Existere in the ARC missed the mark

Annual frosh sketch comedy show venue left first years disengaged

Existere performance in Grant Hall in 2018.

This year, Existere’s annual orientation week performance was relocated from Grant Hall to the ARC, which might be the reason for much of the audience leaving before the actors finished their show.

On Aug. 31, first-year students flooded into the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC) to watch Existere, the annual sketch comedy show aimed at portraying issues faced by university students. The sketches are intended to give the first-year students a taste of what to expect in the year to come.

This year, the show’s topics included faculty stereotypes, how to reach out to dons, sexuality, and consent. Through skits and songs, Existere has a reputation at Queens for shining a light on important campus matters and being an experience that upperclassmen can look back on fondly.

This year’s Existere, however, failed to strike the same chord as past shows.

While the performance featured a talented and energetic cast, popular songs, and good humour, it ultimately failed to engage the first-year students—many of whom spent more time looking for the nearest exit than watching the show.

This is a notable change from past performances. However, the cast isn’t to blame: both the gymnasium and the audience were too big for students to be able to connect with and understand the performance. While the front rows of the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the show, the students further back lacked enthusiasm.

The show opened with a vibrant parody of Walk the Moon’s Shut Up and Dance, where the dynamic cast showcased their vocal talents and introduced the first-year students to what Existere is all about.

The performance went on to tackle prevalent issues facing University students through various short skits. A highlight of the show was when each character assumed the stereotype of a faculty, allowing the frosh to see themselves in the performance and to poke fun at each other. Stereotypes included that Arts & Science students are indecisive, Computer Science students are awkward, and Engineering students are the “cool kids.”

A particular moment that roused laughter in the crowd was when the Commerce student appeared to be on a serious business call—just to reveal he’d been talking to his mother the whole time.

Later in the show, one skit showed a first-year student being introduced to different types of alcohol personified by the cast. In the end, the first year decides to talk to the water character instead. The scene served as a reminder to first-year students that you don’t have to drink in university if you don’t want to, a message seldom mentioned in the midst of Queen’s drinking culture and social atmosphere.

Clearly, the annual performance has value. Before I arrived at Queen’s, I was excited to watch Existere’s orientation week performance. I had heard positive things about it from upper-year students, and I even watched the promotional video on Facebook.

When I arrived at the ARC to watch the performance to find that I couldn’t see or hear much of the show, I was disappointed.

The 2,500 students in the audience made it difficult for students sitting in the back to see much of anything, especially if taller people were sitting in front of them.

The plot was always changing, so it was hard to follow along and enjoy the show. The size of the gym made the actors’ microphones echo, and, more often than not, the actors didn’t speak slowly enough for their words to be clear.

In the future, we can only hope that Existere can be put on for smaller audiences in a more intimate setting, like back in Grant Hall, where it’s been successful for years past.


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