Oberlin Blogs

Glee comes to Oberlin!

January 12, 2010

Tess Yanisch ’13


Five Glee cast members


Oberlin Conservatory of Music
Note: these images used entirely for fun and without permission. I'm probably not supposed to use them at all, much less in combination. Oh well.

Hold everything! This week's blog is not going to be about bathroom graffiti after all. It's going to be about musical theater--or musical television, I suppose. What prompted this change in subject? I recently watched all thirteen episodes of Glee with my family.

For those of you who don't know, Glee is an enormously popular new TV show about a high school glee club (a musical group) that combines sitcom humor with a soap-opera-esque plot and frequent musical numbers. Apparently it's an especially huge hit in New York, with Broadway stars gathering to watch it after their own shows. It's not great art--the characters are a little inconsistent and the plot is a tad bizarre--but it's fun, and the songs and dancing are pretty impressive. However, in the show, the members of this glee club are (mostly) treated as weirdo outcast losers by the rest of the students at William McKinley High School, despite their amazing talents. To make matters worse, funding for the club is in jeopardy, or at least it was for the first few shows. So our plucky band of misfits sets out to prove their worth by winning a series of glee club competitions. As of now, they've won sectionals, the first step towards the national competition.

So, you might be asking, what on Earth does this have to do with Oberlin? Bear with me for one more paragraph . . .

William McKinley High School is located in the town of Lima, Ohio, which apparently isn't a very desirable place--the insult "Lima loser" is used a few times in the show. One of the main characters, Finn, discusses how he hopes to get either a football or musical scholarship to college in order to expand his horizons. Lima is, after all, in the middle of Nowhere County, Ohio . . .

. . . Wait, Ohio?

That means that there's an excellent college--and conservatory--located only a few hours' drive away from Lima. (According to Yahoo Answers, it only takes about four hours to drive across the whole state.) Suppose that Oberlin heard about a group of very talented young singers who won a local competition? And suppose that they invited this group to come tour the college, meet some voice majors, get some advice? What an opportunity for the kids! What a chance for Obies to strut their stuff! And who knows, maybe some of the glee club members would be inspired to apply for admission to the Con!

It's a good idea in the storyline: a real adventure for the characters and an affirmation or realization that this singing thing could be worth looking into seriously. It's also a good idea in real life: the show's producers get to expand their scope and Oberlin gets free publicity to its ideal target audience of smart, artsy teenagers. It'd also mean interaction between the writers, actors, director, producer and other television personnel and enthusiastic voice/theater/cinema/writing majors. Inspiration and ideas would be flowing in both directions and students would be making vital connections that could help launch their careers just as much as Oberlin could help launch the characters'.

So here's my proposition. Oberlin has a lot of alumni in the entertainment business--a lot. Some examples: Jim Burrows was/is involved in producing and directing Cheers, Taxi, Friends, Will and Grace, and Big Bang Theory, among others. Ed Helms plays Andy Bernard in The Office. Julie Taymor directed the Broadway musical of The Lion King. And, if the movies haven't steered me wrong, everybody in the entertainment industry knows everybody else, or at least pretends they do. Why not use this formidable alumni network to push some ideas towards the writers and producers of Glee? Mention it to a friend over dinner--shoot an e-mail off later--touch on the feasibility during a phone call--it wouldn't be that hard. Once the idea started circulating, it'd take on a life of its own.

It isn't just alumni who have connections, either; students here know people who know people as well. If those parental and internship-related networks were also utilized, I think we'd have a serious chance of making this happen.

Of course, I'm not sure what the story would be once the characters got here, but I have a few ideas. Maybe they come because one or two people have already decided to audition for the conservatory, and that would be the focus of the episode. (Note: I don't know what grades people are supposed to be in, so don't flame me if this is impossible!) Maybe the regional tournament--the next stage in the competition--turns out to be held at Oberlin. Or maybe they all just bus out to see their teacher's girlfriend's cousin's senior recital. Perhaps theater majors could play minor characters. Possibly part of a real Oberlin performance could get into the show.

But Oberlin wouldn't have to be the focus. It's a great place for all sorts of complications to develop. What if Finn and Rachel have a long, romantic walk in the Arb, or someone pushes Sue Sylvester off the top of the Observatory (I'd do it), or Quinn gets startled by an albino squirrel and goes into premature labor!? (Just kidding.) (Maybe.)

Got any brilliant ideas? Post your plot outlines, useful contacts, or other comments below! Let's do this!

Oh, and I have to add: this whole thing was originally my mom's idea. The credit, or blame, is all hers.

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