The University Record, February 4, 2002

League Friends keep legacy in ‘Ernest’

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

This 1950s program from a Junior Girls Play is one of many such programs in the collections of the Bentley Historical Library located on the North Campus. (Photo by Bill Wood, U-M Photo Services)
Once again the Michigan League will serve as the stage for theater, continuing a history that began in 1904 with the Junior Girls’ Play offering the “College Career of Buster Brown.” Until the completion of the present League in 1929, the first and following theatrical presentations were staged in various venues on and off campus.

Now the Friends of the Michigan League will continue that performance legacy with a dinner theater production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest” Feb. 15–16. Both performances are at 6:30 p.m. in the League’s Hussey Room. Tickets for dinner and the performance are $50 per person and are available at the Michigan League Friends’ Office, at (734) 647-7462 or mlfriends@umich.edu.

This farce is directed by Nancy Heusel, a veteran actor/director with League productions, whose theatrical career at the League goes back to the Junior Girl’s Play of 1952. This cast features Heusel; Robin Barlow, professor emeritus of epidemiology; James Nissen, visiting lecturer in music history at

U-M–Dearborn; and Rachelle Urist, graduate student in comparative literature.

In 1909–1920, the Junior Girls gave an additional performance of the year’s production for those attending the annual Women’s Banquet, sponsored by the League. With productions ranging from morality plays and parodies of familiar classical books to musical comedies, the audiences for the performances were restricted to women students and alumnae until 1923. “State Street” in 1930 was the first play presented in the new Michigan League building. Such presentations have continued uninterrupted, except for two years during World War II, returning in 1945 with “Take It from There.” In 1946 the presentation was “There’s Room for All,” a satire on the housing problem on campus at the time, followed by a campus satire in 1948, “Make Mine Michigan.”