Live from Brandeis, it’s the Family Weekend Variety Show!
For a lot of students at Brandeis University, college is the first time they leave their homes and the friends they grew up with, and move into a brand new environment. They try out different classes and clubs and participate in all kinds of activities. To showcase the lives of the Brandeis students, the 2019 Family Weekend Variety Show hosted 13 student groups to perform for the community and visiting parents. A combination of improv, music, a cappella, dance and more were showcased last Saturday night, at the event hosted by Dean of Students Jamele Adams, Maryam Chishti ’20 and Arial Nieberding ’20. The Justice had the chance to talk to Rebecca Goldfarb ’21, the student coordinator of the event, about the process of putting on such a massive show and what she learned from being an organizer.
When deciding the theme of the show, Goldfarb drew inspiration from one of the most famous late night variety shows, “Saturday Night Live.” She told the Justice, “We never really have incorporated themes within the variety shows in the past. I thought it would be cool to make it have a theme this year, and since it’s on a Saturday night, I thought, what [would] better draw people in than ‘Saturday Night Live?’” Similar to “Saturday Night Live,” the show started with a cold open sketch from the improv group Crowd Control, and two pieces of funky music from the Mad Band. After that, five a cappella and four dance groups took turns to present the fruit of what they worked on this semester: a two hour talent show with nonstop excitement.
With this many performers, keeping a good pace was particularly important to keep the audience engaged the whole time and stay until the finale. After the last performance by the Kaos Kids, a confetti explosion turned the set into a birthday celebration for Adams. “I did not just want this to be an ordinary variety show; I wanted it to be more extraordinary than it was last year and really surprise people with an experiential finale,” said Goldfarb to the Justice.
Being a member of the Campus Activity Board and the Family Weekend chair from the previous year, Goldfarb had experience putting on major events around campus. “I was really excited when I was offered [this year’s program] because it went really well last year, and it just made me so happy to see such an overwhelming amount of success from the show.” However, while the Campus Activities Board was in charge of the Variety Show last year, it was sponsored by the Department of Student Activities this year, which means that aside from the support of the Director of Student Activities Dennis Hicks, Goldfarb was doing almost all of the work by herself this year. While it was certainly a challenge, Goldfarb was very happy about being the coordinator of the event. “I like how I can put my own vision, my creative choice on it … I love working with other people, but I like that this project is mine and only belongs to me… I thought that was very cool that I got to decide everything that goes into it.”
At the same time, the event wouldn’t be as successful without the support of the performing groups. “They understand what I am doing and they are very supportive … and I appreciate their work.” And the appreciation goes both ways. President of Crowd Control and emcee Maryam Chishti ’20 told the Justice that “[the group] was really excited to perform this year because of the comedy theme around family weekend, and that we were challenged by being asked to create a cold open sketch for the show … obviously we mainly do improv so having the chance to create a skit that was scripted (loosely, a lot of improv moments were added) was an exciting opportunity for us.” MAD Band’s Community Outreach Liaison Alex Bender ’21 also mentioned that it was a useful learning opportunity to “figure out the logistics of where we fit in with the show (behind the curtain was cool) and how to get off stage quickly and efficiently.” Clearly, it was not just a great show for the audience, but also a valuable experience for the performers.
As someone who planned the Variety Show for the second year in a row, planning is still an exciting experience for Goldfarb. It might be hard to put in so much effort, but the feeling of fulfillment made everything worth it. “Every year I get nervous for this. What if something goes wrong, what if something runs over … But once it’s over, you just feel so fulfilled … It’s so surreal that I can plan something so big.” she told the Justice. “Planning the show overall helped me learn a lot about myself with what am I capable of … I have never felt like I was ever in charge before until I did something like this.”