The Michigan Daily I michigandaily.com I Thursday, September 16, 2010
THE NEW ENSEMBLE HITS THE
ANN ARBOR THEATER SCENE WITH AN
UNPRECEDENTED STYLE OF COLLABORATION
Sept. 16 to Sept. 19
The Second City is
coming to our very
own city! Be sure not
to miss the improv
comedy troupe that
gave Tina Fey, Bill Mur-
ray, Mike Myers, John
Belushi and like a zillion
more of your favorite
funny people their
start in its only Ann
Arbor weekend in a
tour that will span until
December 2011. The
Second City's "Fair &
Unbalanced" show will
go on at The Ark this
Friday and Saturday at
8 p.m. (doors at 7:30).
Tickets are $25 online.
This Saturday, take a
tour of the University
of Michigan Museum
of Art. "The Collector's
Eye," one of the tours
created for the Univer-
sity theme semester
"What Makes Life
Worth Living?," takes
visitors through the
galleries and focuses
on the donors who
made UMMA's collec-
tion what it is today.
The hour-long tour
starts at 1 p.m. Free.
or a fledgling local theater
company aiming to devel-
op a rock star-esque fol-
lowing, a concert version
of a brilliant 20th-century
anti-war play makes for
he ultimate second production.
The New Theatre Project's New
Ensemble, a group of 20-something art-
ists led by founder and Creative Direc-
tor Keith Paul Medelis, certainly shares
some traits with a rock band already.
Experimentation and collaboration
are key words for the group, as illus-
trated by its edgy and inventive first
production, this past summer's "The
Spring Awakening Project," along with
the scheduled plays for its first season,
themed "Identity." And its members
want to use those traits to win over a
But not to be ignored is the members'
contagious shared enthusiasm - verg-
ing on radical artistic devotion - that
powers their innovative project.
TNTP originally planned its sec-
ond production as a one-night, 16-per-
son staged reading of Bertolt Brecht's
groundbreaking 1941 anti-war play
"Mother Courage and Her Children" in
Ypsilanti's Frog Island Park.
But the first-rate cast of leads had to
withdraw three weeks before the Sept.
19 event because of scheduling con-
flicts, causing a last-minute scramble.
With the staged reading no longer a
possibility, the New Ensemble took up
a "wouldn't it be cool if" idea that had
been languishing in the back of its mem-
"Brecht as a rock concert in a club
atmosphere," Medelis explained.
The one-night "Mother Courage
in Concert" on Sept. 19 will now take
place with a full band and orchestra-
tions in Main Street's Elmo's Hideaway.
New Ensemble members Caleb Kruzel,
an 18-year-old student at Washtenaw
Technical Middle College, and Amanda
Lyn Jungquist, a 21-year-old LSA senior
at the University, wrote original music
to go with the play's existing score.
"Itwillbefun,but we'lljusthaveto hit
this thing hard for a while," Jungquist
said about the shift to a concert format.
Eastern Michigan University associ-
ate professor and local Brecht expert Dr.
Pirooz Aghssa will conduct a pre-show
discussion about the playwright, and
the New Ensemble will read portions of
the play throughout the performance to
frame the songs. The production is list-
ed on the United Nations International
Day of Peace website, and Ann Arbor's
5th annual P.E.A.C.E. DAY on Sept. 19
on the Diag will feature selections from
The show, perhaps now more than
before, keeps with the mission of TNTP,
part of which is to reinvent old work for
a new audience and part of which is to
present work that was revolutionary
when it premiered.
"I want something you aren't going to
forget about," 22-year-old Medelis told
the Daily in his "office" - Cafe Verde in
the People's Food Co-op. "A lot of the-
ater is lukewarm, but this is not luke-
The "awakening" of the
"The Spring Awakening Project," the
equally hot inaugural work inspired
by Frank Wedekind's 1891 play "Spring
Awakening," was entirely responsible
for the TNTP's ascent into local theater
stardom - but not before inspiring the
"The Spring Awakening Project" fol-
lowed six characters in a unified plot to
explore the transition between child-
hood and adulthood with topics such as
sex, homosexuality, social pressure and
suicide. The play drew attention and
acclaim this summer.
Medelis was an apprentice at Ann
Arbor's Performance Network theater
and a recent graduate of Albion Col.-
lege when he began to develop the play
last winter. He ventured to start TNTP
because of the success of "The Spring
Awakening Project" and the cast with
which he was working.
But it was where the content origi-
nated as much as the content itself that
boosted interest in TNTP. The innova-
tive six-month development process
created for the play by Medelis and the
cast has become widely admired in the
Ann Arbor theater scene.
In January, Medelis got permission to
produce his own adaptation of "Spring
Awakening" - distinguished from the
2006 Broadway rock musical of the same
name - in the Performance Network's PHOTOS BY MARISSA MCCLAIN
See TNTP, Page 2B ESIGN SY ANNA LEIN-Z ELINSKI
Last year, Joaquin
Phoenix made head-
lines for apparently
losing his shit. The
Still Here," opening
this Friday at the State
Theater, chronicles the
"Walk the Line" star's
downward spiral into
drugs and depression,
the usual. The question
mark signifies the film's
intentions - the film
is purported to be an
elaborate prank. Real or
not, it'll be entertaining
as hell to watch Phoe-
nix's crackpot antics.
In the mood for
this weekend, but
don't know what?
Tickled Fancy Bur-
lesque Company is
coming to the Blind
Pig this Saturday at
9:30 p.m. Tickled
Fancy is a 13-member
group that's been on
the scene since 2007
with a motley mix of
clowns, tassels and
liquid latex that'd be
impossible to beat
- if there were any
competition, that is.
Its $10 show promises
to take on Hollywood.