Got Talent? Faculty bubble, babble and serenade students

Ah, the talent show – that ancient and varied art form, where the many come together to create a collage of the best artistic achievements the community has to offer. In my past experience, talent shows usually translated into various choreographed dances to the Backstreet Boys and at least one baton routine. And so it was with great trepidation that I came to watch the faculty contributions in the “Williams’ Got Talent” show at the Winter Carnival opening ceremonies on Thursday night. Yes, this was no longer middle school, and no, it was not likely that anyone was going to don a pink leotard and unskillfully toss a metal stick around; however, the premise still left plenty of room for disaster. As far as we know, our professors spend all their time reading dizzyingly dense studies on postmodernism (that they will later, somewhat cruelly, assign), so the idea that they might do anything else is on par with the shock I encountered when I found out that my second-grade teacher actually didn’t hibernate under her desk during summer vacation.

Williams Outing Club czar Scott Lewis was the opening act. Taking the Winter Carnival theme more seriously than his peers, Lewis styled himself as “The Wizard Okay,” a character much like himself, only wearing a silly hat. The performance culminated with a predictable round of handstand push-ups , this time with balloons tied around his ankles, creating the illusion that they were lifting him upwards, like helium-filled capsules of joy that breathed new life into an otherwise tired routine.

Lewis was followed by Joe Cruz, professor of philosophy, who began with an introduction that, as it soon became clear, was intended as an act itself. Cruz used his erudite philosophy-speak to discuss the many complicated options presented by an invitation to perform in a talent show, throwing in great hits like “ipso facto” and “vis-à-vis.” I think the intended punchline was that to intellectualize such a pedestrian topic would be utterly ridiculous. Perhaps he’s right. Unfortunately, however, his act resembled at least half of my classes at the College, and thus felt a little too real.  Cruz eventually wrapped up the lecture with a bass solo, but by then I was too consumed by a gnawing doubt about the usefulness of my Division II major to pay much attention. 

Luckily, Director of Athletics Harry Sheehy was there to drown my petty existential worries in a sea of fluffy, heartwarming goodness. Sheehy called his ailing father and serenaded him, along with the Baxter Gall audience, with a Livingston Taylor song – the talent show equivalent of eating a warm cookie.

Next was The Transdichotomous Trio, which was neither a trio nor, I can say one Wikipedia entry later, transdichotomus. Made up of four faculty members with a better understanding of what that word means, the trio covered R.E.M.’s famously fast “The End of the World As We Know It.” Despite being dolled up in ski goggles and a pink feather boa, Brent Heeringa, professor of computer science, was still a tamer version of Michael Stipe. He was joined by vocal instructor Erin Casey on tambourine and backup vocals, Morgan McGuire, professor of computer science, on bass guitar, and, tucked away on the back corner of the stage, Jeanie Albrecht, professor of computer science, on an enormous tuba. The instrumentation was unconventional, the words were many, but the energy was high and the act got the positive response it deserved.
At this point, I didn’t think that there was anything that could top a tuba covering the alternative rock hits of decades past, but that was before the bubbles. In the most joyful use of mathematics that I have ever heard of or seen, the math department’s Professor Frank Morgan demonstrated his studies of soap bubbles. Morgan brought his project down to a level more appropriate for Winter Carnival, by which I mean that he danced exuberantly to the “Numa Numa” song while sending bubbles into the crowds.

Despite my reservations, Williams’ faculty actually succeeded in presenting the best-case scenario of a talent show. They managed to keep professionalism at a relative low, while filling Baxter Hall with bubbles and Moldovan pop music- and all without a baton in sight.