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U-M hosts Royal Shakespeare Company's U.S. premiere of "Midnight's Children"

A U.S. premiere and timeless masterpieces, brilliant performance and boundless enrichment events—the second residency of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at U-M has it all.
Courtesy Royal Shakespeare Company

Headlined by the U.S. premiere of the stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie's award-winning novel "Midnight's Children," the 16-day residency also offers new stagings of Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Coriolanus." The events calendar includes two public forums with Rushdie, discussion sessions with the RSC cast and crew and numerous public lectures. It also includes educational activities for primary, secondary and college students, and for the community throughout southeast Michigan. The performances are March 1–16.

"The Royal Shakespeare Residency represents a jewel in the crown of the University's longstanding commitment to artistic creation and artistic performance," President Mary Sue Coleman says. "We are proud to be a partner with the University Musical Society (UMS), the Royal Shakespeare Company and Columbia University in commissioning and producing a work of such magnitude as the stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children.' As a public university, we are gratified to be able to share not only these dramatic performances, but also a remarkable array of lectures, workshops and special events with our undergraduates, the Ann Arbor community and all of southeast Michigan."

Staged with what has been termed "every theatrical trick you can imagine," "Midnight's Children," under the direction of Tim Supple, explores the nation state, social structures, a society at odds with itself and, ultimately, the intractable pride and arrogance of a war hero. The London Times reports that Supple's production promises "Brechtian realism,
an 'Apocalypse Now'-style jungle sequence, songs, archive footage of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and 1960s Bombay and specially filmed sequences that Supple hopes will transport the audience 'to the extra reaches of magical realism.'"

The Rushdie collaboration extends the partnership among the University, UMS and the RSC that began two years ago when the first residency at U-M enabled RSC creative director Adrian Noble to realize the staging of four of Shakespeare's history plays, "1, 2, 3 Henry VI and Richard III" as a cycle, performed exclusively in the United States at Ann Arbor.

Director Rachel Kavanaugh has set "The Merry Wives of Windsor" in the aftermath of World War II, a time in which the wives have stopped worrying about rationing, and Falstaff and hi band no longer can depend on a black market income.

"What is really interesting is that it's the only middle-class play Shakespeare wrote," Kavanaugh says.
Photo by Manuel Harlan

Though rewarded for saving Rome from her enemies, a young warrior's arrogance and unyielding nature in "Coriolanus" lead to his banishment from that city.

This rarely performed political thriller uses Samurai influences to illustrate the modernization of an ancient ritualized culture.

Director David Farr says this staging is "in essence, a modern production. The play is basically about the birth of democracy."

The educational and enrichment events include two public interviews with Rushdie. U-M prof. Ashutosh Varshney will engage Rushdie in a conversation about a wide range of topics, including intellectual freedom, politics, religion and family life, while University alumna and Columbia University professor Guari Viswanathan will ask Rushdie about his body of work. Rushdie also will select and read from his writings.

Study clubs, roundtables, book clubs and lectures, described in the calendar below, offer the community a wide array of opportunities to learn about the plays and their intellectual context.

For more information, visit http://www.umich.edu/pres/rsc/ or http://www.ums.org/.

 

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