October 9, 2003

The World's a Stage

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I am constantly reminded why I named this column The World’s a Stage. Despite the plethora of theatre on hand here in our beloved home-away-from-home, I am certain of one thing: the Cornell experience is a play unto itself. Each day on campus is another act in this epic-drama. And each year brings around a cast renewal, supplying fresh and energetic actors to the roles of sleep-deprived engineer, charismatic hotelie, the “Joe College” fraternity pledge, etc. The dramatis personae are abundant and diverse.

But what if we could actually make this East Hill stage a microcosm to fit the proscenium arch of the Schwartz Center in college town? Which characters would be the most important to tell the story of Cornell? Where would the most essential scenes be set? What mysteries of our everyday life would be revealed? And, perhaps most interesting, who would play you, your peers, and your professors?

With these questions in mind, I present my proposal for the staged production of The Real Cornell: Everything you love and love to hate about your life.

The play (a montage of typical settings) would begin with the part of Cornell the powers-that-be want us to see. I am speaking of the Art’s Quad on a summer’s day. On the surface, the scene is everything an interested high schooler’s family wants to see in a college: people having fun in a beautiful, inspiring location.

But, in a dramatic turn of events, reporter-extraordinaire and part-time Ivy League martyr Joseph Sabia (of anti-slope day infamy) exposes the frisbee-thrower cover-up that so blatantly occurs each year on the quad. You know all those kids who somehow find the time amongst a Cornell schedule to play endless hours of Frisbee? Yeah? Well, Sabia would expose the fact these happy-go-lucky, sweater vest wearing, sun-dwellers aren’t Cornell students at all, but instead employees of President Lehman (played by Rick Moranis) maintaining the Ivy League aesthetic appeal. In a tragic sub-plot, Sabia (played by Hugh Grant) is mysteriously eliminated from the “Ivy Leaguer of the Century Award” nominations.

The next scene, set in Collegetown Bagels, would see a face-off between the two main customer demographics. In the red corner, the “Oh–My–God!” girls, wearing shorts with “Big Red” written on the ass. In the blue corner, the laid back bandanna-clad, bead-necklaced gang, wearing loose-fitted cotton pants held up by a belt made of daisy chains. (Yes that includes the entire staff)

In this scene, a fight breaks out when the leader of the “Oh–My–God” girls, (played by Maggie Wheeler aka Janice from Friends) finds out that she will no longer be able to enjoy her fat-free, cinnamon sprinkled, whipped soy milk, caramel Chai every day because the leader of the bead-necklace gang has filed a petition for only fair trade products; which just so happens to exclude the aforementioned beverage. Needless to say, a confrontation for the ages ensues.

Later, in another scene at Lynah, a crowd of only 10 show up for the season opener. The event is soon linked to the fact that class attendance is down to an average of 20% across the university. Cornell authorities initiate an investigation as to why so few students are currently on campus only to find that a large portion of the Lynah faithful have splintered off and moved to Arizona to form the David LeNeveu cult.

LeNeveu (played by Tobey Maguire) insists that his disciples go back to Ithaca as, in their absence, the university is losing its identity. This predicament has come about as the remainder of the school’s attendees find it necessary to wear sweaters of other Ivy League schools. The scene ends in musical style with these students performing the song: “I received my undergraduate degree at Cornell University/ but wore a Harvard sweater for those four years.”

Another scene would focus on the research of a biology major who has noticed a strange case of convergent evolution occurring in Trillium. His research shows that certain Ag school students have spent so long in Trillium that they have begun to adopt the camouflage capability of Chameleons. Come closing time, these students take on the appearance of their background so that they can maintain their front row seats for the following day’s people-watching festivities.

The finale, however, would be the play’s biggest highlight. It would be a performance using only items from the class of 2007’s checklist for props. The scene would aim to highlight the list of “must-brings” that is sent to freshmen in preparation for the upcoming year. Male actors will perform a song and dance based on what freshman guys must bring to campus and female actors will perform from the girls’ checklist.

The items that male actors have to work with looks like this: 1 pre-torn visor from Abercrombie, 1 Nalgene water bottle attached to 1 Carabiner attached to 1 North Face book bag.

The girls’ list poses a greater challenge for the actors, and is as follows: 1 north face fleece, 1 bag (preferably the miniature kind that barely holds a cell phone), 20 pairs of pajamas (to be worn anywhere but in bed), 1 Burberry scarf (Burberry purse optional), and 1 pair of paper-thin gray pants to be worn two inches below the hip bone.

Of course, I am only in the early stages of writing the script right now but I feel I’ve pretty much captured the true spirit of Cornell in this play: hockey, Frisbees, motivated students, coffee, diversity of social groups, dining hall life, and so on. I am open to other scene suggestions, in fact, I suggest you try a script of your own as I can assure you this has been a very cathartic process.

Someone recently described Ithaca to me as “13 square miles surrounded by reality,” and if that’s not a good idea to base a play on, then I don’t know what is. Then again, maybe Ithaca College has a completely different story to tell. But that’s a column for another day.

Archived article by Tom Britton