Review: Watt is happening?

This Saturday night I went to the Gate Theater of Dublin production of Beckett’s two plays, Watt and Endgame, at the Power Center. Now anyone who reads my posts (you are there, aren’t you?) knows how crazy I am about the Power Center. I absolutely love it and every

show that goes on inside of it. Right away I knew the show would be a good one. I also went to The Cripple of Inishmaan last year, another play from Ireland, so I hoped this one would be similarly funny, strange, and existential. It totally was.

Watt
Watt

Watt tells the story of a drifter of sorts and his brief stay and work at a house. That sounds really general, but that is really all I can say. That’s really what it was about. This one-man show was funny and very well acted. Barry McGovern is a wonderful performer who can pull off incredibly funny and very serious simultaneously. Of course you have to remember that the humor here is very dry and you have to have a taste for it to actually find it funny (think of British humor). The staging is very minimalist, and I felt that the lighting was more of a prop than the chair or hat-rack. The lights seemed to make the stage glow with a warm yellow light. I really enjoyed this reading, though I think it will take some time to understand some of these deeper concepts that Beckett writes about.

Upon returning to our seats, the lights went down once more. This is when I start hearing people whisper, all around me, “I’m so confused. That was so confusing.” It was kind of funny to hear hear everyone struggling. That’s sounds mean, but really they just needed to contemplate for a while and then they would understand. I had been confused too, but I wasn’t stressing over it. I knew I would get it later and that I had to shift focus to the next play.

Endgame
Endgame

Endgame, complete with four characters, proved to be even funnier. Only one character was actually capable of moving around, as two were confined to large metal trashcans and the other to an armchair. Clove, the mobile servant, takes orders from the seated man, who becomes increasingly more violent and demanding of Clove. Their lives, if they can be called that, are fallen into routine, but a routine of nothing happening. Clove keeps going back to the windows to look at the world outside and to tell the seated man that nothing has changed. They come to the conclusion that there is only one thing left that can change, and that is dying. One at a time, they start dying off. Until Clove is getting ready to leave forever and the seated protagonist is giving his last monologue, his dying speech. He finishes the story he’s been making up and slowly lifts a veil back over his face. Breaking the fourth wall in the closing sequence of this show is very important. The actors are subtle in commenting on the fact that we are finding joy in their sorrows. It really brought us back to the seriousness and the extreme poverty shown on stage.

I really enjoyed Beckett’s style. It allowed us to watch without the continuous pauses for the audience to stop clapping. The only sound any of us made was when we couldn’t silence our laughter. He also created a world where only the scene on stage existed. Whenever a character would have an idea to change something, like meeting new people, Clove would say “There are no more people.” Nothing except their lives could possible exist on stage, not even as an idea.
It was wonderful, and I don’t want to talk your ear of trying to understand the deeper meanings of the plays, so here is where I get off. I fully endorse the decision to go and see plays from the British Isles. The humor is unique, the actors are brilliant, and the writing is intricate. It is a great experience, and one that we shouldn’t miss when we’re here on campus. Where else can we see stuff like this?

Sending you love and light,

Danny Fob

p.s. “Sending you love and light” is a quote from my favorite TV show. If you can figure it out, I’ll give you five points. Or buy you a coffee

http://www.gate-theatre.ie/section/USBECKETTTOURS2011
http://www.ums.org/s_current_season/artist.asp?pageid=664

PREVIEW: A Night in Treme

On Friday, November 11th at 8pm in Hill Auditorium, prepare to be blown away by the rhythm and jazz of “A Night in Treme: The Musical Majesty of New Orleans.” As part of the student package of Arts and Eats performances, for $15 you can experience the performance with pizza and a pre-show, guest speaker. The UMS website says, “The Treme (pronounced truh-MAY) neighborhood of New Orleans has been a source of African-American music and culture.” My only reference to fall upon for New Orleans music is from the Disney-fied version in The Princess and the Frog. As fantastic as that is, I am looking forward to hearing something a little more authentic and true to New Orleans culture and the rich, vibrant music that is created there. It should be a magical evening with Donald Harrison, Jr., Christian Scott, Glen David Andrews, and Dr. Michael White alongside the Rebirth Brass Band (UMS). Buy your tickets soon! Hope to see you there!

Here’s a link to the description at UMS if you are interested in reading more about the performance: http://ums.umich.edu/s_current_season/artist.asp?pageid=666

REVIEW: Band-O-Rama Displays Talent and Versatility

On Friday, October 28, at Hill Auditorium, an amazing performance made many people realize how much talent and tradition exist at the University of Michigan. If you have not yet made your way to Hill Auditorium, I would suggest doing so because it is historic, beautiful and a bit famous.

The beautiful and resonant Hill Auditorium.
The beautiful and resonant Hill Auditorium.

Band-O-Rama featured U of M’s Concert Band, Symphony Band, and Marching Band. The Concert Band began the concert with both fast and slow pieces that got the crowd excited and made us want to hear more. The acoustics of Hill Auditorium added to the quality of the already brilliant sound of the band. The Symphony Band played tribute to America, U of M and Russian culture by playing all different types of medleys. Carol Jantsch, a U of M alum, was featured on the tuba for a pice called “Czardas.” She was proof of the fine teaching and learning that happens at Michigan because she is the principal tubist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. After a brief intermission, the Michigan Marching Band got the crowd on their feet with tunes reflecting the spirit of U of M and also popular hits from artists like, Ah-Ha, the Beatles, Nirvana, Madonna, Daft Punk, Eminem and many more. It was interesting seeing and hearing the Marching Band in an actual auditorium rather than in the huge Big House stadium because the sound was captured much better and the movements that were planned so thoughtfully were much more visible. The drumline was featured during the show as they often are during the Michigan football games and their choreography as well as percussion technique was incredible. If you would like to see a bit of what they do you can go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eYZlDeNhto&feature=related

The Marching  Band also paid tribute to the Michigan Symphony Band’s expedition to Russia in the 1960s with classic Russian pieces such as the Great Gate of Kiev by Mussorgsky and Russian Sailors’ Dance. Overall, each of the three bands brought something different to the stage and they all featured immense skill and a great presence. If you would like to see any of the Michigan Bands perform, which I highly recommend, you can go to www.music.umich.edu for a complete listing of events and performances.

Preview of Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror

“A Long time ago in middle Europe, a decrepit, forbidding castle stood. Casting an ominous shadow…” Don’t bother reading through the description on the Michigan Theatre website, we all kind of already know the story of Dracula: boy falls in love with girl, boy cheats on girl, boy gets girl. Or something like that? It doesn’t matter.

What’s really important to know is that this is a rare, once in a lifetime screening of the famed, 1922 German Expressionist film, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror, and that there will be a LIVE ORGAN ACCOMPANIMENT (The Michigan Theatre is one of the few places in the entire country that has a working organ and actually uses it).

So, I hope to see you at the Michigan Theatre at 7:30. I’ll be that kid stuffing his kid with popcorn.

Fun fact: most of the original score was lost, so contemporary composers/musicians have provided their own soundtracks. I’m not sure what version this organist is playing, but I’m sure it will be fantastic!

Preview: Falstaff

Falstaff, opera by Giuseppe Verdi, will be opening at the University of Michigan on Thursday, November 10th, 2011 at 7:30pm in the Power Center for the Performing Arts. Verdi’s last opera, written in his 9th decade of life, explores what can happen when an over-the-hill bon vivant solicits two married ladies. The show will be sung in Italian with English projections and will be under the direction of Joshua Major. Student tickets for the show are $10 and can be purchased in the League Ticket Office.

Preview: Halloween Concert

Ever been to a Classical Orchestra concert where the musicians are in costumes, the conductors are in costume, and the audience is in costume?! If you answered no, then you haven’t been to the annual School of Music, Theater, and Dance Halloween Concert. This Sunday, October 30th, 2011, at 4:00pm and 7:30pm, in Hill Auditorum, the orchestras of the University of Michigan will come together to provide a show that will keep everyone entertained. Excerpts from standard orchestral works will be presented  in a far less serious context than your usual Orchestral Performance. Student tickets to this event are $5. From someone who has attended for the past two years, you won’t want to miss this!