The history of J-Show at Mount Holyoke

Photo by Yingke Yang '20 Mount Holyoke's junior class has presented a J-Show every year since 1921.

Photo by Yingke Yang '20

Mount Holyoke's junior class has presented a J-Show every year since 1921.

BY FLORI NEEDLE '20

Junior Show, or J-Show, is a time-honored tradition at Mount Holyoke College. According to materials from the Mount Holyoke Archives, it began in April 1901 and continued intermittently until 1921, save for one show in 1919 that did not occur because of World War I. J-Show originally had a different name, and was once called the Junior Play and Junior Vaudeville. The title of Junior Show didn’t come about until 1910.

Despite the recent name change, the juniors passed the dramatic production over to the seniors in 1912 and it became known as Senior Show until 1920. The revival of Junior Show in 1921 began in the spring, and has continued as such ever since.

J-Show features an original, student-created play that is typically heavy on satire and comedy, sometimes mocking the president and deans of the college, as well as prominent professors. While typically performed by juniors, seniors have been known to take over the show on the second night.

Since it has become a junior year tradition, past classes have made efforts to help the classes of the future by creating journals containing tips and tricks to running a smooth J-Show and tackling any challenges head on. The journal was originally written by an unknown class but has since gained handwritten notes from subsequent classes. In one of the journals the class of 1949 wrote, “You’ll find yourself pretty much in a fog when you get this book…you’ll find loads of good suggestions in this book — many not so good but it’s a challenge and it’s fun.” It can often be difficult to find someone to direct the show. In that same journal, the class of 1950 wrote,  “it’s not always easy to get someone for the job!”

While Junior Show is typically a fun time, some productions have gone astray. Kathryn Patrick ’98 wrote a personal letter in the Mount Holyoke News in which she said, “My classmates and I would like to express our disappointment with the behavior of our fellow students on senior night of the Junior Show…we were particularly offended by the personal nature of some of the comments and jokes, as well as the throwing of dog biscuits on stage while the Francis Perkins students performed their skit.”

Cheryl Gittens ’99, a Francis Perkins Scholar, wrote about the same junior show and said, “On senior night, things got extremely crazy. I had never seen anything like it in my life before coming here to Mount Holyoke. I had never seen so much naked flesh all at once in one place. Yes, I had been an artist’s model for a number of years in New York, but still I had never seen anything like this.”

Class of 2018’s J-Show was directed and produced by Aayushi Mishra ’17. She said that she began writing the play in December and the actors were given the script over winter break. The class of 1968 assisted the juniors throughout the process with anecdotes and tips that they had thought of during their own production. Mishra said, “The hardest thing was having the seniors crash the show on Saturday evening. We had anticipated it and even had backup actors in case someone didn’t feel confident enough, but it was one of those things that we couldn’t really prepare for completely.” Despite the interruption, Mishra said, “It was evident how well the cast, crew and the junior class board worked as a unit because despite the interruptions, no one forgot their lines, [everyone] improvised well and the crew didn’t miss a single cue.”

Junior Show has been a time-honored tradition for over a century. It has evolved since the first performance in 1901 and brings comedy into the lives of Mount Holyoke students every spring.

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