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October 16, 2014 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
9

Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 3B

'Night of Laughs'
opens show season

Basement Arts
puts on Chekhov,
Shakespeare shorts
By ALEX BERNARD
Daily Arts Writer
Between midterms, club
obligations and problem sets,
college can seem like one dull
commit-
ment after A Night
another, A
aimless- Laughs: An
ly last- Evening of
ing until Comedic
somebody One Acts
slaps a lib-
eral arts October 17 at
degree in 7p.m. and 11 p.m.
your hand October18 at 7 p.m.
and tells Walgreens
you to find Drama Center
a new com- Free
mitment -
hopefully
one that pays.
But, as a group of young
actors will tell you, that doesn't
always have to be the case. This
Friday and Saturday, Basement
Arts puts up its first show of
the school year: "A Night of
Laughs: An Evening of Come-
dic One Acts" after just two
weeks of rehearsals.
The thirty-minute show
is a compilation of three 8 to
10 minute short scenes from
Anton Chekhov's . "The Dan-
gers of Tobacco," Shel Silver-
stein's "The Best Daddy" and
Shakespeare's "Romeo and
Juliet."
And yet, the show isn't just a
straightforward take on scenes
that acting majors have had

memorized since ninth grade.
In Shakespeare's classic
tragedy, director and senior
Acting major Josh Aber throws
a mysterious wrench into tra-
ditional interpretations of the
classic balcony scene.
"It's a little bit of a farce ...
and out there," Aber said.
Tragically, Aber declined to
reveal more, forcing us to flip
open our Dover Thrift cop-
ies of "Romeo and Juliet" and
imagine what might be.
But the "Night of Laughs"
won't be all giggles, twists
and the dismantlement of clas-
sic works. Where one might
expect slapstick, Chekhov and
Silverstein deliver drama -
sweet refreshing drama.
"Chekhov is all very dark ...
The Chekhov one is very sad,"
Aber said. "I don't even know
if people are going to be laugh-
ing at the end ... And the Best
Daddy one; that's really really
dark. That's black comedy."
It may seem to the casual (or
even avid) theater-goer that
these scenes don't have much
in common, but Aber insists
that's what makes the comedy
so poignant.
"I kind of thought, well if
I'm doing contemporary and
Chekhov, I kind of want to
throw in a Shakespeare so
that it can follow an arc," he
said. "So it's gonna be Shake-
speare, Chekhov, contempo-
rary. Three different comedic
styles. Three different time
periods."
Though the scenes are
drastically different from one
another, they're also linked
by the mysterious "common
denominator." Once again,

Aber chose to build suspense
rather than be any more spe-
cific. One can only wonder
what he means by the "com-
mon denominator."
Whatever his twists are
though, Aber, a first-time
director, will have to spin
them quickly. In the past few
semesters, Basement Arts
shows were usually given
three weeks for rehearsals.
As the year's first production
though, Aber and his cast only
have two weeks to block, mem-
orize, rehearse and perfect the
show before opening night on
Friday. Aber expected as much
though.
"I actually asked (Basement
Arts) if I could hold auditions
before they had confirmed my
slot ... I'm actually only hav-
ing two weeks to rehearse this
because my first week I had to
use up for audition time," he
said.
Aber said the show isn't just
for theater students either.
Anyone just looking for some
free entertainment late on a
Friday night can pop in at 11
p.m. and leave smiling at 11:40.
"I'm excited for watching
the show with an audience and
hearing people laugh who've
never watched it before ...
Hopefully, I'll hear some
laughs and I'll know I did a
good job."
The scenes run at 7 p.m. and
11 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on
Saturday. All Basement Arts
shows go up in the Walgreen
Drama Center and are com-
pletely, unbendingly free. No
doubt, "A Night of Laughs"
will be worth much more than
the price of admission.

GROUND
From Page 1B
James Tennis stands in a
windbreaker and Michigan cap
outside of Nickel's Arcade at
North University Avenue and
State Street - braving a brisk
October rain and covering a
stack of newspapers with a
plastic bag. The papers he's
holding are the latest issue of
"GroundcoverNews," amonthly
street newspaper designed
to provide job opportunities
to homeless and low-income
people in the Ann Arbor area,
and he sells them for one dollar
a piece.
"I've been selling here for a
whole year at Nickel's Arcade,"
Tennis says. "And they say
60,000 people walk past me a
day, so really it's been a blessing
from God."
Tennis, 40, was living with
his mother in 2013 when he
discovered Groundcover
through word-of-mouth and
went to the company's office
at Bethlehem United Church
of Christ to apply and train
for a job as a Groundcover
vendor. Since then, Tennis has
supported himself through his
paper sales alone, working hard
to develop a customer base
among University students
and Ann Arborites while
combatting the challenges of a
low-income lifestyle.
"Most of the students here
are very intellectual, very nice
and warm-hearted," Tennis
says. "And then you get some
people who are just evil and
they spit at you and talk bad
about you. It's an up-and-down
thing, but I sleep in a tent
outside, so I have to deal with
all elements: from the weather,
and from the people."
Since its first issue in April
2010, Groundcover has helped
people like Tennis get back
on their feet by providing a
more constructive alternative
to panhandling. Today, there
are around 35 active vendors
working, as Groundcover
publisher and founder Susan
Beckett describes, on the
principle of "self-reliance";
vendors receive their first 10
papers for free, which they
then sell for one dollar per
copy, and can subsequently buy
additional papers for 25 cents
each.
Before founding
Groundcover, Beckett had
worked for nearly 25 years as
a volunteer lobbyist with a
group called Results, where she
learned how microfinancing
could help to alleviate the worst
aspects of hunger and poverty
by reaching those people who
lacked access to banks or loans.
Six years ago, when visiting
her daughter in Seattle, Beckett
encountered people selling
street newspapers around
the city and realized that a
similar product could work to
benefit low-income residents
in her hometown of Ann Arbor,
so she gradually went about
formulating ideas for the
paper, presenting the concept
to her activist friends and city
officials.

In 2009, as her plan for the
non-profit was starting to
come to fruition, Beckett met
some resistance from the City
Council's downtown marketing
committee, who feared that a

street newspaper might lead
to a resurgence in downtown
panhandling, which they had
worked to reduce.
"I had been warned by one
of the people who became one
of our vendors, and she said,
'Those business people, they
don't like us, and they're going
to do everything they can to
make it not happen,"' Beckett
said. "So I kind of went to the
committee with the mindset
that I was consulting them to
see what their concerns were,
and if they had any advice, but I
was not asking permission."
Beckett went on to meet
with a representative from
the North American Street
Newspaper Association, who
set her up with a printing
company and helped her find
a $1,000 grant for the printing
of Groundcover's first issue.
Eventually, the company
moved from a small space
at St. Andrew's Church to a
larger room in the basement
of Bethlehem Church on South
Fourth Avenue to accommodate
the traffic of vendors coming in
and out for papers.
Within its first few weeks
of operation, Groundcover
had already attracted
advertisements from a number
of local establishments,
including RoosRoast Coffee
Works and By The Pound.
Today, advertisements make
up about one-third of the
company's revenue, and staff
and vendors work to secure ads
by going into local businesses
and speaking with the owners
of the companies.
In the Bethlehem Church
office, staff volunteers
distribute papers and train
new vendors on the company's
protocols regarding city
ordinances - vendors must
wear an ID badge and must be
at least a block away from one
another when selling. Once a
month, Groundcover conducts
training sessions on other
useful business-related issues.
"One of the things we do is
the advanced sales workshop
we do workshops on how to
sell advertising, basic computer
literacy, resum writing, how to
use Linkedin and Facebook,"
Beckett said. "Things that will
both help them in selling papers
and looking for a future job."
Office volunteer Keagan
Irrer, a graduate from Albion
College, said that he has
personally trained more than
40 vendors in his time at
Groundcover and witnessed
impressive progress from many
vendors over the years.
"Shawn Story, here," Irrer
said, handing me an August
2014 issue of Groundcover and
pointing at the cover photo
of a tall Black man standing
in Nickel's Arcade, "Once he
was able to get into housing,
his sales numbers just sky-
rocketed; he was able to be
in locations consistently and
establish regular customers."
"Vendor Spotlights" are
among the many recurring
pieces that make up what
Beckett, describes as
Groundcover's "eclectic"
content. Most issues feature

articles written by Groundcover
volunteers and vendors, as
well as submissions from Ann
Arbor residents. While the
October issue is politically
themed, focusing mostly on the

upcoming November elections,
past issues of the paper have
contained sections on anything
from opinion to humor to
religion.
"In general, our readership
prefers a large variety," Beckett
said. "I'd say a third of our
articles have something of a
poverty focus, and it is part
of our mission to cover those
things that nobody else does ...
but it's really hard to read page
after page about poverty stuff
and struggles."
Vendors are also trained to
be familiar with the paper's
content and use the articles as
a selling point. And though they
are equipped with a quality
product - a twelve-page paper
with four color pages - the
selling of print newspapers
remains a difficult task
anywhere in the 21st century,
especially with students.
"Honestly, the vendors find
it hard to sell anywhere except
downtown - the Main Street
area - and Kerrytown, with the
People's Food Co-op and when
the Farmer's Market is around,"
Beckett said. "But, in the last
year, the student district has
improved considerably, and I
attribute that in large part to
our student group that started
a year ago."
Nursing sophomore Jennifer
Crorey, Beckett's niece, founded
the Groundcover student group
in the summer of 2013, when
she and several volunteers
began helping out around the
office, writing articles for the
paper and searching for ways
to expand the vendors' range of
selling around campus and in
the greater Ann Arbor area.
"We were looking to get the
word out about Groundcover,
since most students didn't know
what it was," Crorey said. And
we've also been able to use the
University's resources, like last
year we got a grant from the
Ginsberg Center to make vests
for the vendors so that they can
expand to other cities and be
recognizable in those areas as
well."
Last February, the group
recruited former Michigan
Basketball player Jordan
Morgan and Ann Arbor Mayor
John Hieftje to help spread
awareness for Groundcover
by selling papers on the
streets with vendors. In a
video interview on the paper's
website, Mayor Hieftje praised
Groundcover as a "good read,"
saying, "Some people go home
and watch Fox News, or they
watch CNN, but you can learn
things in Groundcover that
you'd never see there."
In the coming years,
Susan Beckett looks to keep
expanding Groundcover's
reach beyond its current
hot spots in Ann Arbor and
downtown Ypsilanti to nearby
areas, such as Chelsea, Dexter
and Pittsfield Township. A
city ordinance in Ann Arbor
currently prohibits vendors
from selling to vehicular
traffic, and Beckett hopes to
someday get the ordinance
amended so that vendors can
perhaps sell at highway exits.

Still, Beckett's focus will
always be on finding ways to
bettersupportthe disadvantaged
people of her city, and for her, the
sale of a consistently intriguing
journalistic product seems the
best way to do so.

Stumbling
upon a poem

By GRACE PROSNIEWSKI
Daily Literary Columnist
here are few things
in life I love more
than poetry. Scratch
that. There are few things
in life I love more than well-
written poetry - an impor-
tant distinction. There's
something uniquely satisfying
about reading a piece where
every word seems to sink into
your skin, flush your cheeks
and sweeten on your tongue.
I highly recommend get-
ting drunk on poetry. It's
cheaper than alcohol and you
don't have to worry about
waking up the next day with
a hangover and several new,
and most likely troubling,
Tinder matches.
While I may spend a few
hours here and there explic-
itly trying to find new poems
to quench my thirst, I find
that many of my favorite
poems are those I stumbled
upon organically. I don't
know whether these poems
are enhanced by some mea-
sure of surprise or if it's all
just coincidental, but there's
something fanciful about a
perfect poem unexpectedly
falling into your hands, filled
with phrases that feel born of
your own soul.
Usually, I discover these
hidden gems through class
assignments. That's how I
found and subsequently fell
in love with Margaret Veley's
"A Japanese Fan." I was in
a class about early British
women authors when we were
given the task of finding a
little-known author, analyz-
ing one of her poems and then
commenting on another's
author.
As the ever-diligent
scholar, I waited until the
night before the due date to
comment on a classmate's
author. As I scrolled through

the offerings, my only inten-
tion was to find a short
poem upon which to com-
ment. Woman plans and God
laughs. "A Japanese Fan" is
many things. Short is not one
of them. But from its light
and playful opening stanza, I
was hooked.
Some eleven stanzas later, I
became thoroughly convinced
that part of my purpose on
this earth is to get people to
read this poem. I could speak
about the poem's expression
of the complex interactions
of consumerism, imperialism
and Victorian gender roles,
but to dust off an old saying,
ain't nobody got time for that.
I'll only say that I think "A
Japanese Fan" inspires the
reader to create a further
narration, which I consider to
be a mark of a great work.
Then, of course, you can
stumble upon a verse in the
vast wilderness known as
social media. That's how
I found my current obses-
sion, e.e. cummings, and
specifically his poem "i love
you much (most beautiful
darling)." If you've ever been
on the Quotes page of Pinter-
est, you know it is an absolute
minefield of misattributed
quotes ("No, Oscar Wilde
did not say that.") and weird
advice for how to be a Chris-
tian wife ("Okay..."). If, how-
ever, you persevere, you can
find some great stuff, like the
aforementioned poem.
Cummings' style, known
for its unusual form, gram-
mar and punctuation, give all
his works a distinct flavor,
and it's no different in "I
love you much (most beauti-
ful darling)." What's really
impressive is how cummings
manages to convey such a
depth of feeling while keep-
ing the tone light and airy
throughout. It's an achieve-
ment that would make even

the most hardened cynic take
another chance on love.
Of course, there are also
somewhat embarrassing ways
to find new poems. How
could such a neutral activity
ever be embarrassing, you
ask? Oh, dear reader, don't
ever doubt my ability on that
account.
I was seventeen and pining
hopelessly over a friend of a
friend. He had great hair and
was in a band, making him, in
my teenage mind, the catch of
the century.
Instead of, I don't know,
talking to him, I decided a
much better approach would
be to read everything I could
about his favorite author, in a
bid to better understand his
true psyche. Why yes, I am
wildly fun at parties.
Now the writer I was sup-
posed to be studying up on
was Chuck Palahniuk, but
in my infinite wisdom I for-
got the name and could only
remember it started with a
"C" and had a "K" towards
the end. Thus, I ended up at
Charles Bukowski.
Bukowski's intense, auto-
biographical style of writing
demands a certain amount
of attention, and thus by the
time I figured out my mis-
take, I was too engrossed,
specifically with his famous
"An Almost Made Up Poem,"
to continue my scheme.
The crush fizzled, but
Bukowski and I are still going
strong. Poetry is forever.
And with that, I leave you
to blindly stumble upon your
own favorite poems. In writ-
ing this column I myself hap-
pened upon some intriguing
works by Charles Baudelaire,
and well, suffice it to say it's
going to be a late night.
Prosniewski is perusing
poetic pages proudly. To join
her, e-mail gpros@umich.edu.

MUSIC VIDEO REVIEW

Even more shocking than
the fact that Ashanti is still
making music is the video's
decay from
a cheap love
story to a
more real- Earlyinthe
istic Grand
Theft Auto Morning
strip club Ashanti &
video mon- French Montana
tage in about Written
two minutes.
Beginning
with a poorly acted scene,
Ashanti leaves a producer
in the studio to go meet
French Montana. Then,
she finds herself either A)
standing on a rooftop in a
sheet in front of a very fake-
looking NYC skyline or B)
in white lingerie lying in
bed, alone.
Between video cuts,
French is shown decked
out in gold, sitting in a club
that screams "Lysol me."

But wait, it gets better. Soon
Ashanti is throwing on her
thigh-highs and black, sheer
leotard to meet her lover at
said club, late at night (the
irony).
Suddenly, Ashanti is
hip thrusting over a slow
R&B beat. Once the cringe-
worthy tease is over, French

WRITTEN
finally moves from his post
and gives Ashanti a hug.
Moving from uncom-
fortably staged to desper-
ately confused, Ashanti and
French's video leaves view-
ers with one thought: I didn't
realize strippers hugged their
clients.
-CHRISTIANKENNEDY

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