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October 13, 2011 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-10-13

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, October 13, 2011- 3B

From Page 1B
Two more Union Operas fol-
lowed "Koanzaland": 1910's
"Crimson Chest," a pirate tale,
and 1911's "The Awakened
Ramses," a riotous mummy com-
edy. "Ramses" began the tradi-
tion of including football players
in the operas, after they stepped
in at the last minute when half of
the cast was deemed ineligible to
"Not only were the guys play-
ing the women's roles, but these
big, beefy, hairy guys were play-
ing the women's roles," Rowe
By then, the operas had
become a regular fixture on cam-
pus, yet a lack of organization
and continuity from year to year
was a problem. So in 1912 a fixed
managerial position was created,
andthe Operawas organized into
a permanent theatrical organiza-
tion known as the Mimes. In the
introduction to his score of the
Mimes' first show, 1913's "Con-
trarie Mary," Prof. Moore wrote
that the formation of the Mimes
would allow for the "attainment
of ideals hitherto impossible."
Women in the operas -
World War I
The creation of the Mimes also
began the tradition of taking the
Michigan Union Operas on the
road. After "Contrarie Mary"
successfully toured, subsequent
productions made visits to cities
across Michigan and the Mid-
"Michigan alumni were - and
are - everywhere," said Marilyn
McNitt, an associate archivist at
the Bentley Historical Library
who organized a 2008 exhibit
celebrating the Mimes' 100th
anniversary. "So they would go
to places where there were large
groups of alumni. And then other
people would hear about it, too.
It was new and fresh - there
weren't a lot of college troupes
going on the road to perform their
original plays. And all guys!"
With the aid of funds raised
from the Mimes' local produc-
tions and road shows, the Union
was able to complete just the
exterior of its new clubhouse,
which can still be seen today. But
when war broke out between the
U.S. and Germany in 1917, finish-
ing the interior became a dire
necessity. A government loan
allowed the Union to be complet-
ed enough to serve as a barracks
and mess hall for the Student
Army Training Corps.
In 1918, with much of the Uni-
versity's male population enlist-
ed or conscripted, the Mimes
faced a major dilemma: whether
to allow women students to par-
ticipate in the Michigan Union
"The Union was a male bas-
ket," McNitt said. "It was really
hard for them to let women in.
There was a big controversy
about that."
Many protested the inclusion
of women, claiming this would
ruin a decade-old tradition.
Yet the faculty, including Prof.
Moore, objected to "the impro-
priety of sending out to its alum-
ni an entertainment representing
the university with a score of men
frolicking in petticoats when the

nation is at war," according to an
article published in an unidenti-
fiable newspaper in January 1918.
Feminism won out, and in
March 1918 "Let's Go," the only
D Michigan Union Opera in his-
tory to feature women in the cast,
was produced. With a score by
Prof. Moore, this propagandistic
wartime comedy helped to raise
funds for the war effort.
The heyday of the Michigan
Union Opera - The 1920s
With the end of the war in
November 1918, the doughboys
returned to Ann Arbor and the
University's women were forced
out of the spotlight. The Mimes
resumed their all-male tradition
for the March 1919 production of
"Come on Dad."
The Michigan Union also
opened in 1919. The building -
which would become the heart
of the University community
in the coming decade - housed
common areas, dining rooms,
ballrooms, libraries, a hotel,
a soda bar, a barber shop, an
indoor swimming pool (where
D Barnes and Noble is located
today) and a bowling alley. Yet
women, who had helped save
the Michigan Union Opera the
year before, were only allowed

to enter through a back door and
had tobe accompanied by a male
escort while in the building.
"We were such a dominant
men's university," said Carl
Smith, a retired CPA who serves
as faculty advisor for the Men's
Glee Club. "Women had their
League; men had the Michigan
Union. That was just the way it
was. It took a long while for that
to change."
With the arrival of the 1920s
the following year, there was an
explosion in the popularity and
sheer size of the Michigan Union
Operas, reflecting the extrava-
gance and excitement of the
Roaring Twenties.
With elaborate sets and cos-
tumes that required custom-
designedshoes, the Union Operas
of the '20s were on par with pro-
fessional theater companies. Pro-
duction costs soared as high as
$80,000 (comparable to $1 mil-
lion today). The quality of female
impersonation also reached new
levels with the December 1923
production "Cotton Stockings,"
which starred leading "lady" Lio-
nel Ames.
"He was so good that there
were men who saw him in his
performance and didn't real-
ize that he was a female imper-
sonator," McNitt said. "So they
would wait for him backstage
with flowers and candy, and he
would walk bythem.
"He had very delicate, femi-
nine features. He was a very
attractive, um, 'woman."'
Ames, who would eventually
become a professional female
impersonator, led "Cotton Stock-
ings" on a 15-city tour that
included performances in Chi-
cago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh,
Washington and New York's
Metropolitan Opera House.
"(His legs) were insured
because the routines in 'Cotton
Stockings' were so acrobatic,"
McNitt said. "They were afraid
that he'd fall and hurt himself....
They wanted to make sure that
if their star hurt himself, they
didn't lose everything."
In crisis - The Depression
and World War II
Yet, the dazzling and carefree
era of the '20s, the Michigan
Union Operas would grind to
a halt when financial difficul-
ties set in. Beginning in 1927 the
operas failed to turn a profit,
and by 1929 the Mimes had lost
a total of $15,000 from three
productions. The stock market
crash of that same year was also a
major contributor to the Opera's
In 1934 the Union Operas
made a brief revival with two
productions, but this revival was
short-lived. The University didn't
see another Mimes production
until .1940's "Four Out of Five,"
which starred the Wolverines'
halfback, eventual Heisman Tro-
phy winner Tom Harmon.
Two more Union Operas were
produced in December 1941, but
these would be the last produc-
tions for several years. Four days
before "Take a Number" opened,
the Japanese attacked the Ameri-
can fleet at Pearl Harbor. Just
as in World War I, the Mimes'
activities were interrupted
when much of the University's
male population marched off to

the Pacific or Europe. With the
women on campus mobilized to
assist the war effort, this made
even a co-ed Union Opera impos-
The Michigan Union Opera
Renaissance - The 1950s
With the end of the war in
1945 and the introduction of the
G.I. Bill, men soon returned to
campus en masse. With the Uni-
versity's male population now
restored, it seemed sensible to
bring back the all-male Union

Saying Ido-'
for the dollars

Cross-dressing actor Lionel Ames had his legs insured for "Cotton Stackings."

Operas. 1949's "Froggy Bottom,"
the first production in seven
years, centered on the lives of
tenants in Willow Run Village
apartments, a housing facility the
University created for returning
veterans who had married. The
show was also the first Michigan
Union Opera run entirely by stu-
"This was a novel experience
for everybody in it," said Phelps
Connell, a 1950 'U' alum who
played in "Froggy Bottom."
"Whoever was running it
imported a professional director
from Broadway to come in and
direct the show," Connell added.
"I can't imagine how he did it,
but he had to teach people who
had never danced before how
to dance and had to teach the
acting. It had to take incredible
Though the Union Operas
were successfully integrated
into post-war campus culture,
the 1950s saw much debate sur-
rounding the now-antiquated
tradition of men playing wom-
en's roles. In 1954, a committee
was formed to address this and
other problems that plagued the
Mimes. According the commit-
tee's report, the cross-dressing
element was now "in poor taste"
and modern audiences were tir-
ing of this archaism.
While the committee ulti-
mately voted against a co-ed
Opera, the "apparent feminiza-
tion of the choruses" was dis-
continued. Instead, the sex of
the men in drag had to be appar-
ent to audience members at all
time. The sort of gender bending
that Lionel Ames had perfected
more than 30 years before was
replaced with what the report
called "hairy legs and male mas-
And yet the co-ed debate raged
on. Both sides of the issue were
manifested in the shows during
the 1950s, which contain increas-
ingly nostalgic subject matter
and feminist themes. 1954's "Hail
to Victor" took place in turn-of-
the-century Ann Arbor, when the
all-male Michigan Union Operas
were just beginning, but focuses
on the women's suffrage move-
ment with an opening number
titled "It's Equality We Demand."
Despite this attempt at open-
mindedness, the Mimes' days
were numbered. 1955 saw the
final Michigan Union Opera,
"Film Flam." In 1956 - the same
year women were first allowed
through the front door of the
Union - the Mimes changed
their name to MUSKET (Michi-

gan Union Shows, Ko-Eds Too)
and began performing main-
stream Broadway shows. The all-
male cast hung up their garters
and corsets for good as real-live
women took the stage.
Why not today?
While MUSKET has been a
source of quality entertainment
on campus for the last 55 years,
its shows bear little in common
with the cross-dressing, satirical
spectacles of the Michigan Union
Operas. The change to MUSKET
and the switch to well-known
musicals ensured that any ves-
tiges of the drag tradition would
be eliminated; yet this also did
away with the original, student-
created material.
Would student-run shows in
the tradition of the Union Operas
have an appeal on campus today?
A revival of "Michigenda" or
"Koanzaland" would most likely
come across as outdated and even
offensive in the case of the latter.
Yet original productions focus-
ing on modern student life and
lampooning campus celebrities
like University President Mary
Sue Coleman, Michigan football
coach Brady Hoke or quarterback
Denard Robinson could generate
considerable interest.
The Union Operas' niche may
already be filled by such Univer-
sity organizations like Basement
Arts and the Educational Theatre
Company (ETC), which perform
their own shows. Team StarKid
of "A Very Potter Musical" fame
has even toured across the coun-
try, bringing to mind the Mimes'
road shows. So while MUSKET
may be the direct descendant
of the Michigan .Union Operas,
campus theater troupes like
these can be seen as their spiri-
tual successors.
As for the Michigan Union
Operas themselves, all that is
left are a few cardboard boxes
of scores, programs and photo-
graphs at the Bentley Library.
While there are some reminders
around campus, like the opera
Lounge in the Union and the
School of Music's Earl V. Moore
Building, the Mimes and their 36
productions are quickly fading
into obscurity.
As a 1930 Detroit News article
stated: "Thus, with a final glitter
of its costumes, and a last ges-
ture of its he-she chorus, into the
discard tumbles an institution
which cometed from unpreten-
tious beginnings into a series of
musical revues of a technical per-
fection and beauty."

J t finally happened. We
haven't solved the economic
crisis in America, we still
haven't resolved the unrest in
the Middle East and our public
school system
is still down
the tubes.
But rest easy
because ...
Kim Kar-
dashian is
married! Yes,
it's true - HALEY
Kim and Kris GOLDBERG
an NBA bas-
ketball player, tied the knot on
Aug. 20 in Montecito, Calif.
Kris - who so conveniently
fits in with the all-'K' first initials
of the Kardashian family clan -
and Kim became engaged after
only six months of dating (though
they still dated longer than Kim's
sister Khloe, who married Lakers
basketball player Lamar Odom
after one month). The two-night
weddingspecial E! aired, nos-
talgically titled "Kim's Fairytale
Wedding: A Kardashian Event,"
gave us an inside look at the wed-
ding and, of course, the drama
behind the "I Do's." But how
much did the fairytale spectacle
that had us glued to the tube for
two nights actually cost?
Thanks to TheHollywoodRe-
porter.com, we know the major
expenses. And just takea look
at these figures: $2.5 million for
the Lorraine Schwartz head-
piece Kim wore when walking
down the aisle, $5 million for
the 28-carat earrings she wore,
$200,000 for her wedding band
- which includes "15 carats of
emerald-cut diamonds" - and
$150,000 for her grooming,
including hair and makeup.
These figures don't even include
the cost of the private estate the
newlywed couple rented, the
three custom-made Vera Wang
gowns Kim wore throughout the
night and the catering of celebrity
chef Wolfgang Puck!
Don't worry about Bruce Jen-
ner's wallet being empty after
the event, as the Kardashian
family had help paying offthese
costs from the money made off
the wedding. Kim waspaid to
get married ... sort of. People
magazine spent $1.5 million for
exclusive access and licensing
fees for photos, accordingto
TheHollywood Reportercom.
The magazine didn't even feature
Kris on the cover, just a solo shot
of Kim.
And other people are making
money off of her marriage too.
E! charged up to $100,000 for
ad rates duringKim's wedding
special, which it anticipated
would be seen by five million
viewers. Call me old fashioned,
but isn't a weddingsupposed to
be a celebration of love between
two people, not a commodity
exploitedby reality television and
gossip magazines? Since when
has getting married become a
business where people not even
working for the wedding can

"make money" off the nuptials?
Can these extravagant weddings
actually lead to what matters the
most - a good marriage?
The answer to that question
can be found in any gossip maga-
zine on any given week. While we
see many celebrities engaging in
these lavish ceremonies, we also
see an excess of celeb marriages
ending in bitter divorces. Take
Eva Longoria and Tony Parker,
for example. Their July 7, 2007
wedding at a chateau in Paris was
estimated around $1.5 million
according to People.com. Their
divorce? Finalized this January.
How about Jennifer Lopez and
Marc Anthony'swedding? Lopez
wore more than $7 million in
jewelry at their ceremony in June
2004. After seven years, they
called it quits this July.
Kim and Kris:
money or love?
While I'm not predicting that
Kim and Kris's marriage will end
the same way or saying putting
a significant amount of money
into a wedding will always lead
it astray, it's hard not to make a
connection between the two. An
exception is Kim's sister Khloe,
who married Lamar in the same
lavish fashion with a reality tele-
vision extravaganza and recently
celebrated her one-year anniver-
sary with him. Maybe the big fat
reality television wedding can
lead to a lasting marriage.
But when and why have wed-
dings become such a commercial
spectacle? Why couldn't Kim
and Kris have simply gone down
to the courthouse and tied the
knot there? Well, anyone who has
watched "Keeping Up with the
Kardashians" knows the Kar-
dashian family does not do things
without effect. The family has a
reality show based on the mem-
bers' lives, and in order to keep
viewers interested they have to
go big or go home.
But what does that say about
Kim's marriage? Is it real, ortis it
all for the sake of the ad price E!
can charge on the special, or the
money that was paid by People
for the rights to the wedding?
Even parts of the wedding special
were reported by PerezHilton.
com to have been scripted. While
E! depicted the image of love
between Kim and Kris, we won't
know for sure until we see their
marriage last. And as a Kardashi-
an fan, I hope Kim and Kris are
truly happy. But still, as a follow-
er ofcelebrity gossip, I've seen
too many of these over-the-top
weddings end in divorce. While
the weddinghad all the amenities
one could think of, let's hope for
Kim and Kris that it had the one
key component: love.
Goldberg is waiting for Prince
Charming or a bunch of cash. To
provide, e-mail hsgold@umich.edu.

Six unemployed guys +
One unexpected way to earn money =
An evening of unlimited laughter & fun
U Ui


1 PM -4PM


Book by Terrence McNally " Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
Department of Musical Theatre. *Recommendedfarmatureaudiences
October 13 & 20 at 7:30 PM * October 14,15,21 & 22at8 PM
October 16 & 231at12 PM " Mendelssohn Theatre
Reserved seating $26 & $20 e Students $10 with ID
League Ticket Office * 734-764-2538 " tickets.music.umich.edu

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