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Reed Takes Center Stage, Literally

By Chris Lydgate '90 on June 16, 2011 01:02 PM

By Ethan Knudson '11

Ten decades of Reed were celebrated at Centennial Reunions in one-act plays rife with academic jokes, historical references, and the tumultuous emotions that permeate a return to campus.

Reedies from several decades stepped on stage in the chapel to play stressed-out seniors, hesitant freshmen, and even legendary philosophy professor Marvin Levich. In one scene, merry prankster Ken Kesey wrestles Owen, the freshman from Idaho, at an early Renn Fayre.

The plays, each based upon a decade in Reed's history, dropped historical buzzwords and cliches like mad. A husband and wife bickering over unions, the scientific method, and rationality. Voices chant "Change the world!" Talk of Hoovervilles dominates the 1930s. Corporate offices compose the prime setting in the 1980s...

But for all the shifting historical circumstances, the struggles depicted seemed to be part of a unified narrative about Reed. The characters portrayed questioned their place at the school, geeked out over Emily Dickinson, complained about their theses, and engaged in absurd arguments in conference.

In one play, two men in sharp suits stand over a tomato and shout "Fruit!" and "Vegetable!" at one another until their boss calls for a break. (I'll let you guess which decade that one's from.)

Future Reedies were sent off to orientation, a senior complained that his thesis adviser's criticism was not harsh enough, and fellow classmates were brought together 40 years after their graduation. The event was, in all, a celebration of memory, resilience, and reunion.

Amidst the name-dropping, protests, and jokes about Reed traditions, one scene stood out. Sometime in the 1960s, a freshman sits in lotus pose while activists rip through the streets outside; a friend steps in to ask whether he plans to return to the college for sophomore year. In this moment, a tribute to every student that has struggled with the demanding regimen of the college, he replies, "Some places, they got too much life in them... they'll swallow you whole."

There's a long pause, and his friend says, more to the audience than to the actor, "You will come back, won't you?"

And, silently, the full chapel answers in the affirmative.

Quick and Dirty Summary of Centennial Plays

Change by Dominic Finocchiaro '11.

The 1930s by Richard Kotulski '02. Depression and Hoovervilles.

Glory of the Eighties by Stuart Bousel 06. Power suits and soul-searching.

The Second Class of Citizens by Gregory Meyer '87. Husband and wife bicker over unions, the scientific method, and rationality.

Centennial Reunion Plays