On Botany Pond

RevelsTake the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, hand it to the troupe of faculty, staff members, and others from the local community who write, stage, and perform the annual confection of comic scenes and musical parodies known as the Revels, and what do you get? A story line—cowritten by Andy Austin, Sara Paretsky, AM’69, MBA’77, PhD’77, and Will C. White, AB’05—that gives grown-ups a chance to masquerade as pond nymphs, turtles, pirates, and College students.

I quote from the program notes: “…the Revelers travel on the Beadle to the Galapagos, seeking to procure the mitochondrial fluids of an ancient turtle. Professor Codswollop and his brilliant teaching assistant have discovered that these turtle fluids, combined with Gunk from Botany Pond, will create an elixir eliminating the need for Botox, plastic surgery, and exercise. They must, however, beat the evil Big Pharm CEO Stacy Starkweather, who is after the same turtle and (horrors!) has plans to then drain Botany Pond! A beautiful French student and some trans-species mutation complicate the plot.”

The January 30–31 show was the last for Michael and Lee Behnke, who revived the Revels a decade ago. This June the Behnkes (he’s vice president for College enrollment; she’s director of the undergraduate Latin program in classics) return to their native New England. Gunk was dedicated to them, and with reason: Lee produced (Howard Timms directed) and Michael played himself, a.k.a. Il Doce, patter-singing admissions-related lyrics, written by Hyde Parker Ted C. Fishman, to the tune of “The Major-General Song” from The Pirates of Penzance:

I am the cheery fellow who lures students so that they’ll enroll
I’ve information rational, emotional, commerci’al
I co-urt high school couns’lors, and I woo their scho-ols’ honor roll
From Baltimore to Baraboo, I scout for kids cajole-able…

Another star turn came when Paretsky, as Stacy Starkweather, unleashed her inner diva, bringing down the house with her shopaholic’s lyrics to the “Vissi d’arte” aria from Tosca:

Vissi Prada, vissi Armani
I only did evil so I could buy clothes
Vissi Bulgari, vissi Manolo Blahnik

Sempre, with a faith sincere,
I shopped in Milan and the rue Saint-Honoré…

And, in a cameo role also cast to type, English professor emeritus David Bevington wandered happily amidst a bevy of text-messaging undergrads, occasionally looking up from his book (horrors!) to offer commentary straight from the Bard:

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”


Photos courtesy of humanities lecturer Emmanuelle Bonnafoux.

The Revels, from top to bottom: Michael Behnke is the very model of "A Very Modern U of Enrollment General"; French-exchange student Emma (played by Sara Stern, left) temporarily foils the evil Stacy Starkweather (Sara Paretsky) by sending her on a shopping trip; Emma, TA Tripalong (Trip Driscoll), and Professor Codswollop's students belt out a song.

February 6, 2009