From the raucous laughter of Orgo Night to the musical feast of Bacchanal, arts events are a mainstay of campus culture. Here's a primer on Columbia's arts traditions:
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest
Hosted by the Philolexian Society, this competition is held the week before Thanksgiving in the famed 309 Havemeyer Hall—the classroom in “Spider-Man 3” and “Mona Lisa Smile”—to determine the year’s worst poet.
Get all of your stress eating done in Barnard’s LeFrak Gymnasium the night before the first day of finals. An array of tasty breakfast treats is available to Barnard and Columbia students—though Barnardians are served first. Note: Midnight Breakfast coincides with Orgo Night, but you can make it to both events if you go to Midnight Breakfast immediately after the marching band wraps up its show.
Before heading to Midnight Breakfast, listen to the Columbia University Marching Band—the self-proclaimed “cleverest band in the world”—as it puts on a hybrid comedy show and concert in the middle of a packed, sweltering Butler 209 on the night before the notoriously difficult organic chemistry final.
Get your mind off of studying and hit up Roone Arledge Auditorium before finals in December for XMAS!, an annual student-created, holiday-themed—and often irreverent—musical. Last year’s writers referred to the production as the “junior varsity Varsity Show.”
Orchesis spring show
Each spring Roone Arledge Auditorium is home to the Orchesis spring show, in which Columbia's largest student-run dance troupe puts its talents on display. Casting everyone who auditions for the show, Orchesis produces a meaty program—last year’s included 15 numbers. The production often has a catchy (if irrelevant) name, like last spring’s “DumbledOrchesis.”
Athena Film Festival
For a week in February, lecture halls across campus are turned into screening rooms for Barnard's annual spring film festival celebrating women in leadership roles. Last year, heavy-hitters like Greta Gerwig, BC ’06, and Diablo Cody were in attendance, and there were screenings of the Oscar-nominated “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and the lauded documentary “The Invisible War.” It’s not all about watching, though—the festival always calls for student volunteers.
King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe Spring Show
KCST actors bring nomadic theater to Columbia every spring, when they put on their larger-than-life outdoor show. Last year, KCST brought audiences to nearly a dozen on-campus locations for its production of the little known but highly entertaining “Cymbeline.”
This unticketed concert held on Low Plaza, usually in April, has been host to acts such as Snoop Lion (when he was still Snoop Dogg), Macklemore, and Columbia’s own Vampire Weekend. The artist is kept under wraps by the Bacchanal committee until April 1.
Thanks to the Hindu Students Organization, Columbians gather to throw 1,500 pounds of powdered paint on each other in celebration of Holi, a Hindu festival that celebrates the onset of spring, right before Bacchanal.
Founded in 1894, Varsity Show is one of Columbia’s oldest traditions. (In fact, “Roar, Lion, Roar” is actually a repurposed version of a song written for the 1923 production.) At the end of the spring semester, a small group of undergrads who are so talented it will make you feel bad about yourself put on a full-scale musi-comedy lampooning life at Columbia.