Clothes-less Curtain Call

Collector: Are there any opening night traditions that you guys do in theatre?

Informant: Um, we had a closing night tradition at my high school. I went to an all girls high school and we would have to borrow boys from the boys’ schools to play the male roles in our shows. And on the last day of the performance, the crew, while they were taking the bow at the end, the costume crew would come and hide the boys’ clothes backstage.

Collector: Oh my. That’s funny!

Informant: Yeah, then they would have to, obviously, walk past all the girls ashamedly in their boxers. I always felt kind of bad about it, because I knew I would hate it if I was doing a show at a boys’ school and they did that, but… I mean it was a tradition!

Collector’s Notes: I think “hazing” would be a strong word for this, but it’s definitely an initiation tactic.  I think a lot of it has to do with gender roles and divides that exist between boys and girls, especially at the really liminal age that kids are at in high school.  These girls were accepting these boys into their community, and in order to make themselves more comfortable, they took the boys’ comfort away.  It also sort of makes light of the obvious tension that usually goes on around boys and girls when they’re involved in things like theatre where everyone is changing backstage and might accidentally catch a glimpse of someone else.  This makes those sorts of taboo situations easier to talk about and manage because it’s done with humor instead of seriousness.  And I think it may have been a way to show a little bit of dominance to the male visitors: Because girls are territorial when it comes to their school, and boys naturally try to take charge of situations that they’re put into.  The act of taking someone’s clothes in our culture is sort of bringing them to a baseline humility, and would make it clear that the girls were in charge.