Tina Fey enthralls Amphitheater audience
Famous University alum speaks on the importance of the arts
Like a number of Harvard University students, Tina Fey graduated the University a virgin.
But that didn’t stop her from enjoying her time here — “a testament largely to the architecture,” she joked Saturday at the inaugural installment in President Teresa Sullivan’s Speaker Series for the Arts.
Before Fey began her speech, introductions were made by Vice Provost for Arts Jody Kielbasa and Sullivan, both of whom highlighted the importance of the arts in the modern world. As Sullivan drew her brief remarks to a close, Fey took the stage to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
The hordes of students and community members who came seeking the witty, smart and biting humor for which Fey is known got exactly what they were looking for. Fey shared stories of the time she spent here at the University, watching “Into the Woods” on Friday nights in Clemons Library as part of an “abstinence program” she and her friend accidentally stumbled into.
But it wasn’t all nostalgia — Fey relayed her disdain for selfies with toilets in the background, a trend she believes will lead to our generation to be known as “the age of background toilets.”
Amid the continuous laughter, she even managed to surprise three attendees with hidden gifts — one taped under a chair in the amphitheater, one under a bench outside Garrett Hall, and one “in a place [Stephen] Sondheim would be very into — Homer’s thigh.”
Beneath the hilarity, Fey made a few key points that served as more serious takeaways for her audience. The first of these was the importance of free arts education in the United States. Growing up in Pennsylvania, Fey said she benefited from free flute lessons in school and a “nearly free” community theatre program. She stressed the importance of free access to the arts in her own venture into theatre, even advocating that teachers should be paid like movie stars.
After touching on the centricity of self-motivation to success — “Don’t wait for someone to use you,” she said. — Fey discussed art as a means of social change.
“Don’t go into the arts for the money,” she said, instead highlighting how art can inspire the audience to reconsider established ideas and improve the world. Fey cited playwright Caryl Churchill, comedian Chris Rock and composer Stephen Sondheim as her greatest inspirations, mainly because their art came from a place of truth that she said makes the viewer see situations in different lights.
As hundreds of people listened intently to the wisdom and humor Fey he had to offer, it was easy to imagine that many in the audience were picturing where their work would take them in 10 years time. Who knows — maybe 21 years down the road, one of those students will be a contemporary Fey, returning to their alma mater to deliver a speech of their own?