Solidarity and Action

Dear HRG&SP patrons and community, 

Earlier this semester, we were forced to cancel our production of Kiss Me, Kate by the COVID-19 pandemic. This sent us reeling, but with more than 100,000 Americans dead from the virus, it makes the cancellation of our one little show seem paltry. 

I bring this up because, at present, even the tragedy of the global pandemic seems to have taken a back seat to the uprisings against racism and police brutality occurring across the nation. Even as I sit here in Higginsville, Missouri, insulated from the uprisings in cities around the country, it has become clear that the status quo is no longer tenable for anyone, anywhere, especially Black Americans. 

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others in the recent past have shown us all the dark foundation of anti-Blackness that pervades policing as an institution and our country as a whole.

We, as the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players, stand in solidarity with the Black members of our community, protesters the nation over, and everyone fighting injustice, racism, and police brutality. 

We are blessed as a group to have many generous donors who habitually support us in our mission of performing extra-curricular theatre at Harvard and promoting appreciation and awareness of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. We especially thank those donors who were able to give to us in our time of need, our semester without a show. 

Now, we call upon our donors to do what they can to support demonstrators and protesters fighting against racist structures and, increasingly, the slide toward authoritarianism in our government. Please, if you can, donate to any of the charities listed below, recommended to us and to you by BlackCAST, Harvard’s Black student theater group. 

Furthermore, we recognize that some works of Gilbert and Sullivan, while musically beautiful, textually witty, and historically important, existed in and contributed to a racist culture. We, as an organization, wanted to give some of the money that we have made from these shows to organizations fighting that racist culture. While we would love to financially support organizations like Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective directly, as a 501(c)(3) we are limited to donating to causes that further our mission of theatre education and awareness. We have therefore decided to donate $1,000 to the Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN, a group which “creates professional productions that are artistically excellent, thought provoking, and relevant and illuminates the human condition through the prism of the African American experience.” (https://penumbratheatre.org/). 

We believe in the power of theatre to change hearts and minds. We believe that art can bring change and be a tool for education. I am glad that we are able to provide support to a fellow theater organization that has also lost performances and revenue from the pandemic and which, through its art, fights the very injustices we see protesters fighting every day.

Once again, please donate to these organizations as you are able! The HRG&SP is unable to donate directly to these worthy causes, so we strongly urge you, our patrons and community, to support them to the greatest extent possible. I personally have done so as have many other members of the community. The time has come for us as human beings to put our money where our mouths are and make the world a better place.

Black Visions Collective — https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/
Reclaim the Block — https://www.reclaimtheblock.org/home
National Bail Fund Network — bit.ly/localbailfunds
Anti-Police Terror Project — antipoliceterrorproject.org
Brooklyn Community Bail Fund — brooklynbailfund.org
Transgender Law Center in Memory of Tony McDade — transgenderlawcenter.org

With love and solidarity on behalf of the whole HRG&SP Board of Directors, 
Ross Simmons
HRG&SP President

On joining HRG&SP

I checked Google Maps on my phone. Yes, the little blue dot showed that I was standing outside Agassiz Theatre- I was at the right place. I walked in the dark green double doors and the wooden doors that are perhaps a bit too free-swinging (which I have affectionately nicknamed “the Doors of Death” after a few encounters that were a little too close). I strode down the red carpeted hallway, learned where the Horner Room was from the security guard, and started to trek up the stairs, the first time ever of the Agassiz Theatre stair exercise routine which happened so frequently over the next three and a half years of doing backstage work in the Ag. I leaned back and heaved open the heavy door to the Horner Room, my heart beating loudly. This was my first time going to a production meeting, and having not done any theater in high school, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I was greeted with smiles and a warm welcome, and sat down in an empty chair for a meeting filled with planning for the upcoming HRG&SP show, jokes, a wealth of information, puns, and laughter. Most of the theatre jargon went in one ear and out the other, and I walked away from the meeting feeling like I had tried drinking out of a fire hose, but one thing was for certain- I was hooked.

This was my first introduction to HRG&SP on Harvard’s campus, and the start to a fun-filled and extremely rewarding four years of involvement in the organization. One thing that struck me at my first production meeting was how welcoming the community was, even to someone who knew no one in the Harvard theater community and had never done theater before. I had absolutely no intention of joining any sort of executive board of an organization when I stepped on campus, but after being involved for three semesters and having such great experiences with HRG&SP, I decided to join board as a way to give back to the community and help perpetuate the welcoming, inclusive environment for the next generation of Harvard students. By the time I joined board my sophomore year, I had done quite a bit of technical theater work in different spaces on campus, and working with HRG&SP in the Ag were by far the most rewarding shows I had been involved in- it was the first place I really felt at home on campus, the HRG&SP shows were the ones in which I felt the most supported and appreciated in my roles as set designer and paint charge, and the socials kept the community thriving in-between the shows. I also found HRG&SP to be a really special place where seasoned theater experts and novices alike worked together to support, help, and learn from each other to help bring a fun and entertaining show to life.

I grew so much and learned so much through my time in HRG&SP. There were so many upperclassmen and more experienced people who were willing to put aside their time to help me learn things I didn’t know and answer any and all questions I had, and the environment was positive and supportive, so I didn’t feel too scared of stretching myself and trying new things that were out of my comfort zone, from producing to being president of the organization. So, as my time as an undergraduate at Harvard draws to a close and as HRG&SP welcomes its newest board class, there are just a few things I want to say: First of all, thank you to all the mentors and supportive people who have taken time out of their schedules to help touch the lives of others- you are extremely important and so very much appreciated. Second, welcome to all of the beginners and newcomers- don’t be afraid to try something new, always ask questions, and I’m so excited to see where you take the organization from here!!

A Trip into the HRG&SP Board Office

When recruiting first-years to get involved with the HRG&SP, we emphasize that we are the oldest co-ed theatre group on campus, having been formed in 1956. One consequence of this longevity is that the HRG&SP has accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. Due to this massive accumulation of stuff and the general disarray that characterized the office we share with many other performing arts organizations at Harvard, one of our new board members, Mary Reynolds, took the initiative to organize the office earlier this semester on Presidents’ Day.  

As we began sorting through decades of materials, the task at hand seemed a bit overwhelming. However, we managed to go through everything in one day and in the process we found a number of interesting items and documents. We found boxes full of old media, including vinyl record recordings of old shows, cassettes, and even a performance that had been recorded on dictation tape. Mary is currently working on digitizing this media for us to post on our website and other social media. 

We also were not lacking in strange and interesting items to look at and excitedly show each other. Perhaps the strangest was an old rusty hand saw that had been labelled Goldilocks. Why? I wish I knew, and please let us know if you know anything about it! Additionally, we found a couple of old champagne bottles. What, you may ask, are we doing with a couple of old champagne bottles? Did one of our members leave them hanging around after one of our parties? Surprisingly enough, no. A closer inspection of the labels on them yielded the surprising discovery that they were in fact from the first cast party thrown by the HRG&SP in 1956 after a successful performance of Ruddigore.     

I am optimistic that years in the future a completely different board of the HRG&SP will have to perform a similar exercise, and in the process find all of the items we left behind. I just hope they can have as much fun as we had looking back at the previous 64 years. 

Un-Opening Night

As the stage manager for the past two HRG&SP shows, I have seen my fair share of opening nights. From my post at the lightboard, I watch the beaming smiles of the actors as they proudly present their work to an audience for the first time. I listen as the Agassiz Theater rings with applause from the crowd, letting the cast members know that their efforts are seen and appreciated. I think of my peers, both onstage and offstage, who have brought their commitment, expertise, and passion to the project over the many months of preparatory work leading up to opening night. All of the time, energy, and love coalesces and is condensed into those two short hours. I am always grateful for the relative privacy of my position at the back of the balcony level, because it is often quite an emotional experience for me.

I love opening night not only for what it is, but what it represents. As a stage manager, I have the privilege of witnessing the life cycle of a production. From the first note sung in the rehearsal room to the first peal of applause on opening night, I watch the show grow and develop into the production that we ultimately present to our audience. Until the last stock flat is returned to the scenic shop after our closing performance, I am locating actors, sweeping stages, and calling cues. As I believe many do, I feel a sense of parental responsibility to and pride in the show. Opening night is the first chance to share with others what I have seen all along: the extraordinary work of my friends and colleagues in bringing Gilbert and Sullivan’s timeless operettas to life. The evening is a testament to the strength of our community and the talent of its members.

This semester, I was excited to experience opening night as an audience member. I thought that last Friday, I would be sitting in the familiar red velvet seats of the Ag, adding my own cheers to the thunderous applause after the final chord. As a prospective viewer, I am disappointed not to see what I am sure would have been a tremendous production. As a frequent member of HRG&SP production staffs, I am heartbroken. I feel tremendous sympathy for the cast, staff, and orchestra members who will never see their opening night. The weight of the cancellation of Kiss Me, Kate! is felt by the entire community. I find myself thinking often of the production’s wonderful stage manager, who will miss the experience of sitting in the back of the theater, overwhelmed by the force of her gratitude towards the show’s team and her pride in the product that they have created.

During the past few weeks, however, I have witnessed something as powerful as the opening night experience, if not more so. Current students and alumni alike join weekly social events over Zoom, sharing updates from their homes around the world through the videoconferencing platform. Staff members busily recruit for Ruddigore; or, the Witch’s Curse and make all necessary arrangements to hit the ground running in the fall. The Board looks to the future, preparing our group for the many opening nights that lie ahead. Despite frightening and disruptive global circumstances, the strength of the HRG&SP community has not wavered; rather, I find myself in awe of the resilience of this organization and its members. Since returning home, I have drawn comfort and support from my HRG&SP connections more than ever before.

In my recently gained free time, I have been reflecting on why I am always so deeply affected by the first performance of a show. For me, opening night is not special primarily because of the date or the venue. I treasure those moments because they encapsulate the passion and effort of people that I love. While we have lost one of the best opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate our organization and the work of its members, the HRG&SP community stands strong. That knowledge gives me more joy than all of the opening nights combined.

Orchestration: Who Does It And Why Does It Matter?

Some of the biggest changes to take place on Broadway in the 20th century involved orchestration, or the choices about how many and which instruments would be used in the musical theater pit orchestra. Prior to the early 1900s, composers would write down each note themselves to be reproduced by a copyist. As composers began to churn out more material at a higher speed to keep up with demand and changing technology, the role of orchestrator became essential to the production of new Broadway shows like Kiss Me, Kate!, The Sound of Music, and other “Golden Age” shows. Max Dreyfus, who later became the president of Chappell & Co, Inc. (a company that produces one of two standard editions of G&S libretti and materials), was one of the first “orchestrators.” Most Broadway shows today have an orchestrator separate from the composer who makes artistic choices about the instrumental color they would like to hear on a particular line, writes incidental music, and generally brings the score to life. 

Robert Russell Bennett, orchestrator of the 1949 production of Kiss Me, Kate!, was the hot orchestrational commodity of the time. Employed by Chappell & Co., Inc., he worked on many shows written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, etc. with other Chappell & Co. collaborators. You may be wondering why this matters. What makes Sullivan’s orchestration of his operettas different from Bennett’s orchestration of Kiss Me, Kate!? Two big things.

First, Kiss Me, Kate! and other shows of this era and style used a piano in performance. This isn’t unheard of in opera, especially for recitatives, but by and large the use of a piano as part of the orchestra pit is a musical theater phenomenon incited by shrinking pits and shrinking budgets–a piano can cover far more lines than, say, a trombone, and you only have to pay one person. 

The biggest change in Broadway orchestration was also a response to cuts in pit size and budget–reed doubling. Reed or woodwind doubling refers to the now-common practice of requiring a musician to play more than one, and sometimes up to seven or eight different instruments in the same performance. Like the use of piano, it was not a completely novel development, but was taken to the extreme. 

The impetus for woodwind doublers came from the invention of the saxophone and jazz bands that required saxophonists to double on clarinet. Before the 1920s, Broadway merely required the standard orchestral doublings (e.g., flute and piccolo, oboe and English horn), but composers and orchestrators started asking for extensive doubling to obtain a wide variety of orchestral colors without costing the producers too much money or writing for an orchestra that wouldn’t fit in a Broadway pit. 

A prime example can be found in the orchestrations of the version of Kiss Me, Kate! that HRG&SP intended to perform this semester. We licensed the 1999 revival orchestrations of the show, which were done by Don Sebesky and called for the following woodwind players:

Reed 1: Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet, Soprano & Alto Saxophone

Reed 2: Flute II, Clarinet I & Alto Saxophone

Reed 3: Flute III (or Oboe), Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet II, Soprano Saxophone (or Clarinet) & Tenor Saxophone

Reed 4: Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Bassoon & Baritone Saxophone

Despite the logistical challenges of getting one musician to play all of those instruments well, doubling on Broadway has led to a wider variety of sounds in each production. Orchestrators in the 1920s and 30s demonstrated their ability to think outside of the box, and in a time when arts industries struggle to make a profit, doubling has ensured that shows keep the timbral palette interesting. 

However, the increased prevalence of doubling does raise questions about the importance of music and musicians on Broadway. Sir Arther Sullivan wasn’t worried about the number of musicians in his pit–he used around 30 musicians for each show. The average Broadway orchestra is nowhere near that number, and they wouldn’t fit in the pit if they were. My question for you all is: when budget cuts need to be made in the musical theater industry, should the music be the aspect that gets cut? 

For more information check out:

https://www.local802afm.org/allegro/articles/the-evolution-of-doubling/Suskin, Steven. The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations.  2009.

Kiss Me, Kate Refund Information

Dear HRG&SP patrons,
 
Thank you to everyone who has emailed me about refunds for Kiss Me, Kate. After speaking with our contact at the Harvard Box Office, I have more information about those refunds. Because of the quickly developing situation, the Harvard Box office has already refunded your ticket purchases and donations. Here’s how:

  • If you ordered your tickets online through the Harvard Box Office, your refund occurred automatically. 
  • If you mailed in your donation via the order form we sent you, your check is being returned directly to you by the Harvard Box Office. 
  • If you purchased your tickets in person at the Smith Campus Center or via phone, you will need to be in touch with the Harvard Box Office for a refund.

This means that all refunds are being handled by the Harvard Box Office itself, and we, the HRG&SP, have not received any of your money from them. 

Thank you to everyone who asked for us to keep their donation. Unfortunately, because these refunds were automatic, we were not able to do that. If you would still like to make a donation this semester, please do so through our website. Click the “donate” button on our Patrons page. Here is a link

Once again, we are extremely grateful for you, our patron base, as it is your support that keeps us going from semester to semester. If you would be able to donate to help us make it through this difficult semester without a show and without ticket income, we would greatly appreciate it. 

Dutifully yours,
Ross Simmons
HRG&SP President

A Statement from the President on the Cancellation of Kiss Me, Kate

Hello HRG&SP Patrons,

Firstly, I would like to thank you for your dedicated support to our organization. We love, trust, and rely upon our patrons to keep the organization vibrant, strong, and active. Thank you all for responding positively to our decision to do Kiss Me, Kate and for supporting our organization as we expand the canon. 

That being said, circumstances outside of our control are forcing us to cancel this semester’s production of Kiss Me, Kate.

As you may have heard, Harvard has taken definitive action to curb the spread of COVID19. In response to the ongoing global outbreak of the virus, Harvard has cancelled in person classes and is asking everyone to leave campus. They are limiting all gatherings to no more than 25 people and are clearing out the residential Houses. The cast, staff, and orchestra already exceed 25, so there is no way to have the show.

Other theatrical productions, including the Hasty Pudding, the Lowell House Opera, and various other projects have also been cancelled in recent days over concerns about spreading COVID19.

The HRG&SP regrets having to share this sad news, but we have no choice but to cancel the production. We would have preferred a fully budgeted, fully attended, fully fantastic production. We would have loved to see all of you this semester. Unfortunately, that is no longer possible. 

We want to let you all know that we are extremely grateful for you and your patronage. If you have already donated or purchased tickets, please email me at hrgsp.president@gmail.com and I can help get you a refund. 

If you would like to lend extra financial help to the HRG&SP in this trying time, please feel free to donate on the “patrons” page of our website. Here is a link

The HRG&SP will be back at it in Fall 2020 with a glorious production of Ruddigore; or the Witch’s Curse! I hope to see you all there, happy, healthy and excited.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, thank you all so very much. We depend upon your support and patronage to keep the organization thriving. 

With a heavy but grateful heart, 
Ross Simmons
HRG&SP President

A Semester in the Life of a Lighting Designer

It truly takes an army to create a theatrical production, and at Harvard this is no different. In addition to its many talented actors and actresses, Harvard’s campus is home to dozens of musicians, directors, producers, writers, technicians, and designers. Today, I thought I would write about my experience within a subsection of these roles — my experience as a lighting designer.

Lighting is an aspect of stagecraft that is both obvious and invisible. Its design occupies a space between art and practicality; one of the challenges of the lighting designer is to make sure everyone on stage is visible, yet lit in a way that supports the show as a whole. To the average theater-goer, great lighting is unnoticeable because it fits seamlessly into the world of the performance. But how does one create a design that is both artistic and subtle, that adds to the message of the show without drawing attention to itself?

The first step in the process, as always, is to read the script. When I was the lighting designer for H.M.S. Pinafore in the fall, I read Gilbert’s libretto several times, keeping notes on the time of day, the ambience of each scene, and the number of people on stage. At the same time, I listened to Sullivan’s music to get a better idea of how the characters — and by association, the audience — were intended to feel.

Next, I considered the properties of light. Color, angle, intensity, and shape all influence the effect light has on stage. I knew I wanted warmer colors for Act I, set in daytime, and cooler colors for Act II, set at night. I knew Act II would have more light coming from the sides of the stage, which creates extra shadows for a secretive feeling. The more jubilant songs in the show needed brighter lighting to fit the intensity of their emotional impact, while dialogue and slower songs worked better under dimmer lights. Through considerations such as these, the outline of my design took shape.

To translate this design from my head onto the stage (or rather, above it), I first needed to look at our set. Sabrina designed a fantastic ship for our set, and looking at her skillfully-created model allowed me to picture where the physical lights could fit into the space. It was at this point that I got the idea to create an illusion of shadows cast by the ship’s rigging using a gobo — a special template, usually made out metal, with a design cut into it that changes the shape of a light.

Next came the paperwork. I managed to get away with only creating a light plot (a map of what lights are hung where in the theater), but usually a lighting designer generates many different documents to help communicate the lighting design to other members of the technical team. This can include a list of all the lights to be hung, diagrams of where the lights are to be pointed (or “focused”), and views of the theater from different directions to show the exact placement of each light. Needless to say, being a lighting designer is not a job for those who dislike paperwork!

Finally, the last steps in the process: hang, focus, and cuing. During load-in, when our show finally moved into the theater, I enlisted the help of my fantastic assistant, Emma Kay ‘23, and some members of the cast and crew to help me hang up and secure all the lights I wanted. Then, once the lights were hung, we set the exact position, shape, and color of every light — by hand! As you can imagine, light hang and focus is a tedious and tiring process, and I’m very grateful to the cast, the theater staff, and my fellow crew members for their help. Without them, our lights wouldn’t have been ready for the most important day in the lighting design process: cue to cue.

Cue to cue, also called Q2Q, is a process where the show is run in stops and starts as the lighting team creates and records all the specific lighting “looks”. Using the lighting console, which is connected to all the lights that have been carefully hung and focused, the lighting team (which can include the designer, one or more assistants, and sometimes a special lighting console programmer) adjusts which lights are on at what brightness and save those settings in what is called a “cue”. During full runs of the show, all the lighting operator needs to do is cycle through the pre-recorded cues as they line up with what the actors on stage are saying, singing, and doing, although that in itself is a job of no little finesse. Once the cues are recorded and any problems are noticed and fixed, the lighting designer’s job is officially done. (Or at least, done until strike, when all the lights must be taken back down again!)

I hope my rather long-winded jaunt down the journey of a lighting designer illuminates some of the mysterious work that happens behind the curtain for our shows. If you’re interested in watching a show with fresh eyes to see if you can pick out elements of the lighting design, I highly recommend coming to see Kiss Me, Kate! this semester. Emma Kay ‘23, my assistant for Pinafore, is our wonderful lighting designer, and she has put together a design that will awe and amaze you — if, of course, you can spot its influence.

Of Scarlet Coats and Other things

Spend any period of time among Harvard undergraduates, and you start to notice quarter-zips,
sweatshirts, and the occasional jacket. These are no run-of-the-mill quarter-zips, sweatshirts, and
jackets to catch your attention like this. Alongside the labels of expensive brands, they bear the
most potent status marker of all: a club emblem. Model UN, the Krokodiloes, Harvard-Radcliffe
Crew, perhaps for the hyper-elite Harvard College Consulting Group—my first year found me a
sideline spectator viewing this ostentatious display of organizational belonging with bemused
interest, and, I must confess, at times a touch of envy.
Imagine my delight (accompanied by a Gilbertian laugh at my feeling of self-importance),
then, when our resident jack and master of all trades Sam Guillemette (in his role as the
merchandise committee) placed an HRG&SP board jacket in my hands. Harvard College Model
UN, I have absolutely nothing against you personally, but you could take your fashion cues from
us. On the front chest, HRG&SP’s wonderfully whimsical emblem stands out against a
background of crisp red that would suite a heavy dragoon from Patience capitally. On the back
of the collar are my three initials. Ever since we first put this uniform on, the new board
members, Ava, Mary, Clarissa and I, have been loath to let it out of our sights. I approach public
spaces with a new sense of confidence and self-esteem. I graciously answer the eager questions
of strangers smitten by the captivating arrangement of the Lord Chancellor, Sir Joseph Porter,
Yum Yum (?), and two treble clefs on scarlet. I stay surprisingly warm, especially given the
mildness of the recent Boston weather. And most of all, I feel that it is indeed a glorious thing to
be a G&S board member.
It is! Hurrah for HRG&SP. Starting off officially with my board duties at the end of January,
I didn’t quite know what to expect. As an ensemble member in Pinafore in the fall, I had seen a
remarkable show miraculously take shape over the course of eight weeks. I had gotten to know
the directors, producers, and fellow staff well. However, I had also noticed that at crucial points
(especially as we were building the set and throughout the performances) mysterious Other
People appeared at the Ag, laden with cookies and milk for matinees, posters to be signed, and
delectable assortments of cheeses. At the back of my mind I was also dimly aware that someone
was taking care of the countless irritating details that had to be attended to for everything to run
as planned.
This semester, I have not been allowed to pique the cast’s curiosity with a surprise visit to the
Ag to pinch hit during build and run. As the staff producer for our Spring production of Kiss
Me, Kate I have been in the trenches from the beginning—and enjoying myself immensely. I
have been given a privileged glimpse of how truly remarkable HRG&SP is: amidst the travails of
full-time student life we stage a full operetta every semester at a high level; we provide our
classmates with an opportunity to display their unique and extraordinary talents, whether as
actors, musicians, or technicians (I trust audiences were as impressed as the cast was by the
stunning set and lights for Pinafore); and most of all we keep alive the unique G&S tradition of
fostering a warm community that delights in elegant wit, superb music, good conversation and
good company.
There have been moments throughout the four weeks of the semester that have elapsed so far
when I have wished I could be attending to something other than my board and producer duties.
(There are at least two papers I could be writing now instead of this blog post, for example.) Yet
these spells of exhaustion are brief. Every time the brass crashes and the trumpet brays, and

every time I see a new example of the warmth of our community or the professionalism of our
members, my bosom swells with pride, and I snap my fingers at a foeman’s taunts. So, give
three cheers and one cheer more for HRG&SP…and do come see Kiss Me, Kate this spring, and
then Ruddigore in the fall!

The author’s Board jacket.

A reflection on the Horner Room

Hello, all!

As you may or may not know, Board Members are instructed to write their blog posts on 2 out of the 5 letters of HRG&SP. Today, I wanted to write about Harvard and Radcliffe. Specifically, I want to write about the Horner Room and the Agassiz Theater.

The Agassiz theater is named for Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, the widow of Louis Agassiz. Louis left a very mixed legacy (he was a creationist and a white supremacist). Elizabeth, however, was known for establishing the Women’s Education Association of Boston, in 1872. She also fought to allow women to attend Harvard, although this wouldn’t come to be until 1920, when women were permitted to enroll at the Graduate School of Education. To enter the Ag, one must pass under Elizabeth’s name, in gold over the doors.

The Horner room is where we rehearse and hold Victorian Ball (save the date: April 4, 2020!). The room was named for Matina Souretis Horner. Matina was the sixth president of Radcliffe College, as well as an assistant professor in Harvard’s Psychology Department. Horner was famous for her theory that women had a “fear of success” – a fear that our ambition would be seen as unladylike and vulgar. (No way that could be relevant today.) Horner fought to maintain Radcliffe’s independence as its admissions slowly merged with Harvard’s. 

As much as I am glad to soon be in possession of a Harvard degree, I understand why Horner and many others wanted to keep the Radcliffe legacy alive. Merging the two schools really meant eliminating Radcliffe. And the college in recent years has repeated this history in the hopes of creating gender equality. It has been disheartening to watch as men are allowed into previously female-dominated spaces while women and nonbinary people are still excluded from many groups – regardless of these groups’ obligations to the college.

My first memory of the Horner Room was attending a mixer during my Opening Days as a freshman. I remember being awed by the gracious space. That was the first place where I felt comfortable at Harvard. And over the course of the past four years, it has become my home base. I’ve written before about the way building smells and buzzes with energy.

I have been so privileged to be involved with HRG&SP for the entirety of my college career, and we are extremely fortunate to live in the Agassiz. While we are scattered from the SOCH to Lowell Lecture Hall to the Smith Center for rehearsals, we perform and build in the Agassiz. 

The Ag is one of the few spaces on campus where all but one of the portraits hanging on the wall are of women. It means a lot to me to have Matina Horner, Elizabeth Agassiz, and many others watching over me. I have been blessed to have role models in these women the women of Radcliffe who passed through the Ag. 

I spend a lot of time thinking about women at Harvard and in the arts. It matters that we have women to look up to. So I hope all of you, dear readers, remember the legacy of HRG&SP’s home.