An Insider’s Look at Sing
By Charis Boylan
Senior professional writing major from Tyler
I was fourteen when I fell in love with Sing. My sister was dressed in a giant green-sequined suit when I first saw her perform in Tri Delt’s Sing act, Ease on Down the Road. I remember how ecstatic I felt as girls dressed as lions and tin men and “oompa loompas” pranced across the stage. Six years later, after joining a sorority myself, I was elected as one of four Sing chairs and spent a year and a half developing Chi Omega’s act Trespassin’.
The transition from an audience member to a performer was mind-boggling, and only those who participate understand all that Sing requires. The following is my attempt to shed light on the process that surrounds creating, practicing, and performing a Sing act:
Around New Year’s Day, a group of starry-eyed students known to their particular organizations as Sing chairs trek back into Waco. During the next week, billowing canvases are pinned to the cement floor in random parking garages and warehouses around campus. Someone kneels in the middle of the giant white space marking out a grid, and someone else follows behind meticulously painting in the squares until the canvas is full of color and life. The backdrop is done. The work of almost eight months planning is starting to come to fruition.
Sing practice starts only a week later. Someone stands in front of nearly 120 girls, saying eight counts out loud, manipulating her body in rigid, sharp dance moves, which everyone mimics as best they can. Girls are placed in rows and commanded to remain in their “window.” Someone proposes that everyone ought to look at the crown molding on the ceiling and pretend to make eye contact with the judges. Someone else starts yelling, “Lines!” and bodies align as best they can.
Two weeks later, the mass of girls sets out in winter chill, the tip tap of their character shoes on the sidewalk echoing behind as they shuffle excitedly through busy traffic toward Waco Hall. There the stage is dark except for a few dimly lit lights, and someone plugs in a speaker system, attaches an iPod, and begins to yell out counts. Eventually, everyone is in place, and the vacated seats in the auditorium seem filled with phantom-like images of the girls’ parents and grandparents, students and friends.
During the course of two different technical stage practices, girls learn how to unroll and hang the backdrop, and someone in a box far away from the stage is flicking on bright spotlights. Arm and legs flail as girls learn how to maneuver props into precise positions. While technicians rehearse lighting, girls lie on the stage whispering, read out of textbooks, or practice their choreography. After multiple dress rehearsals and practices, the girls can dance their parts even in their sleep. Campus is bubbling with rumored themes of the other groups, and every girl starts hoping hers will take first place.
Nothing is comparable to the absolute excitement that is Club Night. Everybody has jitters, aware they might make a fool of themselves on stage. One final performance in Roxy Grove, the stage adjacent to Waco Hall, leaves the girls a little more confident. After the songs finish, they circle up and join gloved hands, and the chaplain of the group is elected to pray. Once she says “Amen,” a girl with a boombox plays a pump-up song, and the girls carelessly dance out their nerves.
It’s tradition to tap the ceiling before entering the hallway to the stage, and when the metal door slides open, a mess of scrambling bodies and runaway props fall into place before a gently rising backdrop: kneeling, standing, mid-walk, mid-talk, staged to perfection. Even the most non-theatrical student suddenly turns diva, and a peculiar sort of hush falls over the stage. The large green curtain lifts slowly, and spotlights shine on singers and dancers alike. The man at the piano bench waves his hands at the band, and music and magic explode on stage.
Seven minutes pass until the curtain drops heavily again, this time shutting in a group of panting, sweating girls. The applause is drowned out once the curtain hits the ground, and everyone on stage leaps up from their finale positions and runs around again, shooing props off stage, ripping the backdrop off, stomping it flat and rolling it tight.
Ten days and eight shows later, the girls huddle outside of Roxy Grove. Bodies are crammed in every corner, and the air teems with excitement. After announcing the eight Pigskin finalists, whose groups are exuberant and cheering for one another, a man announces the third place winner. A group in one area ignites in screams and collapses on each other with hugs and laughter. He says the second place winner, and another area of costumed students erupts. And when the first place winner is announced, everyone explodes, and the group of obnoxiously ecstatic students scrambles to the front of the room and starts jumping and screaming. Once the excitement lessens, the students jammed into the music hall start to disperse, some excited, others dejected by loss, but all aware of the exhausting and magnificent effort that is All University Sing.