The Ann Arbor News once called Basement Arts (a University of Michigan theater group) “the best kept secret in Ann Arbor,” but that theater troupe is not the only fine arts secret crying to be spotlighted. All over campus, students are learning lines, building sets, sewing costumes, practicing music and producing and directing plays, among many other fine and performing art activities.
At the same time, though, there are also many students who are still searching for an opportunity to get involved. Ann Arbor’s fine arts scene is as bustling and busy as the Diag between classes. So, in the coming weeks, the secret is going to be revealed. The groups on campus will have their moment to shine as each week the spotlight falls on someone new. This week, MUSKET takes the stage.
As the existence of the Michigan League shows us, the Michigan Union used to only be open to men. This meant that the Michigan Union Opera Company, a troupe that rehearsed in the Union, was also only open to men. By 1956 however, society as a whole had become more accepting of women, so the opera company broadened its horizons and started accepting women into its ranks. A change of name was deemed necessary and thus, with the addition of “Ko-Eds Too,” MUSKET, Michigan Union Shows Ko-Eds Too, was born.
When the opera company became MUSKET, the name was not the only thing to be transformed. The group’s repertoire also changed from including strictly plays by, about and for men, to including strictly musicals. Now, the troupe performs two musicals a year (this year “Damn Yankees” and “Cabaret”) and, according to MUSKET member Caitlyn Thomson, “has developed into one of the biggest student groups on campus.”
MUSKET is a group that operates on student participation. While the University Activity Center does support the group financially, in all facets of the organization students take the lead. This year, positions are open in everything from cast, to crew, to pit and everything in between for the fall production of “Damn Yankees.” Auditions will be held Sept. 19 to 22.
“The main reason MUSKET is on campus and is so popular is because there are so many people in the School of Music that want experience doing shows, and this is the perfect place to do that,” Thomson said. “You start from scratch and end with a finished product – a Broadway musical.” Thomson made sure to stress though that the group is not just for music majors. Emphasizing that there are lots of roles to be filled and anyone can fill them.
“Damn Yankees” will be performed at the Power Center Nov. 21 – 23. While watching from the audience is a great way to experience a play, being a part of it, whether up on stage or behind the scenes, is a completely unique experience. “It is a great place to meet people and to learn the lingo of theater,” Thomson said. “The bonds you form during the show are unique and not something you are going to find other places.”