“The show is about to begin, the show is about to begin. Please take your seats, we’re about to get started,” the woman’s voice announced, officially kicking off the 2020 version of Harvard Business School’s “HBS Show.”
“Where’s all my tech sistas? Gimme that cash flow, fin’ sistas,” a woman donning Harvard garb sings.
“Consulting mistas. PE sistas. Founder mistas. Engineer sistas. Daddy mistas. MomBA sistas. Jointee mistas. Veteran sistas,” a chorus jumps in on their parody of “Lady Marmalade” from the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack.
RESPONDING TO COVID WITH AN ONLINE SHOW
The coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to hold the annual follies in HBS’ auditorium, so MBAs moved the annual production — titled “007: From Allston With Love” — to YouTube using the Zoom platform. After Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker prohibited gatherings of more than 10 individuals in the state last month, prompting Harvard to close its campus in Cambridge, more than 70 actors, dancers, choreographers, writers, and production staff scrambled to make sure the show went on in spite of the pandemic. The cast and crew worked vigorously to film and produce about a dozen music videos to sprinkle throughout the two-hour live production which aired April 15.
“People really wanted to not cancel something. We had all just received a bunch of emails canceling events and there was a strong feeling of let’s just not cancel this,” says Jeff Boyar, a Harvard MBA set to graduate this spring and Head Writer of this year’s show. After spring break, at the end of March, Boyar says the entire cast and crew met to discuss what to do. The ideas ranged from canceling it entirely to trying to have groups gather in different rooms and buildings to watch it somewhat together. They then took a poll. “The majority said they wanted to put something together and try it,” Boyar says.
So the show went on. The actors performe their roles from their own shelter-in-place locales. “In general we were able to include all of the actors and all of the dancers and I think everyone felt good about it,” Boyar says, adding they were forced to cut out a few musical numbers.
‘SHAKESPEARE THROUGH ZOOM’
Harvard isn’t the only B-school to move annual traditions online. Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School held a lean version of its annual Shakespeare festival online and aired it on Facebook live today (April 16). Normally an hourslong event, this year the school paired it down to about 20 minutes. This year featured a shortened version of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet.
“We want to carry on business as usual. We’re carrying on with whatever we can by going online so we thought, why not put the Shakespeare event online,” reasons Olin Business School Dean Mark Taylor
This is the fourth year the school had hosted the Shakespeare at Olin festival, which Taylor started when he took over as dean.
MAINTAINING COMMUNITY IN A SOCIALLY-DISTANCED WORLD
Both Boyar and Taylor spoke about the importance these events have on the communities of their schools — and why community is so important now when much of the country and world are now practicing stay-at-home and social distancing. “The school always looks forward to it,” Boyar says of the HBS Show. “This year it’s taken a much bigger role.”