If you happened to be walking past the Browning Center this last week and were suddenly caught in the center of a tumultuous discussion between people who were yelling violently, possibly in British accents, while gesticulating emphatically and laughing with a strange and intense fervor, all while breaking in and out of musical numbers, you didn’t need to worry.
You were not alone.
Because last week, Weber State University hosted the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, where hundreds of theater students and educators joined forces to compete and perform for each other. They were everywhere. It was like a Scarves Convention.
And if you suddenly found yourself in a swarm of beret-wearing, rapid-speaking Bohemians, you needn’t have worried. Those were just actors and not, as was so frequently reported to campus police, a new and surprisingly outgoing gang.
Theater-versations can be alarming. Instead of simple conversations where one person begins by saying, “How are you?” and the other person says, “Oh, I’m doing fine,” they tend to start things off using what I call the “Screaming Run-And-Hug,” which is, consequently, exactly what it sounds like. After a series of exuberant salutations, they begin chatting in a dense code of inside jokes and Sondheim references that none but the most zealous cryptologists can decipher.
Now, to be fair, theater students are easy targets. They are no nerdier than the other sub-groups of the performing arts department, but I tease them because (a) they’re the loudest, and (b) they tend to have the best senses of humor about themselves.
Personally, I’ve been a part of most branches of the performing arts: theater, orchestra, 10-plus years of band, more than that of choir, and about two weeks of tap dancing in a 10th-grade musical (don’t bother going to YouTube for that; I’ve burned the footage).
So I feel like I know these groups all pretty well. And the thing is — none of them are normal.
For instance, band people. I spent a long, long time in the band playing percussion (which just means the drums, plus a million other little lame things like the wood block). I’ve always felt the most comfortable around band people. I find them to be very accepting as well as industrious. They are the salt of the earth. Specifically, the salt that builds up at the bottom of a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.
Band folk love listening to classic rock, quoting Zoolander and Monty Python, and wearing sunglasses indoors. They also have an unfortunate predilection for baseball caps that do no actually represent sports teams but do represent places like Dave’s Bait Shop.
Which puts them in stark contrast with orchestra students, who wear only concert black and love saying things like, “Rachmaninoff is so bourgeois. Anybody can play with their feelings.” There is also a high incidence of facial hair, usually goatee-related.
The group with which I’ve spent the most time is the choir. Oh, choir students. Every day is a fun-filled, laugh-a-minute musical romp through the halls, just like on Glee. We take turns singing solo arrangements of Michael Jackson songs, competing in Times Square and are always falling in love with each other.
Oh, wait. No. That’s not it at all. See, choir kids are basically just theater kids with more inhibitions, fewer V-necks and more nights alone at home. Also, a much larger dose of passive-aggression and occasional snootiness.
But we’re all equally flawed. Just like any healthy family of lunatics, our strengths and our foibles tend to balance each other out.
So remember, if you suddenly are surrounded by perky people wearing warm-ups and making jazz hands, do not panic. Simply compliment their powerful vibrato and move on.