Last night I went with a group of people to see our friend Evan perform in a student production of the popular musical Guys and Dolls. The talented and oh-so-dreamy Evan played the lead “guy,” bearing the apropos name Sky Masterson. The production was coordinated by Shrunken Head Productions – a musical theater company that is run entirely by students. Past productions by the company have included Fiddler on the Roof and Into The Woods, and notwithstanding their relative lack of funding, they have managed to make quite a name for themselves as an alternative to the bigger productions the UCSB Drama Department puts on every year.
Even despite their lack of lighting design, sets, or proper period costumes, the folks behind Shrunken Head managed to make pretty magnificent musical theater in the appropriately-named Old Little Theater. They even drew a fairly sizable crowd, given that it was the Friday night before the dreaded onslaught of Finals Week. All things considered, I was impressed. And not just because the sight of Evan showing off his Abercrombie catalogue-worthy physique while singing and dancing was enough to make anyone with the slightest bit of estrogen swoon.
Granted, the whole evening would have gone a little smoother if the kind folks sitting behind us did not feel the need to loudly reprimand our row every single time we cheered for Evan in between scenes. But, apparently, some people just don’t have the same appreciation for the theater that we do. Aggressive audience members aside, the evening actually turned out to be one of the more entertaining and enjoyable outings I’ve had in and around I.V. in a long time. And we even managed to make it through the entire play with only one short break for shots during intermission.
After last night, I got to thinking. In three years of college, I’ve almost never been to an event like the one last night – a performance that students coordinate themselves just for the sheer joy of putting on a good show. And, I’m the Artsweek editor at The Nexus.
I know that, given the sheer number of options available to arts aficionados in the area, it’s impossible to take advantage of every Facebook invite, every Indy calendar listing, and every flyer papering the pathways on campus. But the shame of it is that, with so much to do in I.V. on any given day, a lot of the little events tend to fall through the cracks. I know I’m not the only Isla Vista resident whose list of Facebook events to attend each day far outnumbers the actual amount of free time I have to spare. And it’s often harder to miss the big stuff – Jon Stewart at the Thunderdome, Queen Latifah at the Arlington, Tech N9ne at the Hub – than it is to let the smaller, student productions slip your mind.
So, in the spirit of supporting those hard-working students, I’ve put together a little list of the local student groups whose presence often goes unnoticed and whose performances often remain relatively unpublicized. This is by no means a comprehensive compendium of clubs, but it’s a start. So, add them to your Facebook contacts, Google them over winter break, and support them when school starts up again. They deserve it. And you never know when you might just get a chance to see an Abercrombie model look-alike singing his half-naked heart out.
Speaking of singing, UCSB offers a wide variety of options for students seeking a little aural pleasure. UCSB’s first and most famous group of singing students is Naked Voices. Founded in 2000, this a capella group has recorded albums, played many a private gig, and even performed at the Chancellor Yang’s very own Christmas party A capella aficionados should also check out Brothas From Otha Mothas and Vocal Motion, which are all-male and all-female a capella groups, respectively.
If you’e dreaming of dance, check out the Swing & Ballroom Dance Club for a full calendar of club meetings, classes, events, and (of course) dances. The Cotillion Dance Club also offers a chance for students to swing, salsa, mambo, meringue, and more – plus they perform at competitions all over California. The Argentine Tango Club provides a little Latin spice for student swingers and Black Reign and the Skyline Dancers combine contemporary dance sensibilities with hip hop style to create some truly creative choreography.
For students whose funny bones are better developed than their dancing skills, Comics Anonymous puts on weekly stand-up shows featuring famous comics as well as some collegiate cut-ups. And, Improvability provides innovative, irreverent, and incredibly funny improv on a weekly basis.
For something a little more dramatic, definitely check out Monstrous Little Productions and the Paperback Theater Company. Both outfits produce some serious student theater, providing a healthy dose of hands-on action for all of UCSB’s best stars and starlets. They don’t have a website, as of right now, but you can Facebook search them for information about their performances and how to participate. The Multicultural Drama Company also provides diverse programming throughout the year, with listings available on the Multicultural Center’s website at. Finally, the Women’s Ensemble Theater Troupe – bearers of the apt acronym WETT – puts on a production of the Vagina Monologues every year that provides enough pudenda-focused fun to last a lifetime – or at least until the next year.