Spex! And a lot to say…

Remember when I told you about doing an audition in Swedish? Remember how I told you that even though it was really fun, I didn’t think I’d get chosen for the scene because, well it’s a little tough when you are just learning the language? Well here’s how it panned out: No, I didn’t get chosen for the scene (as expected). But what I didn’t realize is that what I was trying out for was a Spex (a sort of Burlesque musical comedy that involves copious amounts of overacting, physical humor, and horrendous stage makeup) and a Spex is so much more than just the scene. A spex is a crash-theater experience: for two weeks, the spex meets every evening and works into the late hours of the night to produce a completely student-run, student created piece of theater. The actors are students, the directors are students, the costumes are sown by students, the set pieces are built by students…there is even a committee that plan parties and games to keep the spex entertained during those two weeks and a committee that cooks dinner every night for those hard at work. In honor of my brother, who ran something like 16 mics at once for a show at NHHS, I decided to sign up for the technical crew, or teckniken.

So every night for the last week, I have been hanging out in the källaren (basement, with a rather nice stage) of the AF Borgen (the student castle) learning about plugs and soundboards (ljudbord) and lightboards (ljusbord) and amplifiers (slutsteg), eating dinner with the Spex, and enjoying the general burlesque atmosphere. Also, I force all of them to speak Swedish with me. And they are all so cool that they oblige (I learn so much from them every day!), even if it means that I can’t really program the light board too well…

Last night we had our first “temafest,” or themed Spex party, which includes a three-course meal, performances from each committee, and a dance floor. Every committee in the spex was given a different theme (this time a mix of a TV show and a country. For example: “Finland goes batman”). Never, never did I expected that Sweden would teach me to be so horrifically politically incorrect. My finely-tuned Berkeley political correctness sensors where on high alarm at first: themes like “North Korea goes ‘Cops’, ” “Saudi Arabia goes ‘Baywatch’ ” and “Germany goes ‘Sailor Moon’ ” made me cringe before they made me laugh. If those kinds of costumes appeared at a party in the States, I can only imagine the sort of uproar it would create. I can see it now: the lawsuits, the protests, the disbandment of the whole Spex….But in Sweden, the rest of the world seems a bit farther away. So many other nations were made fun of (not the least of which the USA, with all of our great TV shows) and it all came off as more good-natured fun…rather than racism, hatred, or insensitivity. It was weird.

Can I also mention too, the policy on Alcohol at these student parties? Recall the horrific, unjust ruling by UC Berkeley regarding suspension of the cycling team because a couple of 26-year-old grad students enjoyed a beer in the privacy of their own home and happened to be wearing Cal-cycling T-shirts at the same time. The Spex party served wine, beer, and hard alcohol all in moderate amounts (although I didn’t have any of it) and took place inside of a University building, the student castle. It seems so strange to me that the University here is well aware of students consuming alcohol on their property, especially in comparison to the strict policies we have back home.

But at the same time, no one at the Spex party got really ‘wasted’ drunk. No one turned violent. No one abused alcohol, and no one hurt themselves or another person because of drinking. It was safe, sweet, well-run, well-organized, and well-attended. And even though I personally choose not to drink alcohol, I still was able to have a great time. To me at least, this makes the policies we have about alcohol back home seem a bit like fear-mongering, and makes me wonder if there is a better way to handle the situation. If alcohol where not so much of a forbidden substance, would it be so widely abused by frat boys and the likes? I mean, Sweden still has a very strict policy towards alcohol (see: systembologet). But they allow students who are going to consume it regardless of policy consume it in a safe way—maybe they’ve hit on something here. Or maybe I just haven’t been to enough parties.

After dinner, teckniken and costume design (syet) were lined up to help with washing dishes, my to my delight. there is something supremely satisfying to me about washing the dishes after a huge banquet (just ask anyone who was at Special dinner at Sherman last semester). There is nothing quite like being in the kitchen, washing plates and scrubbing pots with a rag-tag group of swedish theater people.

There is a whole repertory of songs that every Swedish person seems to know, and they love to sing them together. At the dinner table, while playing games, while washing dishes… anytime they group together. So—those of you who thought I was CRAZY for singing the entire Les Mis soundtrack at the top of my lungs while doing dishes at Sherman—take back your accusations of insanity! It turns out there is an entire country of people just like me. In the kitchen, everyone sang Disney songs in Swedish, Bohemian Rhapsody, and of course ABBA at the top of their lungs. And before we knew it, the dishes were done. Even better was that I did not hear “Poker Face” once during the entire evening later on the dance floor. Instead, there was some silly techno stuff, some danish rap, and a lot of American rock and disco that culminated in everyone breaking out in synchronized choreography. It was like a musical, except for better because everyone was dancing as dorkily as I was.

At least I know I’m not alone on that one.

4 Responses to “Spex! And a lot to say…”

  1. KP Says:

    God bless this blog. Awesome.

  2. tornspira Says:

    God bless KP.

  3. Sabrina Says:

    Ahhh so cool!!

  4. Sabrina L Says:

    Pics Pics of crazy costumes and dancing please!
    Fantastic fun-maybe you should write a play ..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: