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March 30, 2011

“The Boys” Are In Town

By jmleija

So I’ve basically been given everything I ever wanted from life: a group of British men, playing Shakespeare, just for me.

That is to say that I got to sit in on Propeller’s cue-to-cue rehearsal Wednesday afternoon before attending the opening night of Richard III. And really, Shakespeare is just so much more legitimate with British accents.

I don’t yet know Richard well enough to say if their craft will be excellent, but there is one thing I can speak to – the sheer, brilliant togetherness of this group of men that makes me think Professor Rutter’s earlier insistence of the troupe as “The Propeller Boys” and “The Pack” is based entirely on fact.

They move like a unit, from ensemble to individual part and back again. Collaboration is everywhere, from “I thought I might stand there,” to “a little more upstage please, because the house is so wide,” each actor having a say in where he goes and knowing exactly why. The equality between directors, techs, and actors is evident in the mutual respect with which direction and suggestion are given and received. In the brief moments when the actors aren’t marking their cue-to-cue, it becomes clear that the ensemble is working as a single unit, a single entity never missing a beat, bringing individuals out of its midst, but always, always returning to the ensemble state, the troupe, which is so much more important than each individual part. They work as a seamless whole putting the focus where it should be : on The Story. The Journey. The thing the audience really comes to live through.

They are comfortable. They are professional. They are, even while marking, a clearly talented group of actors. If I’m any judge at all of the various instruments of torture hanging from the set pieces, I imagine Wednesday evening will be a brutal experience. At this point, the only thing I’m sure of is that “The Propeller Boys” are sure not to disappoint.



Jen Leija, in addition to being a fifth year senior at the University of Michigan, is a teacher, writer, and marathon runner. She won the Hopwood Underclassman award in essay writing in 2008 and has continued to write in essay, journal, and speech form ever since. Currently she is student-teaching ninth grade English at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor (hi guys!) while working as a Resident Advisor for housing. She also sings lead in the Pops Jazz Band and is active at St. Mary's Student Parish. As an artist and writer she has loved Shakespeare since the first raunchy lines of "Romeo and Juliet," and everything his work stands for: detail, dirt, and doing incredible things with language in every single line.