Bwog crowded into the mystical back room of Havana Central to see the preview of The 116th Annual Varsity Show.

Alex Hare, Jenny Vallancourt, Yonatan Gebeyehu, and Chorus

Upon receiving an invitation to a student production, every administrator must blanch with fear. Given the last two Varsity Shows’ penchant for administrative caricatures, it’s a wonder Deans Shollenberger and Denburg showed up at all. But there they were, in the front row, ready to witness yet another show hosted by and centered around administrators and their personal struggles.

Thank goodness, then, for the one-liners: these were the highlight of the evening. Our favorite character, an over eager CC’er played by Pat Blute (V115‘s Quigley), can’t help but spoil the end of every CC book for the rest of the class: “I read Matthew…you won’t believe what happens to Jesus!” The scene perfectly captured the the frustrations and absurdities of the Core, with the professor giving a perfect grad student nod and assuring us, “If you stay an academic like me, the real world is just a show on MTV!”

A gold star must be given to perennial favorite Yonatan Gebeyehu as our oft-forgotten mascot Roar-ee. His powerful voice and expression-filled face carried the opening scene and we look forward to seeing his character develop in the real show. The talented Jenny Vallancourt sashayed and waggled her eyebrows as she read a meal plan-like e-mail from Denburg using the voice that most of us imagined in our heads.

Alex Hare nailed Shollenberger’s (“Please, call me Kevin”) awkward chuckle and informed a delighted crowd of his hair product of choice (Pomade). Hannah Kloepfer stormed onto the floor as a Miss Gulch-like Denburg, taking the audience by surprise, and proceeded to chastise Shollenburger for trying to win student opinion with offers of free food.

And that seemed to be the plot focus: Dean Shollenberger is trying to connect with students but only knows how to do so by offering free food. His character could have been any generic administrator trying to understand student culture (who really knows him personally anyway?). Hare and Kloepfer set up the age-old V-Show formula of a domineering administrator and a few old souls just trying to do the right thing.

Alex Hare and Hannah Kloepfer

Along with that came the obligatory jokes, seemingly pulled at random from a stack of old V-Show scripts. There was the imaginary CC vs. GS vs. SEAS vs. Barnard civil war, the aged GS student, and the hipsters caring too much about not caring. In the opening scene, Roar-ee was far too enthusiastic about the Lions vs. (CUNY) Beavers game, sparking a passionate—but forgettable—ditty whose chorus of “We don’t care” was sung by our perfectly apathetic on-stage representations. The song set up the dark perspective of the preview: we students really couldn’t care less about the school, the community, or even our coursework. This leaves the administrators to carry the plot, and herein lies the flaw of this V-Show and its predecessors.

We want us, V-Show, not them! We want compelling student characters, not a new administrator to giggle at awkwardly in the front row year after year. The writers clearly have the talent to diagnose our malaise, but they have instead chosen to examine far-fetched situations taking place behind the locked doors of the Columbia administration. Just this once, instead of a view from inside the ivory tower, we’d like to sample the perspective from College Walk. It’s not our chosen colleges that divide us and it’s not the frat parties that unite us. It’s the little things: the Hamilton elevator and Wilma’s omelets, loud pianos in Lerner and late-night runs to HamDel.

We see our culture here as Students vs. Columbia. It’s not war among ourselves; it’s a collective struggle to survive. In the 70 days between now and the night when V116‘s curtains rise, the talented team behind this year’s production might do well to remember this—give us a longer look in the mirror rather than a glimpse of a Columbia that never existed.

– The Staff of The Blue & White and Bwog

Photos courtesy of The Varsity Show