If you’re an indecisive appreciator of art, or an enthusiast of all forms, the upcoming SMTD@UMMA performance, Image in Motion, is for you. In this collaboration between the Department of Dance and the University of Michigan Museum of Art, U-M Dance students will use UMMA’s new exhibit Europe on Paper as inspiration for the performance. The Europe on Paper collection features the work of German and Austrian Expressionist painters; dancers will interpret the works’ emotion and color through movement.

These two artistic modes lie close to my heart, and based on past STMD@UMMA performances, the beauty of UMMA’s gallery space only further brings SMTD work to life. This marriage of artistic forms is happening Thursday, November 17 at 7:30 in UMMA, and is free and open to the public.

REVIEW: Battle Espresso Royale-Comco

The line to get into the show
The line to get into the show

I knew I was in the right place for yesterday’s Comco performance because of the gently rumbling din of voices in the distance. The line to get into the auditorium snaked around the corner and into the lobby, despite us having arrived over a half an hour early.  By the time my friend and I made it inside, there wasn’t a seat to be found. We ended up leaning against a wall for the entire performance while even more students packed into the aisles.  Even less-than-ideal “seats” couldn’t take away from how fun the performance was. I can’t remember a favorite skit or moment from the night, because I was laughing the entire time! At one point in the show I even shed a tear or two, it was genuinely that funny.

In the long run, the large crowd added to the excitement in the room.  Audience members were reacting to the jokes and shouting out suggestions with gusto.  For their part, the cast of Comco gave a wonderful performance, keeping the mood light and fun the entire hour and a half, bouncing off each other quick-wittedly, and recovering easily from the few jokes that fell flat.  For those who missed the performance, there is another one coming up December 9th, ready to give you that last jolt of energy right before finals!  To keep up with the latest updates from Comco, checkout their Facebook page, .


PREVIEW: Battle Espresso Royal- Comco

We could all take a cue from the age-old-adage “laughter is the best medicine.” After a long, long week14976815_10154609894388818_6795676064434312967_o of stresses and woes, loosen up and laugh for a bit with one of the University’s oldest and most well developed comedy groups, Comco, as they present Battle Espresso Royal. For those who have never attended an improv comedy show before, it’s a spontaneous, one-of-a-kind performance that features talented actors and comedians bouncing off one another with a quick wit and good comedic timing.

The show will be in Angell Hall Auditorium A starting at 8 PM Tomorrow, November 11th. Tickets are only $2 at the door, so for the price of a Starbuck’s (or Espresso Royale!) latte bring a friend or two and take some time to laugh together.

Review: Shiva Shakti


This concert, held on November 5, was organized by SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth). While I love seeing student performances,  I like that SPIC MACAY brings professional performers to campus because it is also really interesting to compare student work and professional work. This concert was an evening of Odissi dance, which is a classical dance form that originated in the Indian state of Odisha, and featured performances by two Odissi dancers, Dr. Ileana Citaristi and Sreyashi Dey. Interestingly enough, one of the performers, Dr. Citaristi, is of Italian extraction, which is, I think, the first time I’ve encountered a performer of classical Indian arts who is not Indian. Indian classical dance is, more often than not, very heavily based on Hindu mythology, and it was interesting to think about how she would have had to really immerse herself in the religion to gain the understanding of the mythology that an Indian by heritage might have ingrained.

The difference in the two ladies’ styles was another interesting aspect of the performances. Ms. Dey had much more resounding footsteps – it was the first thing I noticed about her technique – and in a dance where one of the main features is the sound of the dancer’s feet on the ground, this was very effective. Dr. Citaristi didn’t step as loudly, and this makes me wonder if, perhaps, the loudness of the footsteps is a personal choice, or something that varies according to the mood of the dance.

In the previous SPIC MACAY-hosted performance I attended, the dancer took time before each dance she did to explain the story she would be illustrating and gestures she would be using to do so. This was done here as well, but not, I think, to the extent of the other performance. This kind of explanation greatly helps an audience, since many are not intimately acquainted with the art form, and allows the audience to spend less time wondering about what is happening, and more time appreciating the dancer’s technique. I also liked that there was a Q&A session with Dr. Citaristi and Sreyashi Dey afterward: I think that is very helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of the art form and the way in which the dancers approach their art.

Review: The Importance of Being Earnest

wp_20161108_005I’d never seen any of Oscar Wilde’s work before I went to see The Importance of Being Earnest on Friday, so I didn’t know what to expect. I expected something similar to Wodehouse’s work: In print it has just never produced much amusement for me, but I find the series starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry absolutely hilarious. Something about their acting brings the writing to life. The same happened when I went to see this play, performed by the Rude Mechanicals. First of all, their seven-women-and-one-drag-queen cast was a refreshing take on traditional gender roles. I especially liked one of the first scenes, in which Algernon entered dressed in women’s clothing and then proceeded to change into men’s attire. It’s amazing that such a small thing could be so thought-provoking. I wish there had been more bits like that, because it was hard for me to distinguish what aspects of the play took on a different meaning when the cast was deliberately female than if it had just happened to be women playing men’s roles, which isn’t uncommon.

In terms of the performance itself, the cast did a beautiful job. Their facial expressions, for one, were priceless, as was their timing. Lane’s slight pause before addressing Algernon as “sir,” for example, added humor and some thought on gender roles. Small actions like Merriman and Cecily’s fangirling (as I believe it’s called) over “Ernest’s” arrival added a modern element to the play. Algernon and Jack’s way of stuffing food into their mouths so quickly that they could barely speak was beautifully done. The characters’ absolute bewilderment at the situations they all got themselves into was perfect, and reminded me of Hugh Laurie in the Jeeves and Wooster series. These little things added vivacity to the production, and brightened up dialogue that in print might have come across as dry. Overall, it was a marvelous production, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the work of Oscar Wilde.

REVIEW: The Importance of Being Ernest

Every single male role was played by a female, and the most imposing female role was played by a male. Such was Rude Mechanical’s original conception of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde’s classic play published in 1895.

The play is all about relationships. Algernon, played by Cailean Robinson, and Jack, played by Mason Van Gieson, discuss romance and courtship. Both men develop a facade as they pursue two different women, and they build up a tower of lies until it all comes crashing down at the end in perfectly absurd Wilde-like fashion.

Although the play was supposedly changed to have its setting in the 1950’s, I didn’t notice much of a difference from Wilde’s original conception. Perhaps I just don’t know enough about English social history. Either way, the decision to switch genders was brilliant.

I didn’t realize how well the play would go with women in the shoes of men. Every role was well-acted, from Algernon’s well-timed poses as he recited Wildean witticisms, to Lady Bracknell’s diva pose every time he/she entered the stage.

Also losing his/her pants
Also losing his/her pants

Some of the one-liners were especially ironic, given the change of gender, such as when Algernon tells Jack:

“My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!”

Or this rendition’s focus on the actors fondling their own and each others’ genitalia right in front of the audience (see above picture).

The set design was tasteful without being too imposing. Each act, from Algernon’s flat in London to the drawing-room of the Manor House in the country, had plenty of eye candy and props that the actors were free to interact with at will. There were some scenes where I couldn’t tell if the actions were rehearsed, or if they were entirely ad-libbed. My favorite example of this was in the Garden, where Cecily (in pink) grabs a flower pot and makes some raunchy gyrations with it.


The only drawback of the play wasn’t because of the acting or directing, but due to Oscar Wilde himself. Say what you will about the man, but you have to admit that he likes his sensational plots. The first act goes out in all different directions, and the second act seems to tread out without telling the audience where its going. It isn’t until the very end of the third act that the play pulls itself together and makes sense of things.  Luckily, Rude Mechanicals made the journey worth it.