Murder + Madrigals = Murdrigals
The holiday spirit was certainly in the air on Wednesday night as nine CMCers from Under The Lights (UTL), our theater club, took the stage at the Athenaeum as actors in the inaugural murder mystery Not So Silent Night. The idea for the event originated from a desire on the part of ASCMC representatives to hold a holiday event with qualities similar to Madrigals, which was cancelled for the first time in the event's 26-year-old tradition because students celebrated with excessive determination during Madrigals 2008. A one-year hiatus has reinvigorated the creativity of the CMC brain trust with the foundation of an event that incorporates some of the debauchery associated with Madrigals with the average CMC student's desire for high-brow events while also satisfying the requirements from the Dean of Students (DOS) and the Athenaeum. In another break from tradition, Not So Silent Night, was held on consecutive nights.
Prior to entering the Security Pacific Dining Room, each attendee was given a secret dossier containing background on the characters, a synopsis of the murder case and a small card with the identity of his or her character. The vast majority of students came dressed to impress and were ready to mingle after a couple trips to the wine bar, which was available to all attendees over 21. Tables were filled by six o'clock as students took their seats to enjoy an opening course of corn chowder, enjoy their drinks and participate in the opening acts of the mystery. Diners had their fill of a delicious main course consisting of cornish game hen, vegetable rice and asparagus as they watched the mystery heat up as the list of witnesses was expertly narrowed down by the chief detective, played by Steven Zima '13. The audience feasted on dessert as Zima listed the various alibis and offenses for each of the eight actors in the murder mystery and fielded questions from the diners as coffee, tea and hot chocolate were served.
Reservations for Wednesday's performance filled up before Tuesday's. There were reports that a portion of Wednesday attendees had shouted at the actors, which showed the difficulty of defining "dinner theatre" to an unfamiliar crowd. At points, parts of the audience chose to ignore the performance to continue conversation. This left some worried that the audience's behavior on Wednesday would cause the Athenaeum to reconsider hosting the event next year.
Although she thought the event was a resounding success, Atheaneum Student Manager Jessica Mao '12 thought "there could have been a higher level of respect" from "chatty" audience members on Wednesday night.
"The Ath servers and I were there really late that night," Mao added, "but we thought it was worth the kick people got out of some holiday fun."
Katherine Wernet '11, president of UTL and Director of Not So Silent Night, hopes that the event continues in the future. "I think Tuesday's event proved that CMC students are capable of attending a holiday celebration with responsible drinking," Wernet told the Forum, "This was highly doubted by DOS and the Athenaeum, and initially it made it incredibly difficult to persuade both parties to allow us to hold Not So Silent Night. I hope that Tuesday's performance is the one remembered by staff and faculty of the College, and not the more raucous Wednesday performance."
ASCMC President Tammy Phan explained that each of the three parties involved in the event's planning (ASCMC, UTL and the Athenaeum) had "different expectations" for the night.
"It was important to each organization that the event be successful, but we defined success in different ways," Phan told the Forum. "Whatever our measurements were, it really seemed as if the students enjoyed themselves and considered it a success."
The overall mood of the event was certainly cheery and festive, with a number of students imbibing holiday drinks in moderation and supporting the CMC acting troupe with raucous applause as they addressed the crowd after the performance for a round of bows. Many referred to the event by its nickname, "Murdrigals," which gives homage to its predecessor while acknowledging the theme of the evening. Provided that the Dean of Students office and ASCMC are pleased with turnout and the behavior of attendees, there is no reason why "Murdrigals" would not be an event that returns to campus each holiday season for years to come.