USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘theatre crew ritual’
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Gag Gifts Before Theater Productions

Abstract:

This piece is about traditions before the first production and the last production at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, California. It mainly focuses on gag gifts, but touches on the last show’s medley tradition as well.

Main Piece:

“B: Another thing we would do in theater, for the first performance we would do everyone would exchange gag gifts and you didn’t know who it was. The first couple of years we would try to do it with everyone, but it got really confusing because it was just so many people. And no one in the pit knew who was in the cast or tech because we just didn’t spend as much time with them and so then we just did it in the pit that was nicer because we knew everybody. And it’s always stuff like… like I got a bag of rice one year. And then the last year I actually got my boyfriend, and he hates snakes so I got him a ton of fake snakes and put them on his drum set. And then he hates tomatoes and beans so I bought like five cans of tomatoes and beans. And then on the last performance, you’re suppose to reveal yourself and give like a real gift.

C: You give a gift every performance?

B: No just the first one and the last one. Because we had like seven performances. And for the last performance, like the last piece, we would meld it and make a bunch of cuts in the music and make it one big piece. After everyone gets their claps, like at the end of the show, then everyone from the cast will come down and surround the pit. And then we will all be playing. And we make the cuts so it basically goes through every big song in the performance. And it’s cool because the cast is right there and singing into the pit.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old girl who attended Mira Costa High School for all four years and was extensively involved in the theater productions at her school as a musician in the orchestra. She has played music since she was young. She first learned of this tradition freshman year after her first performance with the theater club.

Analysis:

This reminds me of the game White Elephant that is often played at Christmas time, but mixed with Secret Santa. In White Elephant, you are suppose to get bad gifts so that when people open up the gifts they want to steal to get better gifts. However, the element of Secret Santa comes into play with the idea that there is only one person who has you to give gifts to. In both Secret Santa and White Elephant, and this theater tradition, I think the main purpose of the gift is to show a sense of care – even with the humor involved. When the informant talked about getting her boyfriend, it seemed that the gag gifts were funnier to both involved because they knew a lot about each other. These types of games can be played with close friends or family or in larger groups as well.

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