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UMS Staff Picks: The Cripple of Inishmaan selected by Sara Billmann, Director of Marketing & Communications

By Stephanie Normann

SN: The multi-award winning Druid and Atlantic Theater co-production of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan has been described as “a break-your-heart, cruelly funny evening” – what kind of theatrical journey can audience members expect to experience when they see this production?

The Cripple of Inishmaan

SB: I don’t want to spoil the story, but suffice it to say that it will be quite an emotional ride.

I’ve seen two of Martin McDonagh’s plays when they were produced in New York in the mid-late 1990s, and they are simply brilliant pieces, in part because of the way they force you to re-examine your own morals.  He sets up these outrageous scenes that are absolutely hilarious, then delivers the knock-out punch that makes you realize you’ve been laughing at something that is, in fact, incredibly tragic.  The June issue of <i>Opera News</i> put it perfectly: “As anyone who’s ever sat through a Martin McDonagh play can attest, sometimes the only response we can muster when confronted with the searing emotional or physical pain of others is a laugh.”

I read this play poolside while visiting my in-laws in San Antonio and found myself laughing out loud on any number of occasions.  Let’s face it, there are many plays where you chuckle inwardly, but something that produces a spontaneous outburst while reading to yourself is extraordinary in its own sense.  And based on every production I’ve seen of McDonagh’s work, the live production will far exceed what’s on the page.

So that we could all familiarize ourselves with the play, about a dozen members of the UMS staff did a “read-through” this summer.  I hope that some audience members will be interested in doing the same — we’d be interested in putting together play-reading groups for others and loaning the scripts. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the dialects and turns of language that really bring the piece alive.  And, of course, a great way to meet new people too.

SN: What are you most looking forward to about this UMS debut performance?

SB: It’s pretty simple, really – I just can’t wait to see what they do with the production to bring it alive.  I have friends who saw this production when it was on Broadway a few years ago and raved about it.  Having grown up in a small town, I recognize some of the quirky characters and look forward to seeing how they are realized on stage.

SN: What other events are on your “must see” list for the 10/11 season?       

SB: Just about everything!  As a trained classical musician, I’m particularly interested in the big orchestras and piano recitals.  I was turned on to Denis Matsuev about two years ago by someone who had heard his recording in Gramophone magazine.  His playing is really quite extraordinary.  I also adore Schubert and am looking forward to the three Tákacs concerts, as well as the Scharoun Ensemble performance of the Schubert Octet.  I’m also looking forward to Grupo Corpo – what a great company!  I could go on and on.  The beauty of being the marketing director for UMS is that I start to research all of the artists we’re presenting long before we announce the season, and I always get turned on to things I never would have thought I’d enjoy…which ultimately means that the entire season becomes a “must see” for me.

SN: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Sara Billmann

SB: I have two kids – Elisabeth is 8 and going into 4th grade, and Harry is 6 and going into 1st grade – who keep me plenty busy. I was about to respond that I do laundry outside of work, until I saw the word “enjoy” in the question.  Elisabeth loves to play baseball, so I think I’ve spent the better part of July attending her games and taking her to see the Tigers when time permits.  I’m also hopelessly addicted to The New Yorker and steal moments here and there to try to stay caught up.  Other hobbies include wine tasting and walking the dog – we acquired a boxer/pointer mix from the Humane Society three months ago, and I’ve become the family’s designated dog walker, which fills up a shocking amount of time each day.

SN: What have you been listening to on your iPod?

SB: Ha!  The day I get to listen to my iPod will be a great day indeed.  Lately my kids have been torturing me, making me listen to “Stayin’ Alive” and 1980s dance tunes (oh, to return to the days when my daughter would watch “The Barber of Seville” by choice…).  But when I can wrestle it away from them, I mostly listen to Schubert lieder, Maria Joao Pires performing Schubert and Chopin, Denis Matsuev playing Rachmaninoff, and Mahler, though truth be told, the iPod doesn’t do Mahler justice.  Murray Perahia‘s recital in 2000 of the Bach/Busoni Chorale Preludes and the Goldberg Variations will always rank among my top UMS performances, and I often bring back that memory with the recording “Songs Without Words” released around the same time.  Angelika Kirchschlager and Fritz Wunderlich are among my favorite singers, though I will confess that I also enjoy Pink Martini in my less serious moments.  And I recently loaded on a CD by a wonderful Iranian group called Ghazal.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie is the Marketing Manager at UMS and has been with the organization for four seasons. She is also a member of the UMS Choral Union.