“Murdrigals” — Not A Theater Review (print version)

“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.

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 Manager 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 theatre, ASCMC began to cringe at the thought of the event carrying too much of the ‘dinner theater’ stigma.”

“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’… 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… 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 was the first performance which, by all accounts, went off without a hitch.

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: “We[ASCMC] 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.”

“There are so many other ways to spend time and energy than putting on a faux ‘Madrigal’,” Snortum said. “The authentic Madrigal productions of the past involving the Scripps College department of music were fun, but classy events.”

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

Web Editor’s Note: This is the truncated version of ‘”Murdrigals — Not a Theater Review’ published in the Port Side‘s February 28th issue. The full-length version of this article is located here.

Tyler Lamon spends most of his time lurking in shadows.

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