Editor’s note: Blake Anderson is an arts editor at the Daily. This article is a special feature for the Daily's Commencement edition that does not represent the Daily's standard journalistic practices.
Seven seniors were caught in a “witch hunt” on April 28 in The Institute’s production of “The Crucical.” As the members of The Institute accused one another of witchcraft, their group became embroiled in persecution during this 90-minute musical.
Originally formed in 2007, The Institute is Tufts’ only audition-based sketch comedy group made up of actors, writers and filmmakers who are bonded by their shared love of humor and satire. The ‘Tute puts on three shows a semester — a collection of live and video sketches — and goes out in a blaze of glory, writing and producing a musical as their sixth and final show of the year.
In this year’s musical, each member shone with their own unique skills and inside jokes used to depict the character they played on stage. The ’Tute and ensemble worked fluidly as a team, seamlessly moving in and out of characters and songs, but the night’s performance was specifically a time for the seniors to showcase their talents and devotion for the community that the ’Tute has provided them.
As the four senior writers of the ’Tute, Blake Anderson, Max Behrendt, Duncan Kirstein and Zach Lowenstein were some of the brains behind the production.
Anderson initially joined the group looking for “a tight-knit group of friends” but has found something more within comedy.
“Comedy is such a versatile skill to have,” Anderson said. “You can really connect with someone through humor and knowing how to do that is a really awesome skill. … I wouldn’t trade the sense of comedic impulse that I’ve gained from the group for anything."
While writing the musical began with the group riffing off one another and trying to make each other laugh, the political satire is clear throughout the show.
“We get to have a little bit of commentary about what it means to have a witch hunt,” Anderson said.
As the head writer of The Institute, Behrendt is responsible for organizing the writing and pitch meetings.
“It’s made me feel a lot more comfortable and at home at Tufts,” Behrendt said. “It’s such a solid community that we’re actually working together at something we all enjoy and are also friends.”
Kirstein, although a writer, captivated the audience and delivered each of his lines with a sense of responsibility and pride.
“The Institute has a very unique bond between everyone that I haven’t experienced in other groups,” Kirstein said. “I think when The Institute succeeds at its highest level, it’s because we’re making each other laugh the hardest and having the most fun with each other.”
The friendships that these seniors have found through comedy shows how powerful and important The Institute is in making people laugh and creating interpersonal relationships.
Lowenstein is a music major at Tufts, and he flaunts his sketch comedy writing skills along with his music skills in “The Crucical.”
Lowenstein finds the dynamic and evolving group to have been a place where he can find continuity in comedy.
“I really like the thought process behind what goes into writing a successful joke, and I study our shows when they go up on YouTube,” Lowenstein said. “What did I think the audience was going to laugh at in this sketch and then what did they laugh at?”
Charlotte Magee is the current president of The Institute, working hard to run meetings, boost morale and be a “friendly face in a position of power” for anyone who needs it.
“I love to infuse physical elements into comedy wherever I can,” Magee said. “It’s one thing to say a joke, … but if you can really infuse it in your entire body … I think that’s going to take the comedy a lot further than just being able to deliver a line.”
Magee’s stage presence in “The Crucical” created comfort for not just the actors who she’s grown to know and love, but the audience who can sense her compassionate inclination.
The Institute isn’t just a group of students who write and perform comedy sketches. The group also consists of filmmakers who bring this written work to life. Ben Bortner studies film and media studies at Tufts and is the current producer of The Institute.
Bortner offered some insight into his filmic process.
“I like to go through the script … and sort of draw what I think things would look like,” Bortner said. “More recently, I’ve tried to do cooler lighting setups.”
Jamie Boots is another senior filmmaker for the ’Tute studying film and media studies. Boots notably finds inspiration in his peers.
“Hanging out at The Institute, I get a lot of ideas because we’re constantly doing bits for each other to entertain each other, and then a lot of times that turns into a joke,” Boots said.
Bortner and Boots’ commentary gave an invaluable look at the group’s filmmaking process, and once again proved that the ’Tute is a place for individuals to grow their talents, advance their ambitions and find a community at Tufts.
While The Institute seniors are saying farewell to their collegiate comedy careers, there is no doubt that their legacy will shine through future ’Tute shows. In such a close-knit group, The Institute’s internal dynamic will always include a manifestation of the past, and a genuine love that these seniors have for each other.