Tag Archives: group bonding

Paper Plate Awards Ritual

“This is called the paper plate awards. For every [theater] show two seniors would get paper plates, and with sharpies, for every single member of the cast, they would get their own individual ‘paper plate award.’ So on a paper plate they would write, like, um, for me it would say ‘C, 2022 paper plate awards for The Sound of Music’ and then it would say, like, ‘best mistress’ or whatever. Like- like it would be a very specific award that has to do with, like, an inside joke about the show or something that has happened at rehearsals, or something about your character you’re playing, or a funny line you have, and they would do some type of variation on that turned into the name of an award. And it was important because every single person got their own award, and every single person’s award was very specific to them. Like, no one got a generic award, everyone felt included and like they had a thing that like, that was their show or their little specialty. So it was meant to make everyone feel close and like- even though it was a joke awards, it was all meant to show that like everyone has contributions to, not just like the talent of the show, but like the community that we are like forming.

And so it was always the dinner before opening night, um, that is when the two seniors would do the award show and just present it to everyone. Um, and they would just go down the list and be like ‘we’re presenting this paper plate award for blah blah blah to blah blah blah.’ Um, and by the time I was a senior, since me and this one other girl were the two seniors who had been there the longest, we got to be the ones to make the paper plate awards and hold the ceremony. So it was something I got to see from being like, eleven years old as like a little kid to then growing up and being like the eighteen-year-old who’s doing it and passing it on.”

C is a current student at the University of Southern California and grew up in Palm Desert, California. In addition to stating that it was the seniors who created the paper plate awards for everyone, C stated that the seniors got the role because they were in somewhat of a leadership role; having been there the longest also meant that the leading seniors knew the group the best. When asked what would happen if there were more than two seniors who had been there the longest, C described that they performed three shows a school year, so the seniors would be able to ‘trade off’ and each get a turn. C finished by saying she hopes to establish the paper plate awards tradition at some of her performance groups at USC because she feels it helps foster connection and belonging, even if someone is young or new to the group.

As C pointed out during our interview, the main purpose of this ritual seems to be strengthening communal bonds through the special acknowledgment of the value of each group member. The silly tone of the awards and their references to inside jokes from the rehearsal process harkens back to forms of workplace humor, where teasing and getting ‘in’ on a certain joke designates someone as part of a group. That the paper plate awards take place over a shared meal adds a further sense of connectedness. C’s comment towards the end also indicates that the paper plates awards are a particularly special time for the seniors; after having received paper plate awards for numerous performances, stepping into the role of creating the paper plate awards functions as a kind of rite of passage that acknowledges the seniors’ leadership role and experience. Depending on how advertised the tradition is throughout the rehearsal process, it seems as though a new group member’s first paper plate awards could function as a sort of rite of passage by giving an award that makes them feel seen, and therefore, ‘part of the group.’

Gloria III

It began when we had our party I really don’t remember the beginning – it was the Genderfuck party, yeah –  because I was on this thing called DOC. And I was tripping and kind of like in my own little world. I do know that around 2am, people started taking off their clothes and were showing their boobies everywhere and they were just dancing and I was like, “What!? What’s going on, this is amazing.”

So we kicked everyone out and we all went to the back yard and we were lying on this really old twin mattress and I don’t know how people fit, but like you had like 18 people up in there and I was like uh-uh, I am not getting up in all of that. And so from there, the bonfire was really nice, then we went to Rachel’s room and there it was kind of like…I don’t know…we were all kind of like on top of each other and I was still kinda tripping, so I was just like, “everybody just touch hands!”(laughs). And we were all touching hands and then like I would make jokes like, you know let’s play a game called who’s in my mouth. (laughs) So then like, we were all touching each other and we took it to my room and then we were on G’s bed and S came in with ice cream and we started passing the ice cream to each other via mouth, and then I took off my pants and I was in my Andrew Christian underwear and you know how that makes my package look – humongous! And so then we decided to watch a video and then me and G got on the couch on the two couches or whatever and were dancing naked – oh no, we weren’t naked, we had underwear.

And R was like, “we should all take a shower,” and nobody said anything, so I was like, “yeah, let’s do it.” And so then like, nobody moved, so I got up and people started finally moving, at least that’s how I remember it. And so then we decided to go take a shower up in the cave bathroom, which is huge. And we put on Lady Gaga, The Fame album, and we all just took a shower with each other – I kept my underwear on, mostly because I was like, “I’m tripping, I don’t know what could happen, if I drop the soap, I’ll be like, ‘oops.’” (laughs) – You know what I’m saying? It was great times. That’s a pretty quick run-through for Gloria III.


At this point, ‘Gloria’ is a tradition, or at least a practice within this group. I heard variations on this story as well. My informant as well as others, described the requirements for ‘Gloria’ to basically be some kind of group bonding where people felt comfortable with their bodies and the bodies of others and comfortable with sharing space. Basically, it was intimate, but not necessarily sexual. ‘Gloria’ was also supposed to be fun. Also, they tended to define events as ‘Glorias’ after the fact, not during. These events explore human intimacy, for which we all yearn deeply, but fear at the same time, namely because we are afraid of how others may perceive us, we feel uncomfortable with ourselves, and we feel vulnerable when we share too much. As non-serious as this event was, it is an example of a group of people beginning to overcoming hesitation, fear of intimacy, etc.