There is a claustrophobic room, in a little known prop shop on Fletcher Street, which houses thousands of shoes worn by countless actors. A little further down are ethereal costumes, freshly died and drying. Over in another room men are busy sawing and painting New York skyscapes. Workers are creatively making these things look “real.” Just as actors immerse themselves into characters that become true, the props cease to be props and become real items.
University Productions is a multifaceted organization responsible for more than most people realize. The organization was developed in 1985 after the theater and dance departments became part of the School of Music. Now it services the School of Music as well as other production bodies that use the space they control.
University Productions handles the Trueblood Theater, the Mendelssohn Theater, the Power Center and Hill Auditorium. It must verify that all buildings are up to code, and in the case of Hill Auditorium, must assess how the renovation is proceeding. This is all while preparing its own productions and training students.
“There is a lot of value in people teaching and not just being consumers,” University Productions Director Jeffrey Kuras said.
Students can participate directly in over 45 events every year. Positions include work study in various build shops, ticket takers, student actors and stage producers. The organization utilizes qualified design students to work alongside designers from University faculty. Kuras stresses that everyone has an opportunity, “There is a progression and that is how we do it. They can work up and they can build.”
The group is already excited for this season’s schedule, including “Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)” and “Guys and Dolls,” both in October, and three pieces in the University’s St. Petersburg Festival.
Even with a full season, UProd would love to expand the number of productions and increase the amount of roles offered. Kuras said, “There are many many talented students. It is very competitive for them to get roles on stage.”
The organization plays an important role in Ann Arbor by adding to the culture of the city and campus with productions, venues and new talent. Kuras said, “The difference between us and University Music Society, for example, is that UMS hires professional artists who are on tour, and our job is to train students to become professional artists.” He also hopes those students eventually become the artists that UMS recruits.
– For more information on University Productions go to www.uprod.music.umich.edu.