“It’s fun to be in the H-M-T-C!” sang Horace Mann Theater Company (HMTC) leadership in a catchy remake of the classic song Y.M.C.A. The song continued as students logged onto Zoom to watch the first HMTC production of the year, the Shenanigan Show, a compilation of six comedy skits put together and performed by the company last Saturday night.
The show was planned by HMTC presidents Henry Owens (12) and Sarah Taub (11) and club publicity officers Annie Wallach (12), Emily Sun (10), and Bailey Hecht (10) at the beginning of the school year, Sun said. Due to regulations with COVID protocols, the company cannot have their typical three show season, Sun said. “Our co-presidents Henry and Sarah said they wanted this format to be an asset as opposed to something that’s holding us back,” she said.
Since the return to online school, students have missed out on seeing acquaintances and teachers in the hallways, which is what made this show especially important, Owens said. “I don’t know if we could bring the full energy of campus, but I think we at least brought part of it,” he said. “We are bringing a sense of unity, and I hope people felt that and I hope we were able to make them happy and feel connected.”
While the format is not typical, it does come with advantages, Sun said. “With these smaller shows, we thought it would give students more opportunity to perform with less commitment time, since you wouldn’t have to go to rehearsals three times a week for many months, but also allows students to have more say in what they want to do,” she said.
The Shenanigan Show consisted of different comedy skits and a dance performance, which were filmed on the school’s campus before online learning began. The leadership chose to film at school to take advantage of the time that students had on campus, Wallach said.
The Shenanigan Show was designed to be similar to the Variety Shows that took place last April over Zoom, Hecht said. However, the Shenanigan Show displayed skits that were original works from students, Owens said. “I think that talent shows are absolutely wonderful, and I’m incredibly proud of the Variety Shows, but this was a lot more original, and I think we got to have a lot more humor in it,” he said.
The show also featured a comedy skit performed by Wallach, which was based off of the Saturday Night Live Weekend Update. To find material for the skit, Owens created a document where members of the HMTC contributed ideas for jokes, Wallach said. “School has given us a lot to work with between SBP being cancelled, the bees, and the bus video.”
In addition to the comedy skits, the Shenanigan Show showed a compilation of TikTok dances performed by members of the Horace Mann Dance Company (HMDC). “It was definitely different than the kind of dances we usually do, but it’s just fun to be dancing as a team again,” Spirit Squad Co-Captain Julia Grant (11) said.
All of the acts, including Wallach’s comedy skit, were pre-recorded and edited together. “There’s very little to mess up,” Owens said. “We knew exactly what was going to happen, and there was no risk of someone forgetting their lines or doing something wrong.”
Wallach felt less nervous than she usually does before performing for a live audience, as she pre-recorded her skit, she said. “I used to struggle with stage fright a lot, and I still sort of get nervous—my palms get sweaty, and my heart beats fast—so that was sort of eliminated.”
Performer AJ Walker (11) used the online format of the show to include students who did not want to perform live, but did want to be involved in his skit about Dylan Chin ’20, and why he is still at the school after graduating last year. “I had an idea to make it like a documentary about [Dylan Chin] around the school, and then Henry added the idea to make it a horror thing where he’s here, and he just can’t leave,” Walker said.
Similarly, performer Athena Spencer (10), who played the introvert in the Introverts vs. Extroverts skit, found that the prerecorded format was advantageous because it allowed her and Hecht to film in many locations all around the school as well as edit the video with sound effects and voice overs, she said.
On the other hand, Owens said that not having a physical audience had its cons. “You, of course, have the chat rooms and you can see people typing out ‘clap, clap, clap’ and stuff like that, but it’s nerve racking because you can’t tell if stuff is landing, and you can’t really tell if people are reacting positively,” he said.
Despite all of the skits being prerecorded, the hosts of the show, Sun and Divya Ponda (10), performed live. Sun was nervous about making mistakes during the show, and was also concerned about having low attendance, she said. “When we started seeing more people come in and saw the participants list grow, it was very exciting and very heartwarming,” Sun said.
Wallach said that the show was more meaningful to students now that school is online, because students miss the campus environment more. “I also think that it’s important for the HMTC themselves, because for a lot of kids it’s an important community.”