December 13, 2022
“I just put the finishing touch on the theme reveal,” I said, walking over to Leah Ginion’s desk.
“Yep, and I saw that you moved my La La Land clip by half a second, so I moved it back.” This, admittedly, being an accusation, I had no evidence for.
“I had only made two tiny audio edits on that last draft and they were nowhere near that clip.”
“Well,” I said defensively, “I fixed it. It’s exported and loaded into the show.”
That was the moment we were ready for Coffeehouse. The queue was set and ready to launch on Saturday night.
It’s 11:25 p.m. on Saturday, December 3rd and the audience on camera is dancing to Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe”, then we finally hear the last song start up. Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande… the last song before the show starts… Lights fade to black, and I am once again reminded: The show doesn’t go on because we’re ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30.
The intro plays, and Off the Record’s guitarist starts playing Silver Bells, the song the show was named after. They have 4 singers, and even though each could front their own band, together they are incredible. They transition into Jingle Bell Rock, a personal favorite, and with that, the show has started. Time for our hosts.
Hosting Coffeehouse may seem natural or easy, but it takes hours of practice to get ready for that night. And these two have practiced. I’ve watched them rehearse this script over and over to get ready for the stage. Jordan introduces the show, then brings up Hannah. She pushes through her first lines, but it’s clear, both of them know the room is not in sync yet. That is until we compare the Annex to a homeless shelter. Hannah follows it up by comparing Commons to the stuck-up rich in Manhattan, and we are off (note: Hannah lives on Commons and did not write that joke, she is very sweet and only made that joke because we made her). We throw in a few more campus roasts, Jordan and Hannah come off stage, and we’re into our second act.
The Snoloreans are up and are followed by our first student-made video. But our team is waiting nervously for our 3rd act, Quentins Quismas Quartet, the Student Activities staff fought hard to keep them in the show. Their schticky self-aware rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was a favorite from the night.
Jordan throws us into another edition of Holiday Hot Takes, where the crowd cheers to settle some hotly contested debates like who’s Liberty’s grandpa? Dr. Wheeler or Jerry Prevo. Dr. Wheeler is at the show, so when we cut to him in his seat the crowd goes wild.
KMO performs his new original song “Same 5 Hoodies”, right before we get We Three Strings. Their incredible talent playing the John Williams score from Home Alone was unique and incredibly well done. Following them was Tiz the Szn who wowed the crowd with her rendition of “All I want for Christmas is you”, before our first dance act of the night. Divine Call danced to “O Come All Ye Faithful” which provided one of the lovelier moments of the show, but now it was time for the show-stopper.
In Fall of 2021, we were putting together our first Christmas Coffeehouse having just come out of Covid. Nothing prepared us for an unknown Freshman who tried out with “Oh Holy Night”. It was stunning, iconic, and breathtaking. 1 year later Aunalyse built on that performance by singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. The now-seasoned performer took complete ownership of the room as she landed note after note, bringing the audience to its feet. If my life ever depends on the vocal performance of someone, I put my faith in Aunalyse.
Lucas James and his band Lasso around the Moon, covered “Christmas Morning”, which again, brought the audience to its feet. The energy then began to build as Lost in Demoss played “Rocking around the Christmas Tree”, the acapella group North Star sang a beautiful rendition of “Marry did you Know” and “Auld Lang Syne”, and Santa’s Little Helpers, along with the iconic dancing tree ornament played “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”… But now it’s time for the Spring theme.
The Student Activities team argued over this video for hours. Heated takes like “is there too much Ryan Gosling”, “did we put enough content in for the boys”, “Jim and Pam or Ross and Rachel”, or my personal favorite “don’t you dare put in the sock scene from Napoleon Dynamite” carried through the halls of our office. After 14 drafts, lost sleep, and a bevy of arguments about Titanic… it was done.
There wasn’t a single member from Student Activities not watching the stage as our hosts went up to announce the theme. The video started and we waited. First Queen sings “Somebody to love”. “Is the theme 80’s” I heard a Rhino worker say. Then Guardians of the Galaxy, Pride and Prejudice, and the Princess Bride. The room knew what it was. The theme was love. “At Last” by Etta James faded out and “Kiss Me through the Phone” started. This is where it got wild. The aforementioned Napoleon Dynamite and La La Land were met with great applause. Gilmore girls, High School Musical, Avatar, and the beloved Nacho Libre all danced across the screen before the iconic “Good For You” began to play over clips of heartbreak and sadness. After clips from The Office, the Notebook, and 10 Things I hate about you played the theme became clear. This is about Love, but heartbreak too. The final scene played with Cap and Peggy dancing alone while the title card came up to show that the theme was “Coffeehouse: Exes & XO’s”.
The night came to a close with performances by D-Trex and Southside of the Stars. We also got the next installment of “Lustbusters”, and our in-house rock band Carlisle closed the show. I’m not sure how anyone was able to sleep that night. Those three acts were so high energy and incredible, I am afraid of what Cookout looked like after the show. I’m really not sure how we are going to top it next Spring.
But we will… well the students will. There are a few full-time staff members at Student Activities that help guide the show to what it is, but the personality, charm, and life that Coffeehouse has come from the student body. It comes from the dozens of tryouts and videos. The reason why you never forget your first Coffeehouse is because of the long hours students put into their performances. It was an honor to work alongside all of the performers that night, and it’s an even greater honor to host that event for the student body.
We hope to see you all in the Spring singing along to the most famous love/heartbreak songs of all time. I selfishly want someone to try out with “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. Coffeehouse: Exes & XO’s is on sale now, and tryouts will open in January. We look forward to seeing you all there!
Written by Cort Comfort, Director of Student Activities.