24 Apr 2020

The HBS Show Takes on New Meaning


As the saying goes, “the show must go on!” Those words took on a whole new meaning for the cast and crew of the annual HBS Show, which returned on Wednesday, April 15, for its 47th year, despite an ever-changing list of roadblocks and hurdles as a result of coronavirus pandemic. For MBA students, the Show has always been both a high point and a great way to showcase their hidden talents, which don’t normally get the chance to shine in an academic environment.

This year’s Show quickly became a much-needed distraction that many were looking for given the current home-bound restrictions. Even the show’s title, “007: From Allston with Love,” seemed to take on a whole new meaning and symbolize how many of the students were feeling.

In late February and early March, the information coming in about the coronavirus and guidance for social gatherings was changing almost every day. The number of people who could gather in one area kept getting smaller and smaller. As of Tuesday, March 10, there had been only one complete run through of the Show in Klarman Hall. That day, Harvard University informed students to not return to campus after spring break, which was the following week.

Following this news, over 100 cast and crew members gathered in Klarman Hall, the Show’s intended venue, to decide the Show’s fate. They had been working on it for several months but could no longer perform it live and in-person. After many discussions and a vote, it was ultimately decided that the show must go on.

“The cast and crew could have responded in a number of ways to the changing pandemic, but they were always thinking about how they could deliver the show, despite the ever-changing constraints,” said Mike Murphy, director, student activities, MBA Student and Academic Services. “This is a great example of the HBS Community at its best.”

“I’m grateful to the cast and crew who kept pushing, despite how difficult the situation was. It would have been easy to call it quits, but they persisted, and pushed me to persist too. It’s remarkable to create art and innovate in such dark and unprecedented times,” said HBS Show Director Ethan Karetsky (MBA 2020).

While on spring break, the Show’s leadership team got together to figure out exactly how they were going to pull this off. The cast and crew hit the ground running with only three weeks until curtain call. The original script, which called for a longer run time and included 15 musical and dance performances, had to be rewritten. The original live dance and musical performances had to be eliminated due to time, resources, and the new format, and the actors had to figure out how to portray their characters over a new technology platform, Zoom. Several of the 27 dancers and 11 band members, whose roles were eliminated, stepped into new roles to help support the success of the show.

“The HBS Show is always an amazing group effort, but this transition to a virtual show brought out some of the best teamwork I have seen,” said Head Writer Jeff Boyar (MBA 2020).

“What I’ll remember most was the team's unwavering belief in and love for each other and the show itself,” said Stage Manager and CFO Hunter Guarino (MBA 2020). “I'll never forget the feeling of being part of such a close show family, even though hardly any of us were in the same room.”

The new show included 10 pre-recorded music videos, some of which were incorporated hours before the show went live. The director and crew had the unrelenting task of figuring out the technology involved with livestreaming the show, and how to orchestrate and incorporate a cast that was spread around the world. With the help and support from staff members in the MBA program, HBS Online, and many others, the technology to support the live show got its last tweaks just hours before the show.

“The entire team rallied together to make this show possible, and I will forever remember this production for that. I’m grateful that we could come together as a Show community to provide levity to the entire HBS community,” added Karetsky, who also directed several of the music videos.

The virtual Show was performed in front of a live audience of viewers on more than 1,200 computers and devices. As of this article, the performance had been viewed over 8,000 times on YouTube.

“It was great to see the HBS Show take place despite not being performed live in Klarman Hall. This event is such a great way to continue to build community during these trying times,” says Madeline Meehan, who watched the live show. “The Show made me laugh, and I enjoyed the HBS spirit that shined throughout.”

If you were not able to watch the HBS Show live, it is available to watch on YouTube.

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