The oldest all–male musical comedy group in the nation is backed up by one of campus’ best bands.
You sit down, the lights go down and the cast starts to boogie down. The music starts, the show is starting and you’ve already started feeling jovial as the antics onstage play out. Generally speaking, this is how Mask and Wig shows proceed, of course with helpings of cross–dressing, tap–dancing and a level of overall raunchiness that might make your grandmother cringe.
However, the cast cannot exist without the Mask and Wig band, perhaps one of the best bands on campus, known in particular for its creative covers and annual antics at Fling. Of course, life resembles something of a constant struggle for its bandmembers, who must balance several hours of practice per night throughout the semester before each show. On the eve of those shows, life gets even more hectic, as the whole troupe comes together to put everything into action.
Beginning with auditions, the band must be very particular. Every year, different spots become available, so many musicians often have to be turned down simply because there aren’t any free spots. Auditions may be tough, but life gets even tougher afterwards, as the entire troupe gears into production mode until the fall show premiere.
The job of the Band also includes arranging popular pieces by hand and crafting certain pieces from scratch. Before the process begins for any show, the Band comes together and brainstorms a list of 20–some songs to play during the scene changes and band–centric sessions, ranging in variety from the ever–popular “Hey Arnold!” theme to band–leader Greg Oliveras’s favorite, “Knights of Cydonia” by Muse. Once the band narrows the list a little, they assign arrangements to every member. Each member must then head home and work on an arrangement for the whole band, using their own knowledge and computer programs to come up with pieces. Oliveras explained that the band arranges most pieces themselves; very rarely do they order music online. Next the pieces go to rehearsal — if someone finds errors in a piece, then the band either fixes it there, or just asks the composer to fix it at home. Finally, the year’s designated “Music Man” has to keep track of the music: from new arrangements to old hits, all pieces should be ready for any given show.
Rehearsals only happen more frequently as the show heads towards opening night. Not only does the band arrange its popular tunes, it also writes certain parts of the show, including the tap numbers for every performance. Oliveras had to write the tap for tonight’s show; surprisingly enough, he didn’t finish until this past Saturday. Even with all of these commitments in–band, all of the members try to maintain “Band 4.0” and “Band Fit.0,” their code for good academics and healthy bodies.
Despite all this devotion, most of the band doesn’t study music. In fact, aside from Oliveras himself, few seem to be seriously considering careers in music. Oliveras is concentrating in Marketing and minoring in Music, but doesn’t find his Whartonite career options enticing. Rather than head into consulting or banking, Oliveras wants to go into music professionally, using his connections and skills to make it as something more than just the Wig Band’s leader. Considering Wig’s strong alumni network and Oliveras’s devotion to the band, maybe he can.
Though their goals may be disparate, the band stays together as a brotherhood, ready to play and practice when faced with the stress of the ever–approaching deadline. And when it’s over? Expect highballs and joviality.
1888 - The Mask and Wig Club is founded by Clayton Fotterall McMichael
1889 – “Lurline,” the Club’s first ever production, debuts for one night at Chestnut Street Opera House
1894 – An old Lutheran Church at 310 S. Quince St. is remodeled into the Mask and Wig Clubhouse, designed by architect Wilson Eyre and decorated by artist Maxfield Parrish
1908 – Thanks to an endowment from Mask and Wig alumni, a section of the Quad dormitory is named after the club
1952 – Mask and Wig appears (for the first of four times) on “The Ed Sullivan Show”
1999 – Mask and Wig establishes the intercollegiate “Comedy Festival,” which has brought comedians like Stephen Colbert, Gilbert Gottfried and Keenan Thompson to campus.
2008 – Fire breaks out in the clubhouse, but nothing historically important is ruined
2012 – “A Reptile Dysfunction,” Mask and Wig’s 123rd Spring production, is performed on an annual cross–country tour
Tonight – Wig’s latest show, “Tights, Camera, Action!”