The pandemic has brought a lot of change to the Stanford campus, but you can’t say it totally killed the irreverent spirit that’s been characteristic of the Farm for so long. This week, Gaieties came back from its virtual hiatus. Over a century old, Gaieties (short for The Big Game Gaieties) is a flamboyant, often shocking musical theater event written by students and performed the week before the “Big Game” of football against Cal Berkeley.
It’s a veritable Stanford tradition, every Autumn quarter: inside jokes, original musical numbers, caricatures of campus groups, a drunken Friday-night audience screaming at the cast to make out with one another (and the cast obliging), the awkward but usually hilarious cameo appearance of Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, and above all, the denigration of all things Berkeley.
Don’t forget the “naked run.” It could happen at any moment - suddenly the lights dim, the cast freezes in place, the music comes on, and a flashing of strobe lights illuminate the stage as a crowd of student streakers run out in their birthday suits for a few chaotic, glorious moments. Then they dip back behind the curtains, and the show goes on - it must go on.
Gaieties is a Stanford affair, through and through. And it’s fantastic.
But in this pandemic year, with Stanford caught between wanting to appear conscious about the very serious, ongoing danger that COVID-19 poses to the 99% vaccinated twenty-somethings on campus, and wanting to get things back to normal, Gaieties is trying to strike a balance of fun and safety.
The Review has obtained and verified an email sent by one of the show’s producers, instructing prospective participants in the “naked run” on the proper etiquette au naturel. After telling the would-be streakers where they should report for disrobement before their big, bare moment on stage, the producer writes: “[Wear] whatever makes your [sic] comfortable: whether you're going full out or leaving a bit of room for imagination (bras and underwear), but keep in mind tis [sic] naked run, so…”
In other words: all clothing optional. Well, almost all clothing. There’s one exception.
“You're required to wear a face mask that covers both your nose and your mouth. You can wear more aesthetic masks on top of it. (be creative and make it fun!)”
I was pretty speechless when I read this—still am—but really didn't think that anyone would accede to such an absurd requirement as to be masked while otherwise totally nude... To my distress, I learned this morning from a source who stripped for opening night that nearly all those in the buff were also masked up.
It's disappointing, almost a violation of the iconoclastic esprit de corps that holds Gaieties together. If there is a lone establishment symbol, one sacred object in 2021 that is worthy of our most ruthless derision and mockery, it’s the masks! In a way, a gaggle of naked maskers do just that, albeit unintentionally; but I say that the covid hysterics have taken enough from us — don't let them take this moment of rebellion from you, too!
So, as a Stanford Senior, here is my advice to you bare-skinned bohemians getting ready to run tonight and Friday: if you’ve already dropped your undies in front of a thousand hollering classmates, you can drop the mask, too — I promise you won’t feel much more naked than you already are. At this point in your life, stopping the spread should be fourth or fifth on your list of things to be concerned about, if not lower. For now, just try to remember where you left your clothes backstage, don’t trip on anything (or anyone!), and make sure to smile for the audience. We want to see those pearly whites, not surgical blue!
Oh, and one more thing: Beat Cal!