Lansing State Journal from Lansing, Michigan on May 12, 1984 · Page 24
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Lansing State Journal from Lansing, Michigan · Page 24

Lansing, Michigan
Issue Date:
Saturday, May 12, 1984
Page 24
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is. UAsinG state jduRiM feat." ay it'im !f If . . ... ...... ....... .. , . - --: - rvttra T.-tf ; .:-rv-: n b - 7 i -- 1 By MIKE HUGHES Staff Vfnter ,E In the theater world, the big finish has become a tradition. You always save something special your big kick, big ballad, big cry for the finale. Now comes the end of the 1983-84 theater season, and it should be stuffed with big moments. THAT FINALE began Thursday, with the opening of the Okemos Kluge on MSU campus Kluge landed 'kill-for' role For Len Kluge, it was a talkshow that got out of hand. He started by chatting about theater on WKAR-radio. He ended up with the powerful "Equus" role of Martin Dysart, a psychiatrist struggling with his own inner world.' KLUGE IS a gifted performer who won off-Broadway awards as an ac- -tor and director, before returning home to Michigan. Now he's starting the Spotlight Theatre this summer in Grand Ledge. He was planning on concentrating o. Spotlight this spring until he appeared : on Ken Beachler's talkshow.. - "Ken said MSU was going to do 'Equus,' " Huge recalls. "We were on the air then, and I said, 'Gee, I'd kill to do it." " HE DIDNT have to go that far, but it was a struggle. Most MSU roles are closed to non-students; after a flurry of phone calls, Kluge found out this one would be open. Kluge says he's only seen one production of "Equus" and a bad one, at that but he admires the possibli-ties. "It's the only show I have two scripts for." He landed the role, which meant some major adjustments. Now he commutes 30 miles each way from bis home in Owosso. He's keeping himself out of the opening play at Spotlight And he's throwing himself into "Equus" with Kluge-Tike passion. . . "I have so much vested in this," Kluge said. "This is so important to me. I expect it's going to be with me for a long time afterward' Barn's "Chicago." It's a musical that explodes with jazzy sounds and witty words. Then comes BoarsHead Theater with a one-shot celebration tonight. Carmen Decker will star in "Letters From Bemice" and will be roasted ; by assorted celebrities. , - , -. Next Thursday, Michigan State University has its biggie. That's the powerful and controversial "Equus." - AND THERE'S more ahead the Civic Players' "Death Trap," some U By MIKE HUGHES Staff Writer . ' ' . It was a decade ago that Detroit actor Gus Kaikkonen was preparing for his big break. He would be a horse on Broadway. . : Nowadays, Kaikkonen is known as the author of three plays that have premiered at BoarsHead Theater. But back then, he was one of the actors who would wear stylized horse heads in "Equus." . IT SOON occurred to him that this was no ordinary show. It offered two riveting portraits of a teen boy who has mutilated his horses, and of a psychiatrist struggling with his dispassion. ; "I asked (playwright Peter Shaffer) what he was going to do when the crowd shouted, 'author, author,' " Kaikkonen recalled later. ; "He just laughed and said they don't do that anymore." That night, the crowd shouted "author." Shaffer's reaction? "He panicked and ran out of the theater." : "EQUUS" WOULD become one of those rare superhits. It went on to win the 1975 New York Drama Crit-..' ics Award for Best Play. It was made into an unpopular 1977 movie. And it moved precariously into regional theater. Now "Equus" will open Thursday at Michigan State University. It's the third local try, for a show that has swirled with controversy. - Jim Frontier, who's directing the current version, vividly recalls the first time he met "Equus." . "The first time I saw it was the time it wasn't done," Frontier said with a chuckle. "I've still saved the ticket stubs as mementoes." ; FRONTIER HAD SEEN the dress-rehearsal for an MSU production around "77, directed by Georg .Schuttler. He emerged with mixed feelings about the play. 1 "It's amazing and confusing, really," Frontier says. "... It's a very slick piece of theater. It's not written that well, but he s takes all those pieces and puts them together beautifully." Then came the news the next day : "Equus" wouldn't be opening after all. MSU simply didn't have the rights to it. -"; ; ' ... . THE NEXT YEAR, BoarsHead Theater' tackled the piece.- There were some worries . that audiences would object to the show and its . marathon nude scene, which runs 10 high school musicals, two more shows at MSU. - The stories here and on Page 3S look at some of the shows, with another "Equus" story coming on .opening night next Thursday. Meanwhile, nere's the line-up for the fi-nale:. . . . CURRENT "Chicago" at the Okemos Bam through May 27. Tickets at 349-4340. v , - CURRENT "Seven Brides For v2 Boll hafts Magoe in 'Equus' 12 minutes for the boy, 3-5 minutes for the actress who plays his girlfriend. But the BoarsHead .version drew strong praise and big box-office. It became a turning point for the theater, a push toward what co-founder Richard Thomsen calls "highly-theatrical pieces." AND THIS YEAR, MSU was ready to try again. VEquus" was back on the schedule, again with Schuttler directing. ; ; And again, it wouldn't work out that way. Schuttler was taking a win-' . ter, abbaticaL,- and -decided . that Seven Brothers" at East Lansing High at 8 p.m. tonight, Sunday and May 18-19. Tickets at 332-2545. CURRENT "Guys and Dolls" at Eastern High at 8 tonight. $2 at door. '' CURRENT - "A Man Called Peter" at Lansing Christian School at 8 tonight. $3 at door. TONIGHT BoarsHead's fund-raising tribute to Decker, at 8 p.m. After "Bemice," there will be the roast and a buffet. Tickets ($15) at 484-7805. ItadlDss, sows wouldn't let him concentrate on "Equus." - By now, Frontier was a 30-year-old grad student, known equally for his directing he expects to get his Master of Fine Arts Degree this summer and as half the folk-pop group called Spinnaker. Schuttler asked him to take over the direction. ' - Frontier says he was reluctant at first, because "Equus". demands so much of the-director. "It really needs to be slick." - But he juggled his schedule and - jumped into it. That started with the tough business of casting. , r THE ROLE -of the psychiatrist THURSDAY "Equus" opens at MSU and continues through May 26. Call 3554)148. from noon to 5 p.m. wcckdsys THURSDAY - "Fiddler on the Roof begins four-day run at MSU's McDonel Kiva. See Page 4S. FRIDAY The Civic Players open "Death Trap" at Hill High. Continues next day and June 1-2, skipping weekend between. Tickets at 484-9191 MAY 22-24 - "Old Times" in Studio 49 at MSU. See Page 4S. went to Len Kluge (see separate story), an intense actor with impos-' ing New York credits. "I know there were some grad students who were upset about (casting an outsider)," Frontier says. "But they all got roles in some production this spring." And for the teen roles, he cast two actors with looks of youthful joy. David Magee is a senior with a sitcom-cute face, topped by shocks of blond hair. That's led to a string of major roles at MSU. "I play a lot of troubled teens," he grants. - And Martie Sanders is a sophomore small and cute, with long blonde hair. She has a look that fit perfectly this winter, when she was playing a romantic fairy in an MSU children's show. OTHER KEY ROLES went to Robert Robinson and Jean Lyle. And two imposing physical specimens Pat Boll and Frank Archer were cast as the lead horses. "Pat has to . be in incredible shape," Magee says. "At one point, I jump on him and ride him." And Frontier wasn't taking any chances on that. Even before the rehearsals began, he was pushing his six horses plus Magee and Sanders through three-and-a-half hours of daily work-outs. THEN CAME the next complication. Sanders' parents insisted she shouldn't do the nude scene and withdrew her financial support until she relented. So Sanders took one of the horse spots. Kathy Anderson, a freshman, ' jumped instantly from horse to star. "I felt kind of funny at first," she says, "because no one knew me." Meanwhile, the- work-outs have continued. Before a rehearsal session this week, Frontier pushed his troops through an hour of stretching and sprinting. There were groans and gasps. "Can't we be friends sometime?" Boll asked. .. But now those complaints seem good-natured. "For the first week, we felt terrible," Anderson recalls.! "You couldn't touch us without hurting us. But now I love it." : THE OTHER tough war is the mental one. The actors say the rehearsals demand some piercing emotions. "It usually takes me three or four hours to get down," Kluge says. And Frontier has the job of making it all blend, of capturing the "slickness" that "Equus" demands. "Most plots have a smooth curve," ; he said. "This one is more like one of those graphs for the New York Stock ; -Exchange." - '

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