Follies Unmasked

The term “follies” refers not only to making careless mistakes, as many have been known to do at the Follies after-party, but also to a classic brand of colorful, lively, musical variety shows.
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By Kelsey Keech


“That should be a sketch!”

“It was crazy last year. I got really drunk.”

“My favorite SIPA event, bar none.”

SIPA Follies will soon be upon us, and while second-years are psyched, first-years and international students react with ignorant bemusement when the subject comes up.

So, what is Follies?

SIPA Follies is an once-a-year comedy extravaganza featuring song, dance, video, and live sketches, with all the star power and sex appeal that SIPA has to offer. The show brings together students from all walks of SIPA life to amuse, entertain and poke fun at themselves, the SIPA admins, and the whole world of international affairs.

Last year’s show featured crowd favorites “Mario vs. SIPA” (a short film about Mario’s quest to catch up with Princess Peach in the IAB) and “SIPA State of Mind,” (a live cover of Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind), as well “SIPA News,” an annual Follies tradition similar to SNL’s “Weekend Update.”

 The term “follies” refers not only to making careless mistakes, as many have been known to do at the Follies afterparty, but also to a classic brand of colorful, lively, musical variety shows. It goes all the way back to the Folies Bergère, a Parisian cabaret music hall built in 1869 that housed concerts, comedic operas and gymnastics displays before moving on to more risqué material in the early 20th century.

The idea was imported to the U.S. in the 1900s as “Ziegfeld Follies,” a series of Broadway vaudeville-style productions featuring popular entertainers of the time as well as Ziegfeld’s famous showgirls, advertised as “the most beautiful women in the world.” The show took off, launching the careers of its stars and quickly becoming the annual centerpiece of the Broadway season. The show transformed the concept of the Broadway Musical, inspiring several films as well as the 1971 musical “Follies.” Now, the term is used loosely to apply to a variety of comedic, musical and theatrical productions.

SIPA isn’t the only graduate school to host a Follies production—the concept is especially popular among business and law schools. Columbia Business SchoolWharton, Sloan, Booth and many more all have their own shows. Among policy schools, Fletcher appears to have some sort of Follies production as well (an unscientific YouTube search yielded one result), but Harvard Kennedy School, the Woodrow Wilson School, Georgetown School of Foreign Service, and George Washington University’s Elliott School are either all lacking in the Follies department or skilled at hiding the online evidence.

SIPA’s show is written and performed entirely by SIPA students, for SIPA students. The Follies “Mismanagers” (full disclosure: the author is one) take care of orchestrating the event, managing logistics, recruiting writers and actors, writing and editing scripts, and performing.

Many long meetings are spent debating such topics as “How many poop jokes is too many poop jokes?” “What is the proper ratio of beer to audience members?” and “Are we spending enough time making fun of the Deans?” While Mismanagers put in late nights and creative energy that might be put to good use searching for jobs, the final product is well-worth the effort. Expect a  show filled with music, snark, and plenty of cross-dressing. The theme this year is “Fly SIPAair,” so prepare for some good old-fashioned airline humor and in-flight entertainment that rivals the likes of top-notch airlines like Emirates and Virgin.

There will be two shows on Saturday, April 20th, at 7 p.m. and at 10 p.m. Tickets are $35 and go on sale at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9th on the fourth floor of SIPA. Some sketches and videos will be too crass to post online after the show, so be sure to get in line early!


This article first appeared in the April 9th, 2013 print edition of The Morningside Post.


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