Do you know that “Gaieties” was once utterly male-run? Or that the political local weather throughout the Vietnam Battle led to a cancellation of the present? Or that balcony tickets used to value a mere 15 cents?
‘Gaieties’ is the student-written comedy musical carried out yearly throughout Large Sport week. Identified for highlighting wacky Stanford spirit, the present is produced by Ram’s Head Theatrical Society, the oldest and largest theatrical group at Stanford.
The 130-year-long evolution of “Gaieties” and Ram’s Head has been detailed by Vince Foecke ’82, the historian and archivist of Ram’s Head. He beforehand served because the group’s govt producer from 1982-83 and took part in dozens of exhibits throughout his undergraduate schooling at Stanford.
“It’s develop into an obsession, however I really like realizing the historical past,” Foecke mentioned in an interview with The Day by day.
It’s generally mentioned that Gaieties has been a practice since 1911, however the historical past really dates again to 1893.
Since neither Stanford nor Berkeley had their very own stadium on the time, the soccer recreation came about at a stadium in San Francisco. The Stanford soccer crew and followers made it a practice to attend a theatrical present, which they referred to as the Soccer Present, in San Francisco on the night time of the sport.
College students first carried out their very own present for the Large Sport celebration in 1905. The manufacturing of “Magnificence Store,” which they modified for Stanford relevance, “was vaudeville and thought of risqué on the time,” Foecke mentioned.
“When the ladies of the refrain stop as a result of present’s lack of ‘honorability,’ the boys took over all of the roles to keep away from canceling the manufacturing.”
College students alternated between performing their very own all-male present and attending a present in San Francisco — till 1911, when Ram’s Head Theatrical Society was based as an completely male drama society consisting of a humble seven or eight college students.
With the mission of selling unique pupil work, Ram’s Head began placing on Large Sport exhibits consisting of student-written skits, songs, comedy and selection acts with no overarching narrative.
Ticket costs diverse relying on seat location and old school social hierarchies of the time. Foecke defined that so-called “roughs,” male college students who “wore corduroys as an alternative of tuxedos,” sat within the 15-cent balcony seats “as a result of they couldn’t be trusted to intermix with the ‘lords’ and ‘girls’ who had paid an additional 10 cents for ground seats.”
The soccer present was known as “Gaieties” for the primary time in 1925. Early “Gaieties” exhibits included an array of 15 musical numbers, usually midway break up between solo or duet acts and huge refrain numbers. Actual scripted “Gaieties” productions didn’t develop into the norm till later, starting with the 1962 present titled “As soon as Across the Quad.”
“Gaieties” historical past can be intimately interwoven with the quite a few army occasions of the twentieth century.
Memorial Auditorium — the place “Gaieties” remains to be carried out right now — was constructed in 1937 after theater college students and Day by day workers campaigned to make the most of a $250,000 World Battle I memorial fund. College students voted to make up the remaining value with a $1 improve in tuition every quarter.
Previous to this location, Gaieties was carried out in Meeting Corridor (now Constructing 120, or McClatchy Corridor).
The primary present within the newly-built Memorial Auditorium was attended by Hollywood expertise scouts. Two former “Gaieties” stars, Lloyd Nolan and Winstead “Doodles” Weaver ’35 had been already underneath Hollywood contracts from their “Gaieties” performances. Each went on to have profitable careers in Hollywood as actors, with Nolan even successful an Emmy for finest actor. Whereas at Stanford, Nolan flunked out for not attending any courses besides his dramatics class, and Weaver was suspended for pulling a prank on the practice house from the Rose Bowl.
The College ultimately launched an announcement disallowing males from impersonating ladies in theater, so Ram’s Head made the key shift from all-male to co-ed.
The ladies of Stanford overtook the historically-male positions of “Gaieties” assistant director, technical director, director and govt producer in 1944, when World Battle II modified the gender make-up of campus. Many male college students left to battle, whereas different U.S. males had been as an alternative despatched to Stanford to review engineering for the warfare effort. Thus, though there have been nonetheless males within the solid, most had been G.I.’s who didn’t have the time to tackle management positions.
Battle reared its head but once more on the top of U.S. involvement within the Vietnam Battle, when college students had been partaking in campus protests and sit-ins. A disagreement between workers and the author concerning the imaginative and prescient for “Gaieties” in mild of the warfare led to the present being canceled in 1968.
Simply three years later, Ram’s Head went into chapter 11. The drama division at Stanford was rising, and Ram’s Head was beginning to get squeezed out of the auditorium due to the elevated competitors. In 1970, Ram’s Head needed to carry out “Gaieties” in Little Theatre (now Pigott Theater), which solely had 200 seats compared to the 1700 seats in Memorial Auditorium. The 1971 present needed to be carried out in Dinkelspiel Auditorium, which was constructed as a symphony corridor quite than a theater; this present was deemed a flop and culminated within the group’s monetary troubles.
In 1977, a handful of scholars from an experimental theater group resuscitated Ram’s Head from its six-year intermission, bringing it to the shape we all know it right now.
“What’s a Gaieties?” was the primary “Gaieties” present since Ram’s Head’s chapter and reintroduced the custom to Stanford college students. The present was a mixture of unique and Broadway songs that had been tweaked for Stanford relevance. Even and not using a script, the present bought out, and Ram’s Head even added a 3rd night time to accommodate the excessive quantity of curiosity.
“Gaieties” has largely retained its profitability and recognition ever since, even surviving by way of the COVID-19 pandemic with a 2020 on-line present titled “Unprecedented Instances.”
The bare run — which includes bare pupil volunteers rapidly working throughout the stage with the lights of the theater dimmed — advanced right into a notable custom through the years.
“We’re very conscious of the potential risks, and we attempt to be tremendous intentional in the way in which we clarify it to verify it’s protected and enjoyable for everybody,” mentioned Liam Smith ’25, the present govt producer of Ram’s Head.
This yr, there have been 25 signal ups for the bare run on Wednesday and Thursday, and virtually 40 on Friday.
Regardless of being a comedic present, “Gaieties” will not be just for laughs. To Kiki Hood ’23, the previous govt producer of Ram’s Head, the present is a conduit to voice grievances in opposition to authorities whereas additionally prompting introspection amongst its members.
In keeping with Smith, Ram’s Head management “prioritize[s] expertise over ability” whereas casting, “as a result of coaching in musical theater will not be accessible to most individuals.” Final yr, two of the leads had no theater expertise.
As a group linked by a shared aim, Smith says, “Gaieties” has been a spot to seek out lifelong friendships. The present additionally serves as a bridge to attach the coed physique viewers in an unconventional means.
“Many Stanford college students can determine with points of their freshman selves or experiences portrayed on the stage, offering a chance to attach with depicted flaws, missteps and insecurities. This enables them to really feel seen and interact in a cathartic laughter at their very own expense,” Hood mentioned.
As for the way forward for “Gaieties,” Hood hopes for much more viewers participation, resembling establishing a widely known sing-along track that college students can sit up for every year.
Smith underscored the enduring legacy of “Gaieties” as he recounted an eye-opening expertise with a 102-year-old girl at an alumni reunion who had participated with Ram’s Head again within the Thirties.
“‘Gaieties’ is so essentially ‘Stanford,’” Smith mentioned. “Assembly that 102-year-old girl is after I realized how a lot this custom must be protected.”