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September 04, 2012 - Image 31

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-09-04

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com .

Tuesday, September 4, 2012- 3D.

Famous 'Einstein
on the Beach' opera
comes to Ann Arbor

Glass to restage
seminal work at
* Power Center
By JON ODDEN AND DAVID
TAO
Daily Arts Writer and Senior Arts
Editor
JAN. 20, 2012 - Heralded as
one of the 20th century's great-
est examples of artistry, "Ein-
stein on the Beach," the radical
five-hour opera that elevated
director Robert Wilson and com-
poser Philip Glass to international
prominence, is being revived for
an international tour 20 years
after its last production. The
tour's first stop, and the opera's
first performance in North Amer-
ica outside of New York City, will
take place tonight in Ann Arbor.
While the opera involves the
titular physicist as a character
and'incorporates many elements
from his life, Glass and Wil-
son intentionally focused upon
Albert Einstein as a historical
figure instead of a cultural icon.
In place of biography, Glass and
Wilson actively embrace a lack
of narrative, incorporating sym-
bols such as repeated numbers,
syllables of soltege and abstract
dance sequences. They, along
with the production's original
choreographer, Lucinda Childs,
are involved with the opera's new
tour.
"In the (university) remount-
ing, the original creative team
... is in residence to pass on their
innovative aesthetic and distinc-
tive working methods onto a new
generation of performers," Musi-
cology Prof. Mark Clague and
director of research at the School
of Music, Theatre & Dance, said.
The original team's noncon-
ventional approach extends
beyond the narrative and into the
production's underlying music.
Glass's arrangement forsakes tra-
ditional orchestral instrumenta-
tion for an eerie combination of
synthesizers, woodwinds and
voice. In lieu of intermissions,
audiences set their own breaks

and are free to walk in and out of
the theater at leisure.
When "Einstein on the Beach"
premiered in 1976, as Clague
explains, the opera's style was
misunderstood and over-simpli-
fied, described as Minimalist and
more than a little off-putting.
Musicians struggled to perform
the play as much as audiences
struggled to witness it due to its
lack of a clear narrative struc-
ture. However, Clague said he
believes that modern musicians
and popular taste have since
caught up.
"This ... is anything but (Mini-
malist)," Clague said. "The opera
was prophetic and today, art-
ists have developed the techni-
cal understandings to play it
and audiences can embrace the
concepts in ways that are freshly
intriguing."
When asked for suggestions
on how to comprehend "Ein-
stein," Clague said the audience
shouldn't concern itself with
meaning. Instead, it should try
and interact with the opera,
because its core theme is derived
from a combination of the perfor-
mance and the person.
"The most important thing
to know about 'Einstein on the
Beach' is that the audience mem-
ber brings the story to the the-
ater," Clague said. "Einstein was
a cultural icon - a conceptual
physicist certainly but also a phi-
losopher, humanitarian and a fig-
ure of worldwide notoriety."
After all, theoretical relativ-
ity fundamentally changed the
way we understood the universe,
shifting from an absolute notion
of time to one dependent on per-
spective, which Clague explained
is a central focus of the opera's
visual elements.
"Watch the stage change;
experience it as a kind of medi-
tation on symbols and signal-
ing itself," Clague said. "It's all
fascinating - the light, the slow,
detailed movements, the musical
environment. It'll be slightly dif-
ferent for everyone, but an audi-
ence member willing to give him
or herself to this artwork may
well be transformed."

Th' Undergrads bring sketch' to U'

Student-run
YouTube show
inspired by 'SNL'
By JOEY STEINBERGER
For the Daily
MARCH 12,2012 - The week-
end begins on Friday for most
college students. For some, this
means meeting up with a friend
or a chance to catch up on a book
you're reading for fun. For the
cast and crew of Th'Undergrads,
Fridays are a time to pitch a flur-
ry of ideas, draft the best ones
and film some sketch comedy.
Th'Undergrads is the Univer-
sity's first televised sketch com-
edy group. Last summer, School
of Music Theatre & Dance
senior RJ Brown and some of
his friends who act decided they
wanted to do a sketch-comedy
show. Brown approached LSA
senior lecturer Terri Sarris,
who connected him with two
groups of students who had the
same idea. In an interview, the

show's five producers gave their
thoughts on the production pro-
cess.
"Everyone had the pieces
that everyone else's group was
missing," said LSA junior Billy
Finkenstaedt.
Students in . the
Th'Undergrads come from a
wide variety of comedic back-
grounds, including those who
come from improv groups, oth-
ers who are actors or stand-up
comics, and even those who
were not involved in these pur-
suits before Th'Undergrads.
Because of this mix, LSA senior
Joey Bergen believes that the
group has a "wide range of dif-
ferent styles of humor and dif-
ferent approaches to humor."
"I was really worried that
we weren't going to mesh,"
added LSA senior Jacqueline
Wilton."But I think its been
OK."
The producers cite "Saturday
Night Live" as the group's big-
gest influence. Sketch-comedy
shows that use many camera
angles, such as "The State" and

"Mr. Show," also play a part in
the group's artistic decisions.
Unlike other sketch com-
edy groups on campus,
Th'Undergrads films sketches
and uploads them to YouTube.
They don't perform their com-
edy live ... yet.
"That was the initial goal,"
Finkenstaedt said. "It became a
goal for the end of this semes-
ter."
Part of the problem keeping
Th'Undergrads from live audi-
ences is their filming schedule.
Th'Undergrads films in th'e
basement of North Quad, and
because the building is owned
and operated by the University,'
the group has to conform to a
restrictive film schedule.
"If we could film later on
Fridays it would be easier to ...
secure an audience that could
stay for the length of shooting,"
Finkenstaedt said.
Though the Th'Undergrads
film schedule is less than ideal,
the group does feel as though
it benefits from its relationship
with the University.

"We get to use these awesome
sets and these incredible camer-
as that are not usually afforded
to people with our experience
level," Finkenstaedt added.
For now, fans of the show are
able to watch the group's antics
online. The show releases a
new, roughly 30-minute episode
every month. In the first epi-
sode, sketches include adivorced
game-show host whose cheating
wife appears as a contestant on
his show, and University Presi-
dent Mary Sue Coleman dressed
as a dominatrix hosting a fire-
side chat.
They haven't heard anything
from the University about that
one yet.
At the writers' meeting this
month, sketch ideas included an
upbeat sitcom with the cast of
"The Silence of the Lambs" and
a lounge singer who forgets her
song mid-verse and is forced to
awkwardly improvise.. All the
writers were conscientious of
keeping the sketches original.
Some ideas were noted as too
See COMEDY, Page 9D

FOXES
From Page 2D
folk groups of the '60s like The
Mamas and the Papas and Peter,
Paul and Mary. In last night's
show, Fleet Foxes incorporated
unlikely instruments including
the mandolin, flute and harmoni-
um - giving their songs a unique,
rustic flavor.
A giant screen greeted con-
certgoers with the cheeky phrase
"YOU ARE AT A MUSICAL CON-
CERT CONGRATULATIONS"
projected over a scenic picture-
postcard image of a mountain
range. The mostly college-aged
audience burst into applause
when Fleet Foxes opening act,
The Walkmen, took the stage.
The five East Coast-based

members of The Walkmen have
a driving and energetic garage-
band style.One particularly boun-
cy number, "Blue as your Blood,"
spurred two audience members to
alternately bounce up and down
in their seats like a see-saw.
Fleet Foxes took the stage after
a 15-minute set change, playing
songs from Helplessness Blues, as
well as hits from their eponymous
debut LP. After a long standing
ovation, the band returned to the
stage to play two encores. The
first, "I Let You," is a previously
unrecorded song that Pecknold
said he wrote a few months ago.
The band will stay in the
Midwest for the weekend, play-
ing shows in Chicago today and
tomorrow.
-Sharon Jacobs contributed to
this report

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