“Murdrigals” — Not A Theater Review

“Every actress and most of the waitresses were sexually harassed in various ways throughout the night. This is not tolerable by any standards, especially not at a liberal arts college like Claremont McKenna College. The drunk a-holes who verbally abused my peers should be as disgusted with themselves as we are of them.” Wade Vaughn CMC ‘13, a UTL cast member, said of the performance.


On Tuesday, December 7th and Wednesday, December 8th, a performance officially titled “Not-So-Silent Night” was presented at the Athenaeum. It was sponsored by ASCMC and CMC’s theatrical organization, Under The Lights.

How did that go?

“It was important to each organization that the event be successful, but we defined success in different ways. Whatever our measurements were, it really seemed as if the students enjoyed themselves and considered it a success,” said Tammy Phan CMC ‘11, President of ASCMC, in an ASCMC Forum article titled “Murder + Madrigals = Murdrigals.”

Well, that’s one way of putting it. Here are what some of the people involved said about it:

“I was not aware of how dysfunctional ASCMC was until the show went up. From the various altercations that took place during the show’s run, all I can gather is that the student council should probably be working more as a team, and less as a vehicle for displays of power from a few specific members. CMC is great in that it attracts very outgoing, ambitious, goal-oriented students but there is something to be said for being cooperative and willing to compromise as well. I can only hope that Katherine Wernet, Bonnie Snortum and Dave Edwards receive the apologies they deserve, and that in the future ASCMC members will be decidedly more diplomatic in their partnerships with UTL,” explained a UTL cast member who wished to remain anonymous.

According to Dave Edwards, the Ath manager, “This whole thing was Tammy Phan trying to fulfill one of her campaign promises. ASCMC talked a lot about ‘all the things they did to put this on’ but as far as I’m concerned, ASCMC had nothing to do with this… they didn’t do anything.”

Bonnie Snortum, the director of the Athenaeum explained that she is “disappointed by students who do not respect other peoples’ interests and efforts in favor of advancing their own agenda.”

The Forum article, however, did not include any mention of these concerns. The article instead focused on the event’s “cheery and festive” mood. Unfortunately, there seems to be more to the story than the ASCMC Forum reported.

So, what actually happened?

In the Beginning….

Near the start of fall 2010, the presidents of UTL and ASCMC, Katherine Wernet CMC ‘11 and Tammy Phan, approached Ath Director Bonnie Snortum with the idea of performing a winter edition of dinner theater.

“When we first met to discuss the feasibility of using two open dates the week of December 6th for a ‘mystery dinner theater,’” explained Snortum. “The premise was that UTL would shift their dinner theater production to the fall instead of the traditional spring event, which has been held in March or April since 1988. The fact that it was presented to the Ath as a UTL production was what legitimized it. UTL has always been a good-faith effort to bring quality theater to Claremont McKenna.’

In the eyes of the Ath, this was UTL doing dinner theater. Nothing more, nothing less. So UTL got to work: choosing a script, holding auditions, and rehearsing week after week for several months.
Jessica Mao CMC ‘12, Student Manger of the Ath and an ASCMC Presidential Advisor, told the Port Side that “ASCMC didn’t really think that far in advance as to whether or not the play itself would be an issue, but as the date came closer and the play was rehearsed, some ASCMC officials saw the dress rehearsal and expressed dire concern over the event being disappointing and not conducive to being deemed a social event. While UTL viewed the production as much more interactive, exciting and festive than the usual spring dinner theater, ASCMC began to cringe at the thought of the event carrying too much of the “dinner theater” stigma. So I guess that is where tensions began to rise as the definition of the event became skewed and unclear. Some decorations had already been put up, but people expressed that it wasn’t enough. That’s when crunch time began, and some issues arose.’
As the play approached, however, ASCMC began to exert more control. A number of petty squabbles erupted between ASCMC and UTL personnel. Nobody involved was willing to comment about it on-the-record. For instance, shouting matches between these two groups were reportedly provoked over whether a Christmas tree should be placed in the middle of the room or slightly to one side.

We here at CMC take our holiday decorations seriously.

Jessica Mao CMC ‘12, Student Manger of the Ath and an ASCMC Presidential Advisor, told the Port Side that “ASCMC didn’t really think that far in advance as to whether or not the play itself would be an issue, but as the date came closer and the play was rehearsed, some ASCMC officials saw the dress rehearsal and expressed dire concern over the event being disappointing and not conducive to being deemed a social event. While UTL viewed the production as much more interactive, exciting and festive than the usual spring dinner theater, ASCMC began to cringe at the thought of the event carrying too much of the “dinner theater” stigma. So I guess that is where tensions began to rise as the definition of the event became skewed and unclear. Some decorations had already been put up, but people expressed that it wasn’t enough. That’s when crunch time began, and some issues arose.’
“Another thing that came up was the inherent problem with the event being compared to Madrigals,” Mao explained. “No matter how hard ASCMC tried to describe the event, it was undoubtedly described as a ‘Madrigals replacement’. The name ‘Murdrigals’ was derived shortly after some planning meetings as a joke of a name and a term easy to use for the time being before the event got a name. Unfortunately, this leaked to the Ath and the staff was not pleased because they feared that the event would shape-up to be too similar to Madrigals, which was not in their initial knowledge of the event. However, I think regardless of that name, the event was doomed to be the ‘OMG, Madrigals is kind of back’ event. ASCMC made it clear in emails to students that ‘this is certainly not the return of Madrigals, it is a new idea’; however, a notion was already etched in some students’ minds (mostly seniors) that this was their chance to re-live Madrigals.”

“Although possibly a little late in the game, ASCMC collectively strove to improve the setting of the event and strategically plan out how the event would pan out. This was the crunch time I described,” explains Mao. “ASCMC wanted to make sure students felt they got their money’s worth out of the event and that they thoroughly enjoyed the event. This was, to a large extent, the board doing its job. However, I will admit that ASCMC viewed this event as a reflection of its success. A semester went by with a lot of criticism towards the governing body which was largely attributed to a lack of fun parties. This was trivial, in my opinion, because the board worked hard to have CMC retain its privileges as a happy and wet campus. Anyways, because ASCMC took on hosting ‘Not-So-Silent-Night’ and publicizing the event, they by default appeared to be the host to blame if anything went wrong. No one was going to say, ‘oh the Ath did a horrible job, oh UTL sucked’. No, ASCMC would’ve been to blame (which they already kind of are) of being the one to brand the event as their own, even though the Ath and UTL played the visible roles during the event. In a lot of ways, that was a lose-lose responsibility that ASCMC took on. We began to feel the pressure of ensuring the event’s success, even though the success should have already been secured by the hard work of UTL and the Ath. That was when the definition of ‘success’ became skewed along with what the event was supposed to be.”

Tuesday, December 7th.

The first performance. By all accounts, it went off without a hitch.

Chris Jones ‘11, the ASCMC Vice President, on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 8th, sent a remarkably prescient e-mail, acquired by the Port Side, to ASCMC’s Executive Board, which stated:

I would like to eat my words on a lot of what I said before [regarding concerns about the quality of the performance]. I think last night was a lot of fun, and it was clear that most everyone else in the room thought so too. People I talked to said, ‘It wasn’t Madrigals, but it was still fun and worthwhile’. While going into last night, I was concerned about blow back towards us, I will say I am no longer concerned about that.

That being said, I have some slight concerns about tonight. From the sounds of things, it will be seniors galore tonight with people who plan on being very rowdy. I will first say that I think the wine is sufficient enough (if you go back often enough) to get you to wherever you need to be. Second, I will say that while the performance benefits from boisterous behavior in some regards (a little cat-calling, a little bit of sass from the audience), if seniors are hammered and talking all the time, it will really detract from other people’s fun. So I would stress, that those of you who are going tonight, encourage your friends to have fun and be boisterous, but please please respect the performance.

There were 3-4 senior tables last night, that included people like [various seniors] and they drank a lot and were boisterous, but they did so in a way that did not negatively impact everyone else in the room, and in fact, added at times (particularly [a senior]).

Hope you enjoy it tonight, and see you at the cleanup.
——–
Chris Jones ’11

Wednesday, December 8th. Things Hit the Fan.

Cam Conley CMC ‘12, who was the only security on duty at the Ath that night, had no idea that there would be trouble. He had to visit certain tables several times during the performance due to complaints he was receiving from Ath/UTL personnel. Once, after Conley asked a table to calm down because they were being disrespectful, an ASCMC officer made a vulgar gesture and remarked, “Oh, thanks a lot for putting this on.”

“I signed up for the play and went on stage knowing that the majority of the audience was going to be some level of drunk.” Wade Vaughn CMC ‘13, a UTL cast member, told the Port Side. “I’m all for people having a good time. What I’m not for, whatsoever, is people having their good time at the expense of others… [Will Kahn CMC ‘12, a UTL cast member] and I had to break character on multiple occasions to get the guys at the front tables to shut up.” He added, “That’s not acting; that’s crowd control.”

The director of the Ath herself was confronted by several students who may or may not have been inebriated. Snortum refused to comment regarding this particular incident.

Ath waitstaff and the UTL cast report being verbally harassed. Every attendee this writer spoke to highlighted the boorish and drunken behavior of the senior class at this performance.

Eventually, UTL performers refused to re-enter the crowd and interact with the increasingly belligerent audience, even during the murder mystery’s “interactive sequences.”

Hindsight Being 20/20….

Andrea Wheatley CMC ‘13, a UTL cast member commented: “Honestly, it’s just a shame that the cast and crew put in months of work on the show without it being appreciated the second night. Tuesday night of the show was maybe one of the most fun nights I’ve had on stage and Wednesday was probably the worst. I don’t think anyone in the cast was enjoying the time they were spending in the dining room with the rowdier members of the audience. Not only was it difficult for the actors to stay in character, but it was also unfortunate the people who came to watch Wednesday night could hardly enjoy the performance due to the raucous behavior of others.”

Mao’s analysis of the evening: “Wednesday night left a bitter taste in all of the three hosts mouths… it was only until this point that the select few in ASCMC who had overdone our 1/3 share of the event realized the damage done. Damage not only to the Ath directors and UTL, but also to possibly the future of holding another holiday event like that in the Ath. ASCMC understood its faults, we all signed a thank you/apology letter to the Ath and UTL for their enormous contributions to the event. I am not sure how others feel, but I think in retrospect, ASCMC was definitely at fault for becoming too controlling over the event at the last minute. We should’ve thought through certain details earlier on and kept better communication with UTL over the play. I think this being the inaugural year of the event caused a lot of these unforeseen problems, so it’s hard to blame ASCMC entirely. We were just a bit naive in planning the event when we assumed things would just fall into place, or that people would automatically have fun without second thought. Another thing is, I think at the very least, ASCMC will grow from this experience to appreciate the Ath and UTL more in future events. The Ath expressed feeling too much pressure to put on the event without much compensation. UTL spent all of its funds on this event and hours of rehearsing time.”

“After the climactic Wednesday evening, time went on and things died down a bit. I hopefully speak for everyone on the board, but we got hot-headed and definitely regret some things that were said and done. It was all in a heat of passion to put on a great event, even if most of the execution was beyond our control.”

Snortum “can’t believe that ‘Madrigals’ is that important to that many people (less than a third of the student body actually came). The few for whom it represents a chance to ‘relieve tension’ or revive a mythical CMC party are merely a vocal minority. Very few people have any idea what the term ‘Madrigal’ means. To many, if not most, it means simply a party on a grand scale. The authentic Madrigal productions of the past involving the Scripps College department of music were fun, but classy events.”

“There are so many other ways to spend time and energy than putting on a faux ‘Madrigal’,” Snortum added.

ASCMC President Tammy Phan refused to provide an on-the-record comment.

Web Editor’s Note: This is the full-length version of the article. See the shorter version published in the print edition here.

Tyler Lamon spends most of his time lurking in shadows.

7 Responses to ““Murdrigals” — Not A Theater Review”

  1. senior says:

    It’s not our fault that we had to drink so much to enjoy it, I think you can blame that on the lack of acting talent of UTL.

    Plus, it was supposed to be a fun event, not a lame skit put on by UTL.

    Thanks ASCMC for trying to bring madrigals back! Hopefully next year we can get even closer to the real thing by cutting UTL out of it completely.

  2. alibaba says:

    What relevant reporting! Published only 3 months after the fact!

    …And still nothing but hearsay and the opinions of very few (biased) people very very weakly support your “thesis.”

    Laughable reporting.

    • Tyler Lamon says:

      Oh, hey!

      I forgot about the online edition.

      My article was late because I had to publish with the Port Side(nobody else would publish me; certainly not the Forum), and they have a sporadic publishing schedule.

      As for the laughability of my thesis and its lack of support, I suggest you talk to anyone quoted in the article yourself; all of them will back me up, including the Ath personnel.

      Some of the details were purposely left out because I didn’t want to embarrass anyone by name, though I suppose I certainly could have. But, in my opinion, to provide the evidence that would explicitly support my claims would have been to humiliate people whom I have no desire to humiliate.

      That was a judgment call on my part, and I feel good about my decision.

      Also: isn’t a LOT of reporting hearsay?

  3. Sophomore says:

    as bad as I feel for the thespians, I don’t think they should be surprised considering they would do the same thing in any other situation. This is CMC and some some fairy school like Wesleyan or Vassar and just like there’s no place for marble columns and froufrou architecture here, there’s also no place for stage acting. It’s great that these people are playing around in costume and having a good time, but they really should not expect to be taken so seriously beyond another excuse to get drunk.

    • I take pride in CMC’s pragmatism too. I don’t need “froufrou” architecture and I’m glad we don’t have six a capella groups per student like many other liberal arts colleges.

      But I hope we can also have some respect for our classmates, peers and friends. Because this is what you’re promoting: blatant disrespect for all the UTL actors and actresses. We’re all failing, as a student body, if CMC students see their friends’ hard work as “another excuse to get drunk.”

      Is college supposed to be childhood’s last hurrah? If you don’t want to watch the play, please, just don’t go.

  4. Fuckyeahcmc says:

    Murdrigals? More like TURDRIGALS. LOL.

    Come on, people, stop hating on CMC. How can you not be inspired by the delicious shit-filled freshmen bathrooms every Tues-Sun morning/throughout the day? The all-American conservatism espoused by our patriots at the Independent? The Friday night assaults on fomona freshmen/scrippers?

    To all the haters out there, I have one word for you, sir. BOATRACE. & BEER ME.

    - FUCKYEAHCMC4EVAAA


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