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March 14, 1991 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1991-03-14

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ThRTS
Thursday, March 14, 1991

*1

1

{"The Michigan Daily
' I
4Smith p
by Kristin Palm
Ask Lee Smith what she has been
! doing lately and the answer may
bseem a little out of the ordinary.
"I've been doing a lot of honky-
tonkin'," she says, "and writing
songs."
- For Smith, activities such as
these are all in a day's work. The au-
o hor of Cakewalk, a collection of
short stories; Family Linen; and
Oral History, Smith is using danc-
ing and writing as a way of research-
ing her next book, which is about
country music.
Smith is matter-of-fact when she
S explains the reason for her latest
subject: "I love it." But this doesn't
mean she is good at it herself. "I'm a
horrible singer, -and I'm tone deaf,"
she explains. "One of my sons plays
jazz and that's great. I just write
about it."
But just writing about it may be
enough. As Smith has proven in her
previous works, she has a way of
, capturing the allure of small-town

Page 5

ractices method

existence and the American South
that brings these subjects to life. Her
portrayal of the South especially has
drawn critical comparisons to Flan-
nery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, and
William Faulkner.
But Smith shuns such analogies.
"I think it's crazy. I really do," she
says. "I've never identified with
most Southern writers. They're from
the deep South and I'm from the
mountains, from Appalachia."
Smith is quick to point out some
critical differences between life in
Appalachia and other parts of the
South: "We don't have Blacks, we
don't have gentility and we don't
have big houses with columns."
Furthermore, she adds, the dis-
tinction between writers, in her
mind, centers on a different geo-
graphical element. "To me, I think
the split is more urban and rural,
rather than North and South," she
explains.
In her illustrations of small-town
life, Smith presents rich characters,
using a healthy mix of humor and

pathos. Although most of these
characters have universal appeal,
many critics are quick to emphasize
the female voices that permeate her
works. This sort of critique doesn't
faze Smith because her subtle focus
on women is intentional. "I defi-
nifely consider myself a woman
writer," she says.
Along the same lines, Smith of-
ten focuses on rituals and events
which are traditionally attributed to
women. Family matters and baking
are two central issues that often sur-
face in her work. Smith says she
sees cooking, for example, as "a ve-
hicle for women's aesthetics," as
well as "a personal art form."
In focusing on more controversial
women's issues, Smith herself has
become involved in several activi-
ties. "(I am) not as active an activist
as I'd like to be," she admits. How-
ever, she recently campaigned for
Congressional candidate Harvey
Gantt in her home state of North
Carolina. She is also involved with
the abortion rights movement and

writing
Planned Parenthood.
Smith's characters may be more
concerned with cake decorating than
pro-choice. But, because of Smith's
careful research and thoughtful char-
acterizations, they are believable.
Her keen interest in realistic detail
extends to other aspects of her life.
Early in her writing career, Smith
worked as a newspaper reporter. Dur-
ing this time, she says, she met
many interesting people who served
as inspirations for later characters.
And she once took a leave of absence
from a teaching job to work in a
beauty parlor while creating a charac-
ter who was a hairdresser.
Currently, Smith teaches a class
called Documentary Fiction at Duke,
where students are required to re-
search the characters they mold.
Methods such as this are all part of
Smith's view of writing, one which
is fitting for a reporter and creative
artist - "fiction as a vehicle for
telling the truth."
SMITH will be reading at Rackham
today at 5 p.m.It is free.

Now this is diversity. Ann Arbor
will share in the benefits of glasnost
Saturday with a Retrospective of
Soviet Underground Cinema at
the Michigan Theater. A group of
five Soviet filmmakers and scholars
* will be in Ann Arbor for 10 days to
' establish ties with the community
and present six short films, two of
which have never been seen in
America. The event offers a rare op-
portunity to encounter people and art
from a world unknown to most of
us.
"Parallel" or underground Soviet
films are produced outside of the
government-controlled studio system
;and are consequently produced with
smaller budgets and inferior equip-

ment. The films are also ironic and
inventive.
Among the leading filmmakers of
the parallel cinema are the Moscow
brothers Gleb and Igor Aleinikov;
Igor is part of the delegation to Ann
Arbor. One of their films which will
be appearing, Tractors, is a hilari-
ous spoof on Stalinist propaganda
films which praised industry and its
symbol, the tractor. While riding a
tractor, the narrator relates, "My
flesh creeps... a tremor of delight
penetrates me... there's only me and.
the tractor." He also notes the
"extraordinary sexual power" of trac-
tor drivers.
Other parallel films, such as War
and Peace by Vladimir Zakharov

and Waiting for deBil by the
Aleinikovs, are more experimental.
With its disturbing images, indus-
trial noise/music, and a vaguely dis-
cernable plot, Waiting for deBil is
not only reminiscent of David
Lynch's Eraserhead, but also of the
type of experimental film seen every
year at the Ann Arbor Film Festival
(one of the co-sponsors of the
event). Next week, in fact, the
Aleinikovs and Pyotr Pospelov will
become the first Soviet filmmakers
to ever enter the Film Fest.
"In spite of the vast separation of
space, how much we truly share
with these people and these artists is
exciting and inspiring," says Ira
Konigsberg, chair of the Film/Video

department, the other co-sponsor.
"[The event] offers an opportunity to
see film as a medium of personal
expression and individual creativity.
These films are not meant to fit pre-
conceived modes of presentation, but
are meant as immediate expressions
of individual conscience which break
down the cultural walls."
You can break the walls 7:30
p.m. Saturday at the Michigan The-
ater, when the six films will be
shown. The Soviet delegation will
also appear Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the
Trueblood Theater in the Frieze
Building for a talk on parallel cin-
ema and an informal discussion.
- Michael John Wilson

Peter, of Peter, Paul and Mary, insists that "Puff, the Magic Dragon" is
really only about "the innocence of childhood." Yeah; and the Village
People's "In the Navy" is a deep analytical look at the injustice of war.
pufi n th wn

There's no forest motif in this Big Show

by Diane Frieden

hroughout the high-spirited
warm-up exercises during a recent
- rehearsal of the Comedy Company's
Big Show & Tell, there was a definite
energy between the closely-bonded
troupe. These students are in love
with being on stage and making
people laugh. Now in its 11th year,
the student-run sketch-comedy show-
case still plans to give its audience,
in the recycled words of producer
Mike Tower, a "greater laugh per
dollar ratio."
There is a noticeable shift in the
style of the Company's comedy,
which is now more on the edge than
ever before. The show avoids using
local or political humor because cur-

rent events might be dated.
"Actually," director Matt Price said,
"there is nothing relevant in this
show." Producer Tom Cohen op-
posed Price, interjecting, "Hey, there
are a lot of kick-ass hats." Which,
indeed, there are.
The issue of negative stereotyp-
ing arises in the discussion of char-
acters. Are there many female
housewives, male bosses or other
such characters, which were seen
over and over in previous shows?
"No, they're just not funny," said
assistant director Dave Kosky.
"There's a lot of variety this show,"
Price said, "from mannequins to,
well ... mannequins?" As seen in the
pre-show viewing, more attention
has been paid to the writing and cast-

ing of parts. Roles such as police of-
ficers and astronauts were given to
both genders in a fair manner.
All of the sketches are new, and
to keep them from growing stale
they have been shortened to provide
more of an impact to the comedic
material. Keep an eye out for some
great physical work by cast member
Jon Glaser, and keep an ear out for
the Western Shakespeare.
"You want to know about
themes?" Cohen asked. "Well,
there's no forest motif or anything."
"Bitterness is a theme," Price
admitted.
"Feigned bitterness," added
Kosky.
What?? Can that be quoted?
"No."

Another observed theme is vio-
lence leading to death, but Cohen
finds a surreal motif in the name of
the show. "It's like show and tell at
school, but we're giving you a pre-
sent as the biggest show of all.
Look forward to not knowing what
to look forward to."
What???
"Uh, just put down that it's a re-
ally good show. And tell people to
go on Thursday night."
BIG SHOW & TELL will be per-
formed at the Mendelssohn Theater
tonight through Saturday at 8 p.m'
Tickets are $4.50 in advance and $5
at the door.

by Everett J. Oliven
It's no wonder that Peter Yarrow,
Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers
decided to shorten their names before
forming their musical trio. Now,
almost 30 years later, Peter, Paul
and Mary occasionally find the time
to get together and tour.
Their illustrious folk career began
in the mid-1960's, just at a time
when many young people were be-
coming both very politically active'
and socially conscious. The group.
members each got heavily involved
in the events of the day, and soon re-
alized that they had similar goals
about reforming society. The trio
then began using their music as an
effective medium of communication.
"Folk music," Peter says, "has the
capacity to make people realize that:
we have a unanimous objectivd."
As the decade progressed, Peter,
Paul and Mary found many causes to
defend. They became involved in
civil rights demonstrations, anti-Vi-
etnam protests and various teach-ins..

"We put our bodies right there where
the issues were," says Peter. Their
willingness to address ,problems both
as musicians and as personal ac-
tivists has continued to the present
day, although the issues have
changed considerably.
Education, homelessness, U.S.
policy in El Salvador, environmental
damage and anti-Apartheid issues are
at the top of the group's priority list
in the '90s. However, Peter believes
that along with the issues, people's
attitudes have shifted towards materi-
alism, and increasing their societal
status. Therefore, new songs must
be written and performed to adapt to
current circumstances.
Peter says he believes that there
are two reasons that the trio main-
tains its popularity. The first is their
desire to address new issues. "We are
not simply singing the hits from the
past. We are very much involved in
new songs that relate to our own
time," says Peter. The second rea-
son, paradoxically, is the nature of
See PUFF, Page 8

Daily Arts is proud to introduce shows will include Motdrhead at the Tim Burton and Michael Keaton.
this new, semi-regular feature for Ark and M.C. Hammer at Club Hei- Kim Basinger will not be returning,
your reading enjoyment. Look here delberg. reportedly because she "still feels
for the latest in entertainment news icky" after having sex with Prince.
and snide comments. The cleverly-named Tony! Toni!

Bob Mould, a.k.a. God, follows
in the footsteps of MTV Unplugged
and Tesla with a solo, acoustic ap-
pearance on April 4 at the Blind Pig.
Tickets are $12.50 (with that way
evil service charge) at TicketMaster.
Rumor has it that future acoustic

Tone! will be performing at Hill
Auditorium April 18. Tickets are
$17.50 (p.e.s.c.) at TicketMaster.
Danny DeVito, reprising the role
made famous by Burgess Meredith,
is slated to play the Penguin in
Batman II, which will also feature

Meanwhile, Spike Lee is sched-
uled to direct The Autobiography of
Malcolm X. That guy from Police
Academy who can make all the
funny noises with his mouth is be-
ing considered for the role of the
militant Black Muslim leader.
DAILY ARTS NEEDS WRITERS
wiE. aae. L. u6d is teka.mea.
Folk Jas: Classical Music
p Dance Books Art
Tekephone 763-0379 fbr More afbematen

Daily Arts has a new
Dept., Fine Arts covering
Classical Music and Art
interested in writing for it?
telephone 763-0379
Welcome Students
" 6 Barber Stylists
" For Men & Women
" To please you
" No waiting
Dascola Stylists
Opposite Jacobson's 668-9329

j

ANN ARbOR

THEATERS 1 & 2.5TH AVE. AT LIBERTY 7 1-9700

-

.,

SCENES FROM Ml
A MALLR tc>BR
Present thiscoupon for
WITH PURCHASED TICKET THRU

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I G E cpG-13)

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