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June 04, 1981 - Image 9

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1981-06-04

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Arts
The Michigan Daily Tursday, June 4, 1981 Pag99

Not just for coloured girls'

By SUSAN McCREIGHT
In the hall outside the Lydia Men-
delssohn Theatre, the tempo of the
rehearsal was as spirited as the script.
The play they were working on, "for
coloured girls who have considered
suicide/when the rainbow is enuf," by
Ntozake Shange, opens tonight,
inaugurating the tenth anniversary
season of the New Common Ground
Theatre Ensemble.

as a vehicle to reflect their own concer-
ns and chooses its dramatic material
accordingly. In doing so, they sidestep
the conditions that lead to
discrimination, narrow roles, and one-
show performances for blacks in the
theatre. "The ensemble picks writing
not-because it is by a black or a Jew, but
because of the way it was written," said
Bryant, adding that black playwrights
are producing a wide range of material

"more in touch with humanism."
The ensemble, also performs an
unusually wide range of dramatic
material. They are interested in writing
their own drama, but mostly adapt the
work of America's women writers. At
present, the ensemble is looking for-
ward to adapting "Song of Solomon" by
Pony Morrison for the stage and
examining novels and poetry for
dramatic use.
THE NEW COMMON Ground (NCG),
originally named "Theatre Company of
Ann Arbor," was conceived in 1971 by
Annette Martin from EMU as a non-
commercial community theatre outside
of the University. The all-female com-
pany - combining veterans, fledgling
actors, would-be playwrights, and
directors - embarked upon the project
with a goal of creating a "people's
theatre" with an underlying theme
being to direct women's awareness in
society.
Box-office sales, revenue from tours,
and a' Michigan Council Grant (now
long-ago spent) pay the company's
way. Producing a show a year, they
generally only break even in town,
while their greater revenue comes on
tour.
Except for intermittent outbursts of
pre-recorded sounds throughout the
play, most of the music is from an
original score written by David Shoen-
bach, modified and directed by
Stephanie Olser. "The music is another
way of communicating the nuance and
depth of the literature and was con-

ceived around that standpoint," said
Olser. The hardest work the writers
faced was coordinating the music with
the literature, forcing them to make a
lot of last-minute changes in the music.
By "playing off of the poetry, (and
using the music as) another counter-
point to literature, the music.comes in
and out like a person on stage, respon-
ding to the lines in the play."
LIKEWISE, dance is used to vivify
the series of vignettes that flesh out the
literature. Some of the performers that
were trained in dance share their
knowledge with the others. "We don't
think of the dance, we think of creating
movement to go with poetry. Our goals
are to incorporate movement and voice
as one experience," said Bryant. The
"choreopoem," written in black idiom
by feminist author Shange, expresses
the thoughts behind words through
movement,
"Twitch hips wit me cuz
done forgot abt words"
"Regardless of the experience of the
cast, the literature stands by itself. The
poetry is dynamic. Shange mixes the
language of the Afro-American culture
with ideas of the adacemia," said
Bryant.
While a measure of the NCG's
achievement can be gauged from the
critical acclaim that it has garnered. its
primary standard will remain its own
judgement - their performance
measured up against what they have
See COMMON, Page 10

Pictured here are the members of the acting ensemble of 'for coloured
girls ...." They are (back row-left to right) Stephanie McIntosh,
LaVelvet Harrison, Elise Bryant, (middle row) Pat Vereen, Sandra Herron,
Karen Scott, (front row) Kathy Motley, Karen Belle.

In the course of its life, the company,
located in the former Canterbury Loft,
has distinguished itself through a num-
ber of productions, among them "Mad
Madonna" and "Bitch You Crazy."
Both plays are intense evocations of the
feminine perspective that had a strong
following in the women's community.
THE CURRENT play is certainly in-
fluenced by the philosophies of black
awareness, but withstands the clamors
for cultural separatism; "Rather than
focus on the systematic oppression of
blacks in a racist society, it focuses on
the human struggle of women over-
coming their problems and regaining
personal power," said Elise Bryant, a
member with six years of experience
with the ensemble. Bryant is black, but
feels she can play roles that do not
typecast her as a black female without
calling her support for black issues in-
to question.
The theatre ensemble uses the stage
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OPEN HEARING
for
Review of the Department of.
- Geography
Monday, June 8, 1981
Regents' Room-
First Floor, Fleming Administration Building
3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Those wishing to make a public statement should
call Edward Dougherty, 764-9254.

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