Excited for Excetera

Students assemble all-star cast to broaden Frosh show for all years

Excetera tries to represent issues of student life in the same way that the annual Frosh Week performance, Existere, has done for incoming students.
Excetera tries to represent issues of student life in the same way that the annual Frosh Week performance, Existere, has done for incoming students.

Frosh Week at Queen’s is an experience unlike any other—shaving cream and mud flinging, purple people in kilts spraying water guns and giant masses of people chanting cheers through the streets of Kingston. In the midst of orientation madness, there’s not much time or space to really reflect on this sometimes startling introduction into university life.

But even more unique to this week of many firsts is Existere—the once-a-year Frosh Week show where student life unfolds in humourous and serious vignettes infused with musical interludes and pop culture references. Dealing with concerns about residence life, making friends, sex and relationships, violence and undercutting Queen’s stereotypes, the show’s a hit every year. A defining memory of Frosh Week for many, the show talks frankly about this entrance to Queen’s on a relatable level.

It’s no surprise, then, that the legacy of Existere has lead the show’s past cast and directors to expand the project into an in-residence acting troupe and discussion group, as well as an all-years all-star show, called Excetera. Excetera takes the premise of Existere and develops it into a piece that encompasses upper-year experiences in order to relate it to the whole student body. Dons can commission the acting troupe part of the project to come into residences and perform skits on requested topics to generate discussion. This portion of the project takes the spirit of the show and really hits home the power of representing and talking about student life and issues with other students. Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker approached Excetera directors Andrea Bodnar, Matt Burns and Shira Taylor after he’d seen Existere and felt the principles of the show had the possibility to reach students all year round. “It’s awesome to come together with everyone and share the experiences we all have in university with a humourous spin,” said Jake Gofman, who has previously performed in Existere and is a cast member in this year’s Excetera.

“Back in first year it was nice to see people have the same experiences as me and that’s why I joined.”

In assembling Excetera’s cast, Existere members from the past three years gathered last semester to co-write and perform the new play, which draws on familiar themes such as residence and academics and updated topics such as construction, house-hunting and contemplating post-university life. The group is also incorporating recent campus issues such as the burglaries over Christmas break and the racist attack on a professor last semester.

Memorable scenes from past years will merge with current topics the cast feels need discussion for this Sunday’s performance.

“We found a lot of the issues we discuss in the first-year show are still relevant. … We also address up-to-date issues that are happening and present them in a way that isn’t sugar-coating,” Bodnar said.

“The admin in charge has no censorship bars on us at all,” Burns added.

Run through Residence Life, Existere’s various incarnations, all based on connecting with students, are put together solely by students. This probably explains why the show never appears condescending or contrived and is often genuinely funny.

Shout-outs to Queen’s-specific services such as Walkhome and the Sexual Health Resource Centre give the show a sense of familiarity while highlighting those services’ importance.

In fact, the upcoming Excetera show will feature booths from the Queen’s clubs and services mentioned during the play as a way to further emphasize the University’s student-run services. A DVD of the show will be available to purchase with proceeds going towards Shinerama, Frosh Week’s annual fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis.

The play is quickly growing into a community resource and Excetera’s directors would like to see the project evolve into a staple Queen’s event.

“Presumably, I’d like to see it continue on and develop a name of its own like the Vagina Monologues and Vogue Charity Show,” Burns said.

Bodner concurred.

“Most importantly, I’d like it to remain something tangible.”

This Sunday, Excetera debuts at Grant Hall. Tickets are $2 at Destinations, Victoria Hall Residence Life Office and in limited quantity at the door, with proceeds going to Shinerama. Show times are 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

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