The 102nd production of Gaieties—Gaietiesberg: A Campus Divided—made its debut last night and will continue to run tonight and tomorrow.
On the night of their very first dress rehearsal in Memorial Auditorium, a space they had only started tailoring the performance to four days before, the Gaieties cast and crew put on a seemingly effortless production: the choreography was fluid, the songs were well-rehearsed, the facial expressions and body language were charming and engaging, and the support and collaboration between cast members was essential to the comedy on stage and the audience’s connection with each of the characters.
While the actors got ready while the actors got ready for, in my humble opinion, the very best Gaieties show yet, attendees could already get a sense of the kind of show they would be seeing based on the overture.
Miley’s Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” was the first to play and was closely followed by one of Pitbull’s newer songs “Timber” (ft. Kesha). Although there was—I’m sorry to say—no twerking that evening, my disappointment immediately disappeared when the curtains rose and I was introduced to a slightly different Harry Elam (Annabah Glasser ’15), Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.
This Elam impostor thrust audience members into the show. More specifically, she wielded a black rod with a crystal figure at its point and her opening dance included thrusting her hips to the rhythm of a song, dressed in a chic black suit and sparkly black hat.
One of the best parts of this Gaieties performance is how much of its bold and witty scenes can only be understood by Stanford students. For example, at the beginning of the musical, Elam takes on the role of a pre-major advisor counseling a freshman who is completely lost in the major declaration process—as so many of us are or once were. She is screaming her worries and problems at Elam, and in return, he pours her some wine and tries and fails to make cool young college student conversation.
It only gets more eccentric and hilarious from there. Suddenly, we have Raven Symone (Megan Gage ’16), the former Cheetah Girl and psychic from “That’s So Raven,” strut onto the stage with ex-Notre Dame football player and henchman Manti Te’o (Dan Ashton ’14), a guy named Oski (Luke deWilde ’16) in an awfully tacky Cal bear costume and a lunatic drug addict named Bubbles (Katherine Bick ’16) who has an obsession for saving the planet, one blunt handle of hard liquor at a time.
This band of “intimidating” villains has one goal and one goal only: destroy Stanford so that Raven can become ruler in revenge for her admission being rescinded during Admit Weekend.
Without giving too much away, Raven’s strategy is simple: initiate a war between the techies and the fuzzies that will bring such chaos to the student body that all will bow down to her. Raven organizes a kidnapping of two of the most revered professors at Stanford, one who is a prolific author and the other who is well loved in the computer science world. I’ll leave it to you to guess who these professors could be.
Although Gaieties is known for being outrageous and at times crude, there is a deeper meaning underneath all of the rally gear and humor. Gaietiesburg: A Campus Divided does a good job of addressing one of the questions that Stanford and many other students are facing—what is the value of the humanities in a culture dominated by science and technology?
When the war between the techies and the fuzzies does finally ends, we see the two parties come together, agreeing on the importance of collaboration. This shows that Stanford can and does place importance on a liberal arts and interdisciplinary education.
With Gaieties, there is much more than meets the eye.
“For some reason Gaieties has this reputation. For some reason, everyone I talk to asks if the actors are going to be super trashed. No, no; this is very serious,” said Nora Tjossem ’15, producer of the show, in response to how much work she has put into this production.
One of the quintessential aspects of Gaieties is the community that forms over time, Assistant Stage Manager and Costume Designer Carly Lave ’15 said.
“I think people are just willing to take a leap of faith and not fear judgment,” Lave said. “The other cast members will be really receptive and say, ‘Yeah that worked,’ or, ‘No that flat out was not funny, don’t do it.’ No one is offended by it, and it’s just honest and helpful.”