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November 16, 2010

Stew, Space, and UMS: UMS Off-site

By Suzie Davidson

Can you imagine how it would feel to watch a football game on the stage of Hill Auditorium? Or how about listening to a string quartet in the Michigan Stadium? Just plain wrong, right? These questions are comical, but not unlike the questions UMS has to ask when deciding on where to present our artists.

The subject of venue space is an important factor in arts presentation. By its nature, each venue has a character or personality of its own. When exploring the choices of where to present a particular artist, UMS has several factors to consider. First, we must consider whether the venue can deliver practically and technically for the performer. Second, is the place acoustically right for this performer? The third and possibly most important question is does the space add or subtract from the experience as a whole?

This week UMS presents Tony award-winning Stew and his eclectic and theatrical band, the Negro Problem. Stew and the Negro Problem combine biting social satire, gritty folk with psychedelic pop. When UMS decided to present Stew, the subject of space–where to present his concert–was an extra hot topic around the UMS offices. What kind of space would give patrons the best Stew experience? We wanted a space that we could make into our own. We searched for a space that is casual, cabaret and would allow the audience to move around throughout the concert. We wanted a space that was grungy and downtown; a place that perhaps could feel a little bit like New York City for Stew and the audience. We found all these factors and more in the warehouse-like space at 523 S. Main Street, which is the former Leopold Brothers. Come check it out.

UMS loves playing with space and has been presenting off-site for decades. Here are, in no particular order,  our top 10:

1.       Twelfth Night by the Globe Theater in the Michigan Union Ballroom (November 18-23, 2003)

2.       Susurrus at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens (September 9 – October 3, 2010)

3.       River , a butoh-inspired work by Eiko and Koma in the Huron River/Nichols Arboretum (September 11 and 12, 1998)

4.       A concert by U Theater from Taiwan in the Nichols Arboretum (September 16-20, 2003)

5.       So Percussion’s strolling concert through the U-M Museum of Art (February 6, 2010)

6.       James Galway’s mini concert at the Gandy Dancer Restaurant (March 11, 1999)

7.       Shostakovich String Quartet concerts in the Apse at UMMA (January 25-29, 1994)

8.       Jazz @ Lincoln Center Swing Dance “participatory concert” at the EMU Convocation Center (February 4-5, 2000)

9.       The Vienna Philharmonic at the Detroit Opera House (February 27, 2003)

10.   Pushkin’s Boris Godunov directed by Declan Donnelan at the U-M Sports Coliseum (October 29 – November 2, 2003)

Do you have a favorite UMS experience from a off-site performance?


Suzie is the proud momma of her one-year-old, Liam. She is an upbeat lady who loves theatre, hiking, and classic rock. Come visit Suzie in the League Ticket Office!