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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

What happened to faculty plays?

The faculty play was a time-honored tradition at the college for nearly 40 years. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette College Archives)

While Lafayette has several vibrant opportunities for students to involve themselves in theater, the Lafayette faculty used to performed their own play, too — one entirely written and designed by them. 

The idea for a faculty play first formed during a 1938 game of pool between former Professors Bill Watt and Bob Frank at the now-defunct Faculty Club, a dedicated recreational space for professors.

“The [club]house needed a new roof,” said former Chaplain Gary Miller, who previously acted in the plays. “So, they decided to put on a play to raise some money for that.”

And thus, the spoof setting of Lackawanna College — a small liberal arts institution located on a bluff in Weston, Pennsylvania — was born, and with it, a nearly 40-year run of biannual plays

Through the theatrical Lackawanna happenings, the faculty plays presented a satirical spin on events and controversies occurring at Lafayette.

The themes of the shows were parodies of Lafayette College situations, with names changed to protect the guilty,” former philosophy Professor Ralph Slaght, who also acted in the plays, wrote in an email.

During a period where computers were becoming more and more prevalent, the 1984 show “In the Chips” depicted a grade-marking machine that transformed into a computer that spied on students at bars.

Other shows made fun of Lafayette’s ambition to nationalize its reach, as well as trustee push-back to Lafayette’s transition into co-education.

“We really roasted the administration in those shows,” Miller said. “It took somebody with a little bit of hutzpah to write those scripts and to act.”

No one was safe from the play’s jabs.

“We had one show where they were talking about faculty members going on sabbatical,” Miller said. “There was a song called ‘Search for Research’ and some people came out with their tennis rackets and fishing rods and various sports equipment. It was clear that the faculty research was going to be recreational rather than educational.”

Show profits went to the William W. Eddy Scholarship, presented to a Lafayette senior seeking a career in college teaching.

Putting on the shows was a lot of work, requiring about two months of practice after script-writing. Faculty would often use previous scripts and modernize them to fit recent news.

“We made our sacrifices and, frankly, the most salient feature of the faculty show was its humor, not necessarily its professionalism,” Miller said. “We did the best we could with limited practice space and sometimes even limited talent, but it was meant to be a spoof.”

Ultimately, the work required led to the tradition dying out. The last faculty play was in 1986.

The shows stopped being produced because Lafayette students no longer planned to enter the college teaching profession and potential show participants no longer lived in or close to Easton, making rehearsal attendance difficult,” Slaght wrote.

“It was a lot of work to put them on, not so much for the actors, but to write the script,” Miller added. “It was really an awful lot of work to do put together a whole show even using the previous shows as a template.”

Thus, it was curtains for Lackawanna College, but its spirit remains alive and well in Lafayette lore. 

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About the Contributor
William Gutiérrez
William Gutiérrez, Staff Culture Writer
The Lafayette's diversity hire.

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