Midd clubs get creative to bridge the geographic gap

By Rachel Lu

Middlebury Discount Comedy most recently performed “MDC on Ice” in Hepburn Zoo on Feb. 27-28. The sketch comedy group began planning for its final show of the year before in-person classes were suspended; this performance may now take place over Zoom.

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, President Laurie Patton signed off her college-wide email with Middlebury Discount Comedy’s rendition of “Imagine,” urging the community to use imagination and support each other while off campus. Embodying the message, student clubs have continued to function as creative outlets and community spaces amid the Covid-19 crisis. To some clubs, the unexpected halt is a great challenge and disappointment, especially since the spring is typically a time of celebration; for others, it’s allowed for innovation and new perspective.

Middlebury Discount Comedy, a sketch comedy club, was pleasantly surprised by Patton’s shout out in her email. Their original intent was to satirize the viral video of celebrities singing “Imagine,” as the group champions humor and a good laugh. Before leaving campus, they were beginning to write for their final show of the year, a performance which may now happen on Zoom.

President of the club Will Koch ’21, is pleased that the tight-knit group is able to communicate and laugh virtually but admits that the energy of creating collectively is lost when the group cannot be together.

“The unique part of the group is that we all love to create, but we create the majority of our stuff together. In that respect it’s tough to be apart right now, but we still maintain our banter within the group despite the distance,” said Koch.

The group is looking forward to their return and future shows. For now, they will be active on social media, where fans can still engage with their content.

An all-male a cappella group, The Dissipated Eight, is working on an album recording to keep motivated. The group had to cancel its spring break trip and concerts for the remainder of the semester, which were all fundraising efforts for the album. However, having budgeted wisely in the past, the group still plans to record its album at Two Visions Studio later in May.

The Dissipated Eight, an all-male a cappella group, continues to make music remotely. It held solo auditions for Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) during a Zoom rehearsal — Michael Frank ’20.5 got the part.

Eli Abbasi ’20, president of The Dissipated Eight, said that the creative vibe is different when making music remotely, especially because rehearsals are self-taught and solo auditions will take place via Zoom. Nevertheless, Abbasi is confident in the group.

“The bond of this group is that we hold each other accountable and we can put things like this in perspective. That’s a testament to the bond we created at Middlebury and while touring,” Abbasi said. As a senior, he’ll be leaving the group for good this year, but said the album is keeping all the group’s members from being too sad about missing out on its final concert and saying a real goodbye.

Members of Radical Asians (RAISINS) are seeking alternative ways to connect with each other as they navigate a novel political environment brought on by the crisis. RAISINS is a non-institutionalized Asian and Asian American student collective, together with a network of Asian professors, that raises political consciousness for their racial experiences with a focus on community building.

The club has shifted into a book club format. Co-presidents Jasmine Chau ’21 and Anton Gallegos ’21 were inspired by an ethnic literature class and took book recommendations from professors.

“Personally, I find it really hard to not have a space like RAISINS. It’s definitely hard to talk about [Covid-19] with my parents because I’m not sure if they really understand what’s happening in the world,” Chau said. “They express concern differently, so I really miss those RAISINS conversations where we can share without feeling like we won’t be understood.” With the rising racial tension surrounding Covid-19, literature is a way for the club members to talk about their experiences, particularly those who are struggling with feelings of not fitting in with the current political landscape.

“This crisis really brings out the foundation for Asian resentment and yellow peril,” said Gallegos. “The perception of foreignness mixed with being seen as a danger is similar to Asians being seen as bringing in the coronavirus. It’s also amazing to see people navigating towards building grassroot support for Asians, which I have not seen before.”

GlobeMed has also shifted focus for the semester, making its meetings more optional and infrequent than before. GlobeMed at Middlebury is a chapter of a national organization that focuses on public health issues for marginalized groups. The club had to cancel fundraisers for its partner organization in Rwanda and re-evaluated the schedule of its weekly meetings due to the sensitivity of Covid-19.

In a survey conducted by the club’s leadership, members expressed strong interest in meeting over Zoom and sharing webinars and articles.

“We know it would be a burden for us to talk about global health now as it affects everyone,” said Ansley Harralson ’20.5, co-president of GlobeMed. We decided that we would create a separate group for an opt in process. This is a way to support people’s needs and reevaluate commitment.”

Members discussed Covid-19 at meetings before it escalated in the U.S. and kept awareness of the interconnectivity of public health issues. The constructive framework of the club in addressing the seriousness of every issue has prepared them to talk about Covid-19 in a strikingly similar manner.

Co-president Margaret Maxwell ’20 shared that the club now talks about the U.S healthcare system more than it had before. They are actively in touch with their partner organization in Rwanda, who have tailors making masks, and it appears that they have the crisis better controlled than the U.S.

Across the collegiate community, many debate tournaments have migrated online. Justin Cooper ‘20, president of the Middlebury Debate Club, had to cancel a tournament at Middlebury and a chance to compete at the Pan-American Universities Debate Championship in Curaçao. The team will resume practices virtually via Zoom, and other debate tournaments are held over online platforms such as Discord and Minecraft.

“The team has stayed largely connected through the last couple of weeks, doing group calls and staying in touch to support each other,” said Cooper. “It’s really great to see everybody making a real effort to stay connected and in touch with each other in times like these.”