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Updated 2:00 PM January 13, 2004
 

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Michigan Union is 100
Opera Exhibit, special events mark centennial


These lyrics written in 1913 by alumnus Earl Moore are among the many that will be part of a new permanent display of the Union Operas, which will be unveiled during a Jan. 14 celebration to mark the centennial of the Michigan Union. The works will be displayed in a new Opera Lounge dedicated to the music initially written and performed as a fundraiser for the historic building.

Two male members of The Mimes pose in a coquettish manner for a performance in a Union opera (above). Members of The Mimes satirize life at U-M (below). (Photos courtesy Bentley Historical Library)

"The Mimes of the University of Michigan Union," affectionately known as "The Mimes," was an all-male organization that produced its first opera in 1908 with "Michigenda." The group raised $2,000 toward construction of the Union building. The show's plot was set in Ann Arbor and lampooned several faculty members. It was such a success that annual opera productions continued at Ann Arbor's New Whitney Theater. By 1913 the organization was ready to take its production of "Contrarie Mary" on the road, raising more funds for the building, which was built in 1919.

The opera casts featured some students who later became prominent in national politics and athletics, including Thomas E. Dewey, who became governor of New York and is best known to many for his unsuccessful run for president against Harry Truman, and Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon. The Michigan Union Opera entertained audiences across the country from 1908-55, receiving national acclaim for its satires of college life.

In 1956 the all-male tradition ended and the name of the organization was changed to MUSKET (Michigan Union Show, Ko-Eds Too). MUSKET continued the U-M performance tradition with its recent production of "Damn Yankees."

The Opera Lounge ribbon cutting at 4:15 p.m. Jan. 14 is part of the kickoff for a year of celebration commemorating the Michigan Union's 100th anniversary. The public is invited to join in the festivities beginning at 3 p.m. in the first floor lobby.

The program also will include musical performances, tours, a giant cake and a scrapbook viewing. The cake candle lighting will be at 3:30 p.m. with cake and punch served until 5 p.m. Tours focusing on the architecture of the building will begin at 3:15, 3:30, 3:45 and 4:45 p.m.

The anniversary is celebrated this year because, in 1904, two students decided the campus needed a gathering place for students, so they began to raise money for a Michigan Union.

"Through the years the Michigan Union has provided a place for students to exchange ideas and thoughts, meet and eat, play pool, attend a dance, study and experience art, all while developing life long skills and a strong love for the University of Michigan," Union Director Audrey Schwimmer and Union Board of Representatives Chair Benjamin Moermana say in a Web site created for the special anniversary (see http://www.umich.edu/~munion/100/).

"The Michigan Union remains steadfast in its mission to be a unifying force that values each individual student as well as the greater diversity. We encourage community building through cultural, educational, social and recreational programs, and by doing so complement the academic focus of the University. It is our belief that, at the core of a great education, lies the opportunity to not only expand your knowledge but to also expand your idea of self—who you are and what you might become."

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