watching our show, the
audience can come out realizing not nec-
essarily something about themselves,
but something about human nature and
how we live with each other," he said.

art of the
Daily Arts Writer
Tomorrow at the Michigan Theater, the
School of Art & Design's Penny W. Stamps
Distinguished Speak-
ers Series continues pennWStamp
with a speaker whose n
presentation tran- Distinguished
scends what one may Wi sSere
traditionally think of
upon hearingthe word James Geary
"lecture." Tomorrow at
James Geary, the 5:10 P.M.
founding editor of M:10 pTm.
timeeurope.com and Michiganheater
current executive edi-
tor of Ode Magazine,
said his lecture is actually more of a perfor-
mance during which audiences will be amused
and engaged in an interactive setting. Geary's
performance will focus on a discussion of his
one true love: aphorisms.
"A lot of people find the word a bit strange,"
Geary said. "When people ask me what I do
and I say 'I write books about aphorisms,'
they say 'Oh that's fascinating, fascinating
... what's an aphorism?' And then I say: It's a
short, witty philosophical saying like 'I never
let school interfere with my education' - and
then everyone knows immediately what it is."
Other aphorisms Geary includes on his
website jamesgeary.com include "In a crisis,
inspiration is better than consolation," "Too
many facts spoil the plot" and "Never be seri-
ous in public."
Geary's love affair with what he calls the
world's "oldest written art form" began at
the tender age of eight years old, when he dis-
covered his first aphorisms on the Quotable
Quotes page of Reader's Digest. Ever since, he
has been enamored with these short, potent
phrases and would go on to have a career as a
journalist and an author of two books on apho-
risms: "The World ina Phrase: A Brief History

of the Aphorism," which made the New York
Times Best Seller List, and "Geary's Guide to
the World's Great Aphorists."
"People always say 'Do what you love,' and
for me that certainly turned out to be a good
decision," Geary said.
Geary explained that his connection to this
type of literature stems from the accessibility
and relevance of the form.
"Aphorisms contain important informa-
tion," he said. "And they contain, although it
sounds cliche, wisdom that helps us lead our
lives, helps us get through crises and helps
us celebrate when we have something to cel-
Geary plans to engage the audience with
personal anecdotes about experiences with
aphorisms and how they have helped to
change his life. He believes that aphorisms
are a "social form of literature," and that this
directly contributes to the success and lon-
gevity of the art form. Although people read
aphorisms alone, the words are most vital and
Finding the wisdom
in witticisms.
living when applied to experiences in every-
day life and shared with others.
"Aphorisms are special because they're one
of the few forms of literature that is still part
of the oral tradition, that people still exchange
in daily life," Geary said.
Geary's obsession with aphorisms may
seem disconnected from everyday life and
from much of the arts, but this kind of creative
niche is exactly what the Penny W. Stamps
lecture series is all about.
Chrisstina Hamilton, director of the series,
explained that it's focused on creativity and
See GEARY, Page 10A

E-mail jamblock@umich.edu
to submit your suggestions.

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