‘Voices’ worth hearing
Annual tradition triumphs with terrific comedic performance
Reflecting on my own college admissions essays, I’m forced to acknowledge the precocious nature of my humble-bragging 17-year-old self. But after attending Spectrum Theatre’s performance of “Voices of the Class” this past weekend, I can at least take solace in the fact that I am not as humorously self-aware as the applicant who used his or her essay to declare, “Approval is my kryptonite.”
“Voices of the Class,” a performance of both live and recorded sketch comedy skits, centered around quotes pulled from first-year admission essays. Mesmerizing the often hard-to-reach Sunday afternoon audience, the show played on applicants’ naiveté and unabashed attempts to make themselves memorable.
As I laughed aloud at well-timed bread puns — example: That’s so crummy — and a particularly hilarious portrayal of an offensive Republican, I couldn’t help but wonder how Spectrum condensed an entire pool of admissions essays into a 90-minute performance.
“The first-year essays are given to us by the admissions committee, and they contain a lot of material from the start,” said Denise Taylor, third-year College student and the show’s director.
The sketch writers clearly played on the eccentricities of the more obscure essay topics — one Class of 2017 hopeful centered his or her thesis around the medical benefits of placentas.
“What we usually do is go through the admissions essays, find a few lines that inspire sketch ideas, and build the sketches off of those lines,” Taylor said. “A single line can go in so many different directions, and the sketch’s personality is completely determined by the writer’s sense of humor instead of the line itself.”
The audience’s overt engagement in the material served as a testament to the efficacy of Spectrum’s sketch-building technique. The show played like a huge inside joke between the actors and the audience. A simple aside about Hereford sent the audience — myself included — into stitches and exemplified the performers’ and viewers’ common pool of experience. In contrast, representations of hyper-controlling elementary school parents and Mafia thugs gave the show an element of accessibility to those outside the University community.
Despite the widely varying subject matter of each scene, recurring vignettes of haphazard admissions officers and one eagerly crooning applicant framed the performance, giving the collection of sketches structural cohesiveness. University President Teresa Sullivan made an appearance as part of the chortling crowd.
“The finale was really great,” Sullivan said. “The choreography really pulled it all together.”
Impressively enough, the polished show was formed in less than a month.
“We ran on a pretty tight schedule — two weeks of writing and two weeks of rehearsal,” Taylor said. “I was lucky enough to direct an extremely talented cast who could help me put together such a quality show in under four weeks.”
I left “Voices of the Class” admiring the talented cast, creative direction and saucy writing. As I closed the auditorium door behind me after the show, I let out a miniscule sigh of relief that my pretentious phrases weren’t included in the canon of absurdity.