On Tuesday, June 12, a group of eight seventh grade students put on a short performance entitled Transformed by Comedy. Directed by David Librizzi, the performance consisted of a collection of comedic skits which explored different kinds of comedy, including improv, standup, and musical. Some pieces were original and written by the students, while others are public domain and were written by comedians and other performers.
Transformed by Comedy opened with a curtain speech by Malina Woodbury in which she thanked the audience for coming and explained the process by which they arrived at their show. Woodbury then encouraged the audience to take pictures with “as much flash as possible” and to not silence cell phones so that the students could call out any that made noise. Tasha Rai then spoke to the audience about the history of comedy and some of the different types of comedy that actors employ. After this, Librizzi introduced all of the students. For the remainder of the performance, students performed the comedy skits and pieces. Luca Hirsch treated the audience to a standup act in which he recalled not being able to speak during orthodontist appointments and learning how to read. Hirsch and Piper Schulman performed a rendition of the classic “Who’s On First?” skit made famous by the classic comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Woodbury and Krishan Rai performed an acting game in which actors create a scene by only asking questions; their scenes portrayed a woman trying to order coffee, an airplane passenger asking for peanuts, and a customer at a pizza shop. Sophia Mele and Schulman performed a skit similar to “Who’s On First?” in which Mele was a woman calling roadside assistance, played by Schulman, after her car broke down. In another skit, Lauren Voorhies portrayed a potential employee seeking a job as a comedy writer from distressed manager Tashi Rai. Another piece featured an argument between Krishan Rai and Serenity Moon in which they only spoke in short phrases. The final skit was an exploration of musical comedy by all of the students featuring Tashi Rai playing cello, Krishan Rai playing violin, and Hirsch playing trombone. After the performance, the students took questions from the audience followed by an ice-cream social.
The performance was the culmination of several weeks of rehearsal, during which the students and Librizzi explored different comedic, acting, and performance techniques. Students then compiled their knowledge and talents into a final product, which evolved into Transformed by Comedy. This experience for middle schoolers was launched in 2014 as a result of an initiative by Friends of the Arts, a group of parents of Mt. Greylock students who provide support and funding for arts-related opportunities. For many years before this program, there was a Middle School Musical here at Mt. Greylock, which provided middle school students with an experience to do their own theatrical performance. However, due to budget, timing, and staffing issues, the program ended after the performance in 2012. Friends of the Arts decided to take the initiative to put another program into action for the middle schoolers. “We were trying to find something for seventh and eighth graders to do that was really their own,” Friends of the Arts member Cecilia Hirsch, who coordinated much of the new Middle School Drama program, said. “Friends of the Arts has stepped in to be the organizers,” explained Hirsch. Working with Mrs. Von Holtz, the group contacted Librizzi and had him write a proposal to do a program where middle school students would write their own play. The proposal was accepted by the school, and Friends of the Arts has generously provided the funding. Transformed by Comedy is the third year of this middle school program. Hirsch is enthusiastic about the program and the opportunity for the middle school students. “It gets seventh and eighth graders to build confidence, to really own their talents, and then they’re not nervous being leaders and taking charge,” she said. “It was just great to see seventh and eighth graders so in charge.”