PREVIEW: SMTD Collage Concert

Want to go to a performance, but not sure you want to commit to several hours of the same thing? Join the School of Music, Theatre & Dance for the annual Collage Concert, which will take place on Saturday, January 19 at 8 pm in Hill Auditorium.

“The event’s design is unique, featuring all ensembles and departments of the School performing one arresting work after another in rapid-fire order.” This means that you can expect to experience some amazing performances of classical music, jazz, theater, musical theater, vocal music, dance, and more.

Don’t miss this SMTD tradition. Tickets may be purchased online, or at the Michigan League Ticket Office (open 10am – 1pm on Saturdays). Seating is reserved, and tickets are just $12 for students, or $34 or $28 for non-students, depending seat location.

PREVIEW: Pls Hire Us–Comedy Sketch Show

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As we all know, exam season is a rough time to be alive. The work seems endless, the career goals start looking a little blurry, and dropping out feels like a more and more attractive option with each failed practice quiz.

It’s time to take a little break. The SAC 403 class will be performing a comedy act at North Quad Studio A, with the frighteningly relatable title “Pls Hire Us.” Showtimes are Wednesday, December 12th at 5 and 8 PM, as well as Thursday, December 13th at 10 PM.

Come on out to celebrate surviving your first round of exams with an entertaining show. It’s free, but seats are first come, first served, so arrive a few minutes early.

REVIEW: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Six children with distinct personalities battle to become the champion of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Griffin Silva, Lolly Duus, Diego Roberts Buceta, Chan Yu Hin Bryan, Camille Mancuso, and Emily Goodrich embodied these children in their goofy and youthful portrayal of Chip Tolentino, Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre, Leaf Coneybear, William Barfee, Marcy Park, and Olive Ostrovsky respectively. Four audience members were also brought onstage to participate along with the Bee, an aspect of every production of this musical that truly makes every single show ever unique. As the audience members were gradually eliminated near the beginning, the final participant was serenaded off the stage by the comfort counselor Mitch Mahoney. Additionally, the show took its course as a pure Ann Arbor/University of Michigan production. During “Pandemonium,” a Bird appeared, and references to mumps were made as well.

Everyone had their own insecurities and anxieties that displayed onstage in a theatrical yet realistic way. As they struggled with those anxieties, losing the Bee meant something different for everyone. From Leaf Coneybear’s acceptance that he is smart to Marcy Park’s realization that it’s okay to not be perfect and the best at everything, all the kids leave the Putnam County Spelling Bee stronger and better.

Familial relationships was a large part of the character development. Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre’s two dads put so much pressure and expectations on her, and Olive’s yearning for her parents came out during Olive’s “The I Love You Song”, where her mother and father appear telling Olive how much they love her. This moment is heartbreaking, especially in the context of the word “chimerical”, meaning “existing only as the product of unchecked imagination,” but Olive’s own love remained undeterred, and she she encourages William Barfee to win the Bee after she misspells her word in the finals.

Throughout the course of the musical, the audience got highly invested in every single participant and every one of his or her special quirks. Whenever a bell rang signaling the elimination of a student, people gasped and murmured “oh no,” because even though we all knew this was a scripted show that had a single winner, we were still rooting for every single one of the children.

Probably the star of the show was Amelia Dahmer, playing the official word pronouncer Douglas Panch in the most humorous and enjoyable way, eliciting thunderous laughter from the crowd with her bluntness and ridiculousness. Overall, this entire show is ridiculous, yes, but it contains the perfect balance of nonsensical silliness and touching self-discovery to make The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee a J-O-Y to watch.

REVIEW: Contemporary Directions Ensemble

The Contemporary Direction Ensemble’s Friday performance was emotionally powerful and also a challenge to conventional norms.

Their performance of “Die Schönste Zeit des Lebens,” or “The Most Beautiful Time of Life,” was breathtaking and haunting. The manuscript of this piece, a popular foxtrot of the 1940s, was recently discovered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum by University of Michigan Professor Dr. Patricia Hall. Arranged by prisoners at Auschwitz for one of the camp’s orchestras, it was likely performed for Sunday concerts for the S.S.

As the ensemble performed this piece, the first time it has been heard in 75 years, images of Auschwitz were projected on the wall behind. The contrasts between the lighthearted music being played and the dark realities of the Holocaust in these images were stark, and for me, this highlighted the power of music and the strength of the human spirit. How could something so beautiful exist in a place of so much death? The melody, which out of the context that this arrangement was created from is carefree, took on a much more emotionally raw and evocative quality that stayed with me for long after the piece was over.

The final piece of the evening, which was vastly different from how the concert began, was the U.S. premiere of George Lewis’s P. Multitudinis. This piece, which was of “situational” form, consisted of several instrumental groups, a traveling percussionist and traveling conductor, and the “multitude.” Rather than playing music written out exactly as it is to be played on the page, the musicians reacted to what was going on around them and responded with their instruments accordingly. It was a very intriguing piece, more rhythmic and innovative than melodic, and it was fascinating to try to follow how the members of the ensemble communicated with each other throughout the piece. Music such as P. Multitudinus challenges the audience to be fully present in the moment, because the performance unfolds uniquely in a way that cannot be predicted, and it is a living, breathing form of art. Typical conventions of music performance were broken – at one point a trombone player borrowed a reed and bocal (the metal tube to which the reed is attached) from a bassoon and put it on the trombone. At other times, kazoo-like instruments were used. The piece was truly a broadening of creative boundaries.

I greatly enjoyed the Contemporary Direction Ensemble’s performance because it made me pause and really think about music and its roles in a way that more traditional concerts do not. The concert exemplified music as an interactive art form and as a means of communication.

PREVIEW: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Get ready for the most ridiculous and entertaining spelling bee yet! Putnam County has some interesting characters in it, and its 25th annual spelling bee follows the lives of 6 special contestants who, while trying to spell long hard words, struggle with their personal lives in finding love and connections. Watch these quirky kids try to win The Bee, and in life, in this wonderfully hilarious musical at the Arthur Miller Theatre December 7 at 8pm and December 8 at 1pm and 8pm. Tickets are only $3 and are available at the door or online.

PREVIEW: Contemporary Directions Ensemble

Are you interested in music, World War II-era history, or both? On Friday, November 29 at 8 pm, the University of Michigan Contemporary Directions Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Oriol Sans, will be performing a concert in Hankinson Rehearsal Hall in the Earl V. Moore Building.

The headlining piece of this concert is an arrangement of “Die Schönste Zeit des Lebens,” or “The Most Beautiful Time of Life,” a popular foxtrot of the 1940s. The manuscript of this arrangement was recently discovered by University of Michigan professor of music theory, Dr. Patricia Hall, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. It was arranged by prisoners at Auschwitz, and performed by the concentration camp’s orchestra. The Contemporary Directions Ensemble’s upcoming performance will be the first time that this arrangement has been heard since World War II.

If you are interested in learning more about this fascinating discovery before the performance, check out the article at or watch the video at
Admission to this event is free and open to the public! Seating is limited, so arriving early is recommended. If you have never been to the E.V. Moore Building, it is located on Baits Drive on North Campus, right by the pond. Follow this link for a Google map. Just walk down the sidewalk across the street from Pierpont Commons, or down Baits Drive from Bursley to get to it. Hankinson Rehearsal Hall is located down the hall to your right if you enter the building through the main doors, or straight down at the end of the hallway if you enter through the door near the pond across from Pierpont.