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This Day in UMS History: Royal Shakespeare Company History Plays (March 10-18, 2001)

Ten years ago today, UMS audiences began a great experiment — the Royal Shakespeare Company presenting four Shakespeare History plays (Henry VI, parts i, ii, and iii, and Richard III) over the course of 27 hours with lunch and dinner breaks built in. The productions, directed by now-RSC artistic director Michael Boyd, marked the beginning of a long relationship between the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor with the RSC. Over the past decade, this partnership has included three major residencies, as well as workshopping new plays on the U-M campus.  Each residency was accompanied by dozens of free educational events for students and the public-at-large.

Those who were present will no doubt fondly recall some of these images from the productions:

David Oleyowo as Henry VI

Fiona Bell as Joan of Arc, Henry VI, part i

Clive Wood as Duke of York, Henry VI, part iii

Aidan McArdle as Richard III with Fiona Bell as Queen Margaret

The three Henry VI plays were presented at 11 am, 2 pm, and 8 pm on a Saturday, with audiences returning on Sunday for the climactic production of Richard III. (There was also one mid-week cycle, which ran Tuesday, Wednesday [both matinee and evening], and Thursday.) Since that season, UMS’s theater programming has expanded significantly, with an annual commitment to presenting both live and high-definition broadcasts of international theater — including this season’s productions of Richard III and The Comedy of Errors by another British theater company, Propeller.  Like the RSC, Propeller presents contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare and works with an ensemble cast; unlike the RSC, Propeller uses an all-male cast to present the Bard’s works, as would have been the case in Shakespeare’s day.

Richard III opens at the Power Center on Wednesday, March 30, and The Comedy of Errors opens the following evening.  Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 734-764-2538.

UMS Announces 10/11 International Theater Series

In conjunction with the Maly Drama Theater of St. Petersburg’s production of Uncle Vanya and World Theater Day on Saturday, March 27, UMS announces its 10/11 International Theater Series. The series will include five productions:


Written, directed,
and conceived by David Leddy
September 9 – October 3
Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Susurrus is a play without actors, without a stage, and with only one person in the audience — YOU. It is part radio play, part avant-garde sonic art, part lesson in bird dissection, and part stroll through nature. Audiences follow a map around the Matthaei Botanical Gardens as they listen to a recording on an iPod and headphones. The listener hears snippets about opera, memorial benches, and botany, which fit together into a mournful and poignant story of love and loss that is loosely inspired by Benjamin Britten and W.H. Auden’s collaboration on Britten’s opera, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Susurrus was first presented to great acclaim and sellout audiences at Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens in 2006 and later mentioned by both The Guardian and The Scotsman as one of the top arts events of the year. It was one of the hits of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Times will vary, with groups of four admitted every 15 minutes.

Laurie Anderson’s Delusion

Friday, January 14 | 8 pm
Saturday, January 15 | 8 pm
Power Center

Laurie Anderson is one of America’s most renowned — and daring — creative pioneers. Recognized worldwide as a leader in the use of technology in the arts, Anderson is known widely for her multimedia presentations, casting herself in roles as varied as visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, electronics whiz, vocalist, and instrumentalist. At the heart of this new multimedia work, which was presented for the first time at the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, is the pleasure of language and a fear that the world is made entirely of words. Conceived as a series of short mystery plays, Delusion jump-cuts between the everyday and the mythic, evoking a world filled with nuns, elves, rotting forests, ghost ships, archaeologists, dead relatives, and unmanned tankers. Employing a series of altered voices and imaginary guests, Anderson combines her signature violin pieces, electronic puppetry, music, and visuals, with the poetic language that has become her trademark to tell a complex story about longing, memory, and identity.

Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan

Druid Theater Company

Garry Hynes, director
Thursday, March 10 | 8 pm
Friday, March 11 | 8 pm
Saturday, March 12 | 8 pm
Sunday, March 13 | 2 pm
Power Center

It’s 1934, and news is thin on the island of Inishmaan. Then word arrives that a Hollywood filmmaker is coming to a neighboring island to shoot a movie, and excitement ripples through the sleepy community. For Billy Claven, a crippled orphan, the film provides an opportunity to get away from his bleak existence. He auditions for a part in the film and, to everyone’s surprise, gets his chance. The Cripple of Inishmaan is “a break-your-heart, cruelly funny evening directed with an exhilarating ruthlessness and acted with a bracing lack of sentimentality.”  (The Guardian)  The second play in Martin McDonagh’s Aran Islands trilogy, it is infused with his trademark humor, rich with macabre cruelty, and teeming with eccentric island characters, from Billy’s “Aunt Kate,” who talks to stones, to gossip monger “JohnnyPateenMike,” who attempts to get his elderly mother to drink herself to death. Ireland’s acclaimed Druid Theater Company makes its UMS debut with this tour of its critically acclaimed 2008 production.

Shakespeare’s Richard III and

The Comedy of Errors


Edward Hall director Power Center

The Comedy of Errors
Thursday, March 31 | 7:30 pm
Saturday, April 2 | 7:30 pm
Sunday, April 3 | 2 pm

Richard III
Wednesday, March 30 | 7:30 pm
Friday, April 1 | 7:30 pm
Saturday, April 2 | 2 pm
Sunday, April 3 | 7:30 pm

Propeller’s production of The Taming of the Shrew, 2008

Edward Hall — son of the English theater director Sir Peter Hall —brings his theater company Propeller to Ann Arbor for the first time with four performances each of two Shakespeare plays: Richard III and The Comedy of Errors. Propeller evolved out of Hall’s first Shakespeare play for the Watermill Theater in the mid-1990s. His all-male company mimics the theater Shakespeare’s of time, and the company mixes a rigorous approach to the text with a modern physical aesthetic. Hall says, “I want to rediscover Shakespeare simply by doing plays as I believe they should be done: with great clarity, speed, and full of as much imagination in the staging as possible. I don’t want to make the plays ‘accessible,’ as this implies that they need ‘dumbing down’ in order to be understood, which they don’t.” The two plays will be presented in repertory, with the same cast members performing both plays.

Subscription information and brochures will be mailed in early May.  The remainder of the UMS 10/11 season will be announced on Wednesday, April 7.

We’d love to hear from you!  What theater productions of the past have been the most memorable?  What are you most looking forward to in the 10/11 season — or beyond?