Friday, July 24, 2009

Charlie Who?

In January of 1950, a group of male Brandeis students living in the former Smith Hall—a converted military barracks—came up with the idea of organizing a variety show, something akin to a "semi-satirical, semi-entertaining all-male revue." The group, known as Hi Charlie, was founded that spring and held its first production on May 13, 1950. Called simply, "Hi Charlie: A Musical Revue," the program was directed by Jay Aronson, ’52 and held in Nathan Seifer Hall, an auditorium in Ford Hall. Included were a series of dance numbers and satirical skits with names such as "Administration Tsooris," "A Nite at the Arena," and "Quiet, Please." The inaugural production was a resounding success and inspired a new annual tradition at Brandeis.

In its second year, "Hi Charlie" moved from the "curtainless and almost stageless" Seifer Hall to Hovey Hall in Waltham. For one memorable ditty, the all-male cast dressed in drag and danced the can-can (as seen here), a performance that, according to The Justice, included "several well-placed 'bumps' and 'grinds.'"

In recognizing the limits of an all-male revue, Hi Charlie became co-ed in its third season and transformed into a full-scale musical comedy troupe with productions written, directed, acted, and staffed by Brandeis students. Performances returned to the campus in 1954 and were held at the outdoor Ullman Amphitheater. Three years later, the Hi Charlie Alumni Association was founded with the goal of perpetuating and expanding the ideals of the organization. By the time Hi Charlie folded after the 1969/70 school year, the association had a full technical staff including a producer, assistant producer, technical director and musical director.

description by Karen Adler Abramson, Associate Director for University Archives & Special Collections

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