The HBS Show is a cherished tradition at Harvard Business School. Twice a year, theater nerds among the student body congregate and perform two productions – the fall cabaret and the spring full-scale musical – designed to poke fun at ourselves and at our beloved institution. This year, the Cabaret team, headed by Spencer Dahl, Mimi Sheng Khan and Caroline Frisch, had a particularly unique experience producing a show that incorporates both remote and on-campus talent, remains compliant with the ever-changing Massachusetts COVID guidelines, and keeps students motivated during a crisis.

I did not expect to have the opportunity to continue my passion for the performing arts when I arrived at HBS. However, time and time again, I have been proven wrong. There are multiple performing organizations and opportunities on campus, including the HBS Show club, Heard on the Street a cappella group, HBS Got Talent, HBS Improv and Beyond Dance. For me, the arts provide a well-needed mental break from the stress of the world, a reset in between networking events and case readings, and a chance to geek out over Broadway and make lifelong friends.

The Cabaret, which premiered last week, gave us a chance to collaborate and adapt in an evolving environment. Our fearless leaders had to build out a safety plan with administration approval – including setting up an entire performance venue in an outdoor tent from scratch and coordinating the recording of the show to the cast members to later stream to the rest of the HBS community. Then, we had to deal with last-minute shakeups from both inside and outside our bubble, like the last-minute state requirement to wear masks outdoors at all times. We embraced these challenges with full-force, and they kept coming.

We were set to record on a Saturday, however two days prior one of our cast members self-isolated out of an abundance of caution after exposure to COVID-19. While the cast member fortunately did not test positive, the Cabaret team scrambled to fill her two numbers so that everyone else could still perform. My friend Natalie Riemer and I worked with Spencer, Mimi and Caroline until late into the night choreographing an entirely new dance routine. My friend Justin Kim patiently worked with me on Friday afternoon so we could nail a harmony in our new duet. The creative collaboration was exhilarating and motivating. We were working in crisis mode, coming together to “make it work” in whatever way possible. We created an environment where we could not judge anyone for throwing out a cooky idea because we did not have time to filter our own ideas. It was so rewarding to hear the laughs of our fellow castmates upon filming day, knowing that we were able to come together and produce something great.

We need the performing arts now more than ever. In some ways, performing is kind of a like a return to the level of play we experienced as children in the playground – we are allowed to take risks in an open and collaborative environment, without the fear of being mocked or laughed at. We are pushed to stretch a different muscle that helps us think more innovatively in other scenarios. And, as consumers, we are taken out of the world for a brief moment and allowed to laugh, to dream and to breathe. I am proud of the resiliency the HBS community showed during a difficult time to be able to come together and produce something truly special.

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Lori Ossip

Prior to HBS, Lori worked in Real Estate Investment and Asset Management in Toronto, and her side-hustle was performing in operas and musicals around the city. She interned at Boston Ballet this past summer.