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Pirates Wrap Up

Written by Peryn Reeves-Darby

And that’s a wrap! We are officially done with our fall run of The Pirates of Penzance. Thank you to our directors, Patrick Cressler ’20 and Mateo Lincoln ’19, for their endless creativity and dedication to this production. Reimaging a G&S show in a different time and place is always a risk, and I think this one paid off. I felt like I was living in the cool world of 1940s New York. I also want to personally thank everyone who came to support our film noir take on this G&S classic. I’m still combing through emails which compliment the wonderful work of our cast, orchestra, and crew! We’ve all had a wonderful experience this semester working together to create something that we’re proud of.

We’ve already started gathering a staff for next semester’s production of The Yeoman of the Guard—the whole process begins over again! But for now, it’s time to take a little breather and get back to the school work that we’ve been putting off. Time to leave the theater and return to the library.

Diary of a Poor Wandering One

Written by Aaron Slipper

CHAPTER 1

We left the ship and headed for the beach. It seemed to be a clear day. A clear day for me to clear out with a clean slate. They said there was honor amongst thieves. I, Fred, party of the first part, can attest to that. The contract was simple enough and I had fulfilled my side of it. My apprenticeship to the pirates was over. What did I know? Since I was a kid I had lived with this gang of orphans. It came about like this: my father told Ruth to apprentice me to a pilot, or so she thought. She heard “pirate” and found the kingpin of the gang. An uptown sort of guy, heading up a crew of others like him. He took me on, and Ruth, too.  It wasn’t a bad life, the bad life. Ruth, the only broad I knew during those years at sea, was easy on the eyes, a lot easier than the pirates. So that day, I was hitting twenty-one, and the term of the contract was up. My days as an outlaw were done.

The guys gave me a good send-off. Knowing my feelings for Ruth, they said I should take her when I went back to being a law-abiding subject. They had been straight with me. So I was straight with them. When I got back to civilian life, I had to do what I had to do. They were a problem which I had to fix. I was going to fix it. Sure, I considered the fact that this mob were not winners. All that time we cruised around, looking for easy marks. They saw us coming, mostly. We had a rule, see. Orphans could keep their property. Who knew there were so many orphans off the coast of the city? But, as I say, an man has got to do…. I made them an offer, which they refused. I said I would forget about them, if they gave up the racket. No go. They moseyed off, leaving me and Ruth.

That was when I began to wise up. I saw this team of lambs put Ruth in the shade. All those years she had played me for a sucker. She was no doll. I told her to scram. Then I took cover.

Those dolls sure were something. I came right out and asked them to give a guy a hand at going straight. They weren’t buying it. Then, one of the sisters, a doll called Mabel, called them out and said she felt sorry for me. We hit it off. The others pretended to be interested in the weather, looking at us sideways, fooling no-body.

I decide to come clean about the gang. They were just about to leg it, when the pirates showed up. They stopped the girls from leaving with a line about getting hitched. My Mabel showed some pluck and warned the boys that their old man was a two-star general. Suddenly, there he was, introducing himself. A Major-General, and as it turned out, a major generalist. He sure was pleased as punch with himself and the sound of his own voice. Pop was not crazy about his girls going with the guys, leaving him on his lonesome. He knew the guys’ reputation around that city and worked the old orphan routine. Sticking with the script, the guys caved and let the dolls go, offering them honorary membership in the gang. Like I said, honor among thieves.

CHAPTER 2

The old “orphan” Major-General and his daughters moseyed back to his major property. He knew he had lied, and couldn’t live with the knowledge. It ate away at him. His girls tried to get him to snap out of it. Suddenly, the cops arrived, jawboning about how they’re going to collar the racketeers. The girls were excited by the manliness on display. To them the cops were heroes about to be rubbed out by the mob.

I was supposed to lead the boys in blue to the hide-out of my old outfit. I figured this was my chance to make reparations for my past life. Just then, Ruth and the Boss showed up, waving the contract in my face. They had read the small print. I hadn’t fulfilled my side of it.

The math was a tough nut to swallow. I could only be free on my twenty-first birthday. My birthday was February 29th. Twenty one birthdays would mean I could only start a law-abiding life sometime in my eighties. That was it. Black and white. Nothing to be done. I was in the gang again, back to my old life. And there was more logic looking me in the eye and forcing my hand. Now that I was a pirate again, I had to tell the Boss about the old man not being an orphan. The Boss had no option. Bad things happen to people who cheat.

I found Mabel. She was cut up about the news, but I couldn’t let her get me to break my contract. The math didn’t lie. I had decades before I was free to marry her. She saw those long, long years stretch before her. The kid came up trumps. She would wait for me. I had to leave her, to do what a man has to do.

She told the cops that they were on their own, and had to confront the mob without my help. This struck a nerve. In their guts the boys in blue understood that outlaws and cops are pretty much the same when they’re not on the job. Just then, they heard the approach of the armed gang, coming to make the Major-General pay. Their trained reflexes cut in and the cops took cover.

Suddenly, the old soldier appeared, his nerves on edge. Sleeplessness from deep guilt will make a man crazy. The cops, acting as one, took cover to see why the old man was wandering about. The wind began to blow him here and there, and he started singing this weird little ditty. Just then his girls came looking for him. This was the moment for the gang to attack. The cops put up a defense, if you could call it that. But it wasn’t much. While his boys held down the cops, the Boss told the old soldier his number was up. Just then, something, maybe adrenaline, got to the sergeant. He went for a “Hail Mary” pass, betting that the mob still had a trace of national pride. With his voice almost cracking, he yelled out for justice and peace in Queen Victoria’s name. The gamble paid off. The pirates surrendered. The dame Ruth came clean about the pirate’s real background. Turns out they were all born high-hats and fat cats, who took a wrong turn. Noblesse oblige, yadda yadda. The M-G found it in his heart to forgive and hope for giving his girls away in holy matrimony to the pirates.  And that’s how yours truly found himself hitched to Mabel. True story.

Pirates in New York City

Written by Isabella Kopits

The Agassiz is buzzing with activity. For the past week, every member of the cast and staff has left the theatre with wood chips in their hair, paint splatters on their jeans, and smiles on their faces. Pirates is in tech week! It’s all hands on deck before we open on the 27th. Although definitely sleep-deprived, the cast is bursting with excitement. We’re going all out for this production, and our incredible staff has been working on overdrive. ’Tis the season for developing a caffeine addiction!

Although we’ve been working hard, Pirates is such great material to work from; Gilbert and Sullivan are both on our side this semester. According to the Gilbert and Sullivan archives, Sullivan wrote much of the operetta in New York. In an odd twist of fate, the city that never sleeps inspired our director, too, when he looked at the libretto.

The Agassiz Theater has always seemed to me like New York City, bustling, bright, and a little bit magical after the sun sets. Maybe it’s the glamour of the building or even the sounds of construction—something about this place grips my Broadway-loving heart and transports me to Manhattan.

Our brilliant set designer, Barra Peak has made fantasy into reality with our set, which looks more like a set from MGM Studios in the ‘40s. One almost anticipates Marlon Brando to appear on our two-toned set (until the cast bursts into song, of course). Leave the gun, take the cannoli (not into the theater, please), and prepare to see the grit of the New York City mafia collide with the hilarity of Gilbert and Sullivan in their most beloved operetta, The Pirates of Penzance opening Friday!

Get your tickets in a New York minute before they’re sold out!

Want to win free tickets? Take our Buzzfeed quiz and share the results on Facebook with #piratesatharvard to enter our competition!

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Sitzprobe!

Written by Michaela Kane

Here we arrrrrr a mere week from Load-In for The Pirates of Penzance! This
weekend we had one of my favorite events of G&S: Sitzprobe! Where the cast and
orchestra come together for the first time to sing through the entirety of the
semester’s operetta. From the Overture to the Finale, we all had a great time singing
through classics such as “Modern Major General” and “With Cat-Like Tread.” Thanks
to our lovely music director, Mateo Lincoln ’19, it was all fun and matter patters!
The evening also featured our multi-talented board members Aaron Slipper ’18 and
Arianna Paz ’19, who continue to wow us with their musical ability. Not to mention,
the lovely co-producer and part-time flutist in the orchestra, Richard Tong ’19!
Our production is truly beginning to make waves as we get ever closer to opening
night, so be sure to not mistakenly wait leap years to get your tickets for The Pirates
of Penzance!

Click here for our show dates. We can’t wait to cast off with all of you onboard!

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Pour, O Pour the Pirate Sherry!

The summer heat finally seems to be on its way out (knock on wood), the leaves are beginning to turn golden-orange, and another fall HRG&SP production has begun! Our designers are hard at work creating costumes and a set, our musicians are busily learning their parts, and the production staff is spreading the word. This week though, the Players took a break from rehearsals and build sessions to celebrate our annual Wine and Cheese event, bringing together casts and crews from The Mikado, The Sorcerer, and this fall’s production of The Pirates of Penzance. Wine and cheese was enjoyed, esoteric puns made (and enjoyed by some, I guess), and old friends reunited after a summer away.

The party is over, but we’re all enjoying everything the fall brings—new members into the G&S family, all the challenges of mounting the most famous of Gilbert & Sullivan’s collaborations, and the anticipation of sharing that project with you.

Victorian Piety and Modern Piracy

Written by Ned Sanger

Virginia Woolf was born in the Victorian era and lived to tell the tale of it in her novel Orlando. She makes clear what habits and tastes were typical of the artistic upper class in that swampy age: muffins and crumpets, loud harrumphing, restrained eructing, small trotting dogs, tight trousers warring against turgid bellies, and sententious books written in swollen sentences. Nature itself had an allergic reaction. We’re told that soon after King Edward succeeded Queen Victoria, a huge fog over Britain finally dispersed, and the sky “was no longer so thick, so watery, so prismatic.”

That was also the era Gilbert and Sullivan had to live through. Obviously Orlando caricatures it, but the description is on the mark if we take just Queen Victoria’s attitudes, particularly towards Arthur Sullivan. She was a great admirer of his musical talent and a great scorner of his comic talent; the two pieces composed by him in which she found most pleasure were a Christian hymn and a lament for his deceased brother; she repeatedly told him that he was squandering his talent by writing comic operettas; when he finally finished a serious opera, she claimed with pride that the great work was “partly owing to her own instigation”; and perhaps this is apocryphal, but apparently after he played for her a song from Pinafore, she raised the hair under his top-hat by hissing “We are not amused.”

Nothing would have displeased rigid Victorians and their queen more than the production of The Pirates of Penzance which HRG&SP is now preparing—i.e., nothing will please the rest of us more. Our stage director Patrick Cressler, music director Mateo Lincoln, and technical director Katie Polik are working with a cast and staff of some of Harvard’s most skilled artists and technicians, while Pirates itself is G&S at their very best: the show redeems not only the whole Victorian era, but even, by means of a clever twist in its final minutes, the name Queen Victoria itself.

Come see it and witness that miracle! Information about dates and tickets is on our “Happening Now” page.

“Opening”; or, The Fire-Curtain Variety Show

Friends, believe me, if you were not here for our Friday show (or rather, lack of show), you missed out on a truly surreal and (in retrospect) kind of funny situation. For the senior board members of HRG&SP, it certainly made for an eventful final opening night! Allegra Caldera ’17 recounts the tale.


Written by Allegra Caldera

Last Friday, well-dressed audience members made their way across Radcliffe Yard for the first night of The Sorcerer. The cast chatted and applied makeup downstairs in the dressing rooms, and orchestra members warmed up with exercises and scales. Little did they know what the old (dare I say haunted?) Agassiz Theater had in store… DISASTER. Kind of. Disaster turned inspiration? Disast-piration?

Continue reading ““Opening”; or, The Fire-Curtain Variety Show”

Did Gilbert and Sullivan Wear Silk Stockings?

Happy Ides of March! Yesterday, Brad A. Latilla-Campbell ’16 notified me of yet another G&S reference he’d found in The West Wing. Clearly, Aaron Sorkin is a fellow Savoyard. Coincidentally, our blog post this week also features a Gilbert & Sullivan cultural reference, albeit of a … vastly different medium.


Written by Ned Sanger

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Harper’s Bazaar c. 1900

Gilbert and Sullivan show their plump faces in all sorts of places. I recently discovered one of the most absurd: a sordid passage in Chapter 5 of Ulysses. It begins when Mr. Leopold Bloom, the hero of the book and a cuckold, catches sight of a lady across the street. She is about to step into a cab, and he knows that as she does she’ll have to lift her dress slightly, which will briefly expose her silk stockings, as well as a slice of upper calf, or so he hopes. Continue reading “Did Gilbert and Sullivan Wear Silk Stockings?”