Cultures Meet in Language Lessons, a World Premiere in Ann Arbor

News   Cultures Meet in Language Lessons, a World Premiere in Ann Arbor
A ballerina and a retired diplomat are the main characters in the world premiere of Joseph Zettelmaier's Language Lessons, opening Jan. 26 at Performance Network in Ann Arbor, MI.

David Wolber directs the play, which is billed this way by the resident Equity troupe: "In Language Lessons, a 28-year old Russian ballerina on her final tour becomes a guest of a retired American diplomat. Over the course of a summer they unearth each other's long-buried secrets and learn how similar their worlds are. What begins as a humorous clash of cultures and ideals becomes a deeper understanding of the things that make us human."

The cast features Terry Heck, Aphrodite Nikolovski and R.L. Smith.

Performance Network premiered Zettelmaier's The Stillness Between Breaths. He is an associate artist here at the Network, and has served in many capacities, including stage manager, actor and fight choreographer.

His most recent play, All Childish Things, premiered in summer 2006. Other plays include Night Blooming at the Blackbird Theatre, Fever Dreams at the Treetown Festival and Point of Origin at the Fireside Festival of New Works. Zettelmaier is also an adjunct professor at Eastern Michigan University, where he teaches dramatic composition.

Language Lessons began previews Jan. 18. Performances continue to Feb. 25. "I began writing Language Lessons in July of 2005, not long after losing my Uncle Tony to a long battle with cancer," the playwright shares in production notes. "At the funeral, my Uncle Charlie listed the many wonderful things that Tony had done with his life. He'd helped students that no one else would help, he took time out of his life every day to share some small kindness to the world. And then my Uncle Charlie called my name, and the names of my brother and cousins, and simply said, 'Now it's your turn.' I think about that moment a lot. How do we affect the world around us? What is the right way to utilize our abilities? I was once told that, as a writer, it is my duty to shine a light on the darkest corners of humanity. But I find that when I turn on the TV, or read a newspaper, or even listen to the radio, I'm inundated with that darkness more often then not. And I begin to wonder if the crueler nature of man really needs a spotlight. Perhaps it's time to shed some light on something else altogether."

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