BY EMMA RUBIN ’20
Junior Show, or J-Show, is a Mount Holyoke tradition that dates back to the early 20th century. Typical performances are entirely student-led and intertwine both comedy and student talent in a performance to both entertain the Mount Holyoke community and fundraise for the junior class. This year, however, the tradition was cancelled.
The Class Board of 2019 officially announced the decision on Feb. 13. “We were so excited to continue J-Show and to showcase our amazing, talented class,” the class board wrote in an email. “But after three nights of failed rehearsals, continuous cancellations, and the general disinterest from our class, we feel that we have no choice but to cancel the show.”
This year’s show was going to be a variety show, rather than a written production with a central theme, as had run previously. Last year’s show, for example, hosted by the class of 2018, had a “Mary Potter” theme and featured a magical title character who battled champions from UMass, Smith, Hampshire and Amherst to win the Sorcerer’s Cup for Mount Holyoke.
According to the Mount Holyoke archives, J-Show was originally hosted in December, starting in 1901. At that time, junior and senior classes each hosted their own variety shows, but in 1912 the Senior Show became the exclusive class-led dramatic production. For the next eight years, there was no Junior Show at all, but it was revived in 1920 for a November production which would continue as an annual event, eventually becoming a spring semester tradition.
The decision to cancel this year’s show came after a series of warnings from the class board. Applications opened for volunteers and performers for the show in October 2017, and on Feb. 8, the class board sent an email desperately pleading for volunteers, explaining that despite sending out polls and requests for participation, they “barely managed to garner any sort of response from the class.” The Feb. 8 email said that the 2019 class board began rehearsals for the show with a group of 14 performers, a number which continued to decrease over the course of the week. By Feb. 12, only four performers remained.
“We didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of getting up there and presenting J-Show as 20-30 minutes,” said Kiera McCabe ’19, president of the 2019 class board. “It would honestly be doing a disservice to the tradition.”
A Junior Show handbook, circa 1935 that was passed down from class year to class year until 1984, walked generations of show organizers through preparing for the production. In the “Dress Rehearsal” section, one author wrote, “this is the worst night you will ever go through if your dress rehearsal is of the usual sort.”
For McCabe, this statement was true. For two nights she sat from 6 p.m.-12 a.m. awaiting actors who had committed to perform acts as part of the production. Only two arrived. During the final rehearsal, about a week later, she waited another six hours, and only four acts showed up.
“To realize that so many people didn’t really care about our traditions and even more so didn’t care about their peers from the standpoint of already committing to that time... that was very disheartening,” she said.
McCabe noted high levels of overcommitment in the student body, large numbers of students away on study abroad and a general lack of interest from the class of 2019 as factors that contributed to the show’s cancellation. However, she also said that the apathy could represent a shift in tradition. “I know J-Show has been struggling for three years or so now,” she said.
Although J-Show did not happen, the class board of 2019 welcomed their sister class, the class of 1969 to campus on the day the show was supposed to take place. They accompanied the alumnae into the new dining commons and to the quilt exhibition currently in the Mount Holyoke Art Museum.
Stirling Mackie ’19 expressed disappointment that the tradition was cancelled. “I had been looking forward to this tradition since my first year,” she said, “I was really excited to see it, because I didn’t think I could really participate because I didn’t have a talent to showcase.”
Mackie commended the class board for their efforts in their efforts to continue the tradition. “I was very sad to hear about the lack of interest in this year’s production,” she said. “I wish very much that it had gone differently.”