The Little Shop That Could

Now, with many issues remaining unresolved (including the viability of other tenure-track positions), and after a summer spent replacing three departing faculty members and welcoming a new interim department chairman, the university has announced that the show will indeed go on. The Ring will open a four-show season on September 26 with George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum (through October 4), a satiric look at black myths and stereotypes. It will be followed by the Sixties rock musical Hair (November 14 through 22), Eric Bogosian's drama Suburbia (February 20 through 28), and Cole Porter's 1934 musical Anything Goes (April 17 through 25).

Lantaff will be part of the new season, having settled his grievance with the university by signing a multiyear contract that doesn't include tenure but does contain a legal clause preventing him from discussing the details. "I came back because I felt we worked too hard to turn our backs," he explains. "I'd really like to see UM act as an important role model for the rest of the community, which, if the NEA battle is any indication, is starting to view the arts as some kind of frill."

Salzman's status remains in limbo. Although he is not scheduled to work on The Colored Museum, he continues to teach a full load of classes during discussions with the school about tenure and the terms of his continued employment. "Yes, there is a Ring season," he notes, "but even issues separate from my own situation remain. Is there going to be tenure again in the department, and how does producing in the Ring Theatre factor into the overall vision of the department and the university?"

While Salzman and Lantaff look at the big picture, their tenure bid recently received a boost from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which publishes standards for hiring, promotion, and tenure. After reviewing an appeal submitted by the two professors, AAUP sent UM a letter urging further consideration of the issue, stating that the school's action "makes a mockery of the tenure system and is terribly unfair to the two individuals."

Daniel Pals, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and interim theater department chairman, says that the university is considering a response to AAUP's letter. Meanwhile, since taking over from his predecessor Robert Ankrom, who stepped down in July, Pals has made re-evaluating the department a priority. He even reduced the season from five productions to four, thereby allowing time for the necessary focus. "The department needs to undertake a review of themselves and their direction," contends Pals. "We've already had a day and a half of meetings toward this. We have a determination to fix whatever was broken, if anything, and get on with this."

While faculty and school officials deliberate, at least one student hopes the department reserves its dramatics for the stage. Cindy Benson, a 21-year-old senior majoring in stage management, reflects, "We lost a lot of good people who were not just concerned over this issue but worried about where the university is going. It's sad, and in the long run it ends up hurting the students. I think schools have swings, and we're at the bottom of a really bad swing. But the faculty members who are here are outstanding, and I guess you just have to ignore the politics and do the best you can."

Little Shop of Horrors.
Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman; music by Alan Menken; directed by Kenneth Kay; choreographed by Lynnette Barkley; with Stephen G. Anthony, Rachel Jones, Paul Louis, and Arland Russell. Through October 5. For more information call 930-6400 or see "Calendar Listings.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help