C/O Kevin Patrick Robbins

MSU clubs that had to improvise during online school reflect on their first year back in person as they look forward to fall 2022 

Last September, many McMaster Students Union clubs restarted in-person meetings after a school year spent online. During the pandemic, some MSU clubs found it difficult to maintain their numbers and had unique challenges to work around because of the nature of online connections. 

With online school, Mac Improv did their best to continue the spirit of improvisation over Zoom calls and shows. Vice President of outreach and soon to be Co-President of Mac Improv, Dabeer Abdul-Azeez, spoke about how online meetings may have hindered improv, but also allowed the team to try new things using technology.  

“[We] held online practices still. They were held over Zoom, so it was very awkward because a lot of improv has to do with being onstage and body language. [It’s] very awkward when you're just sitting [and] the camera can only see so much of your person. But we tried, nonetheless, and still held practices,” said Abdul-Azeez. 

Despite the added challenges, Mac Improv still put on a few virtual shows during the year using new types of online games they wouldn’t usually get to use to improvise with such as Among Us. 

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“There were some digital games that we tried that we normally wouldn't have done in person. [We used] technology to help provide suggestions for the scenes or things like that,” said Abdul-Azeez.  

This year, Mac Improv was almost back to pre-COVID practices, with exceptions for McMaster’s COVID safety rules. After meeting together twice a week this school year, Mac Improv is working on putting together an in-person show on April 14 at the Westdale Theatre. 

Absolute Pitch, McMaster’s official show choir, also felt a hit to their club during online school. Unfortunately, their 2020 annual show was scheduled just one week after McMaster closed. Club President Haleigh Wallace expressed that having a year’s worth of work not end up on stage was frustrating, but that the club was able to adapt using individual recordings and mixing them together virtually. 

“Our vocal directors ended up getting really good at audio mixing and we all would sit alone in our rooms and record our own vocal lines and then they would all get mixed together so that we sounded like one in person choir,” said Wallace. 

Wallace also mentioned that there were fewer new faces during the online year, but is hopeful that with in-person meetings coming back, first-years will be excited to join new clubs. Their show this year, Retro Rewind, took place on April 3 in person live at Kenneth Taylor Hall. 

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“I think the two main things we're really excited about are hopefully an in-person clubs fest or some sort of similar event where we can recruit a lot more new members because our cast is very small this year,” said Wallace. 

The McMaster Musical Theatre opted to keep their show online this year. Carly Black, Vice President External of McMaster Musical Theatre, spoke about keeping members during their year online.  

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“Our plan and our hope was to be back in person . . . We got to go back into a few rehearsals in-person, but by that time, we lost so much rehearsal time already because of McMaster pushing back its opening day to February. It was just going to be so difficult to pull together the show when we lost so much time,” said Black. 

The Musical Theatre also saw a drop in students auditioning during the online school year similar to Mac Improv and Absolute Pitch. 

“I definitely think there were less people that auditioned when it was online. Just because, you know, lots of people want to do an in-person show. It's just very different online . . . [For] a lot of people, things changed in their lives during the pandemic. So, a lot of people just didn't do as many things [or] join as many clubs, which is completely understandable,” said Black. 

A consensus across clubs was that recruitment dropped significantly throughout the pandemic, as it was difficult to predict whether we would be online or in person or what the clubs would look like.  

However, with McMaster soon to drop mask mandates campus-wide, MSU clubs may look very different come this upcoming fall. Hopefully, more in-person engagement and connections are to come.  

C/O Kyle Head

Clubs reflect on the previous year and prepare for a new year as students are welcomed back on campus

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and conditions rapidly change, students have also been doing their best to adapt their extracurricular activities. Starting Sept. 9, 2021, McMaster Students Union clubs are to follow a new set of guidelines tailored to in-person events. 

Although in-person events are permitted, events are limited to 100 people outdoors or 25 people indoors. Students must always adhere to any physical distancing or room capacity limits as well. 

Following the same format as the year before, MSU Clubsfest took place online. For the virtual Clubsfest, MSU Clubs features a variety of clubs from the five divisions—academic, cultural, recreational, religious and social issues — across their social media. 

With over 300 clubs under the MSU, many clubs do not require students to gather in person. On the other hand, there are also clubs that operate heavily with in-person events. 

Absolute Pitch, McMaster’s show choir, is one such club. As a show choir, the club involves singing and dancing for live performances. This year, Hayleigh Wallace, Absolute Pitch’s president, said that all auditions and rehearsals will be done in person. 

However, the club will still be following all protocols and thus, the cast may be smaller than usual in order to abide by the 25 person gathering limit. 

For performances where the club can’t have a live audience, such as their annual coffee house performance in November, those will be recorded beforehand. 

Looking back on how the previous year went for the club when everyone had to be done online, Wallace said the club learned a lot about being flexible. 

“I think we also just learned a lot about flexibility and we’re going to try not to enforce really hard deadlines this year, or like, we need to have this number perfected by this day. We understand that it’s okay to be flexible,” said Wallace. 

“I think we also just learned a lot about flexibility and we’re going to try not to enforce really hard deadlines this year, or like, we need to have this number perfected by this day. We understand that it’s okay to be flexible.”

Hayleigh Wallace, Absolute Pitch President

Auditions for Absolute Pitch are being held Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 for both the vocal and dance cast. The club is also currently recruiting band members. 

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Similar to Absolute Pitch, the McMaster Musical Theatre is another club that bases its operations heavily on in-person gatherings. This year, the MMT will also be having their rehearsals in person and will be recording any performances that cannot have a live audience. 

Due to the fact that MMT’s cast and crew will likely be over the 25 person limit, Isabel Diavolitsis, MMT’s president, expressed that the club plans to split up the cast and crew for rehearsals in order to follow the protocols. 

Last year, with everything being done online, MMT asked club members to record individual videos of themselves reimagining and reenacting songs or scenes that they love. 

Although there were some challenges, Diavolitsis said the club was able to learn from the experience. 

“[There] definitely was a learning curve I'm sure like at the beginning of the year just sort of getting into it how are we going to do this and I’m sure lots of clubs had that sort of awakening. But then, after that, things started to run a bit more smoothly. I think folks have now learned that there are some things you can teach virtually which is kind of cool and maybe will reduce the amount of time we have to spend in person, especially if we want to keep limiting contact,” said Diavolitsis.

"I think folks have now learned that there are some things you can teach virtually which is kind of cool and maybe will reduce the amount of time we have to spend in person, especially if we want to keep limiting contact.”

Isabel Diavolitsis, Mcmaster Musical Theatre President

Mac One Act, a club that offers students the opportunity to participate in a variety of short plays, is also planning on incorporating in-person performances this year. 

Toluwalase Awonuga, president of Mac One Act, said that the club plans to do in-person plays, but will also have some virtual plays to allow those who can’t make it in person to join. 

Each play involves a group of typically no larger than six, so Awonuga believes the club should have no difficulty adhering to the COVID-19 protocols during rehearsals. 

The club is looking to include both virtual and in-person plays in their final showcase in the Winter semester. Awonuga expressed that their hope is to offer the showcase to a live audience, but also online as well. 

Currently, the club is reviewing scripts for their plays this year and auditions will begin at the end of October.

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Aside from performance-based clubs, other clubs such as the Mac Soup Kitchen, also involve in-person activities. 

Mac Soup Kitchen is a club that advocates food security, fundraises for various food accessibility programs and helps organize volunteers for local food banks and soup kitchens. 

Vanessa Wong, one of MSK’s co-presidents, said that last year, the club shifted from volunteering and fundraising to more advocacy-related activities. This included online events such as a games night and coordinating a virtual food drive. 

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“Asking students to provide monetary donations is kind of [something] we didn't feel like was the right thing to do, knowing that everyone was you know going through hardship last year, so we wanted to just shift our focus to spreading awareness of food insecurity,” said Wong. 

“Asking students to provide monetary donations is kind of [something] we didn't feel like was the right thing to do, knowing that everyone was you know going through hardship last year, so we wanted to just shift our focus to spreading awareness of food insecurity.”

Vanessa Wong, Mac Soup Kitchen Co-President

Arushi Wadhwa, MSK’s other co-president, said that a positive from last year was being able to reach out to a wide range of people through social media. However, conducting synchronous online events posed a challenge at times as the club is used to advertising for events on campus through posters or drop-ins to classrooms. 

“[T]here were definitely some drawbacks, but given all of that we've definitely learned a lot [from] hosting like completely online events last year and we're really excited to implement new changes and see where MSK goes this year,” said Wadhwa. 

This year, due to the difficulty of contact tracing, Wong and Wadhwa said they plan to remain mostly online. 

“Keeping everyone safe is our number one priority, so we are going to remain mainly online, explained Wadhwa. 

However, the club will be facilitating some in-person volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens if any club members express interest in doing so. MSK will not be heavily involved in the entire volunteering process but will help inform volunteers of when food banks or soup kitchens need volunteers. 

Going online means something different for many, especially for performance-based clubs

McMaster University has now announced that the winter 2021 term will be online. Students will continue online classes and while the McMaster Students Union has not given official word, many clubs are preparing for the possibility that students will not be able to meet in person for extracurricular activities, such as clubs. 

In previous fall terms, the McMaster Students Union hosted a Clubsfest for clubs to present information about their club and recruit new members. 

With the online fall semester, the MSU offered a virtual Clubsfest via Facebook and Instagram. The MSU has posted descriptions and contact information of various clubs and will continue to do so until Oct. 2.

Many recreational clubs, such as McMaster Yoga Club and MacUke, have announced that they will continue to operate with online meetings. 

However, meetings will look especially different for many performance-based clubs such as the McMaster Marching Band and Absolute Pitch

McMaster Marching Band is open to students of all experience levels and provides them with the opportunity to learn an instrument, as well as perform for local events such as Santa Claus parades. Typically, the band practiced at local churches.

"This year, there will be no in-person rehearsals or performances at local events. However, the band will continue to practice via monthly Masterclasses," said Mike Cummings, administrative director of the band. 

"This year, there will be no in-person rehearsals or performances at local events. However, the band will continue to practice via monthly Masterclasses," said Mike Cummings, administrative director of the band. 

Instruments will still be available for students to borrow and the band has a $40 refundable deposit to cover any instrument damage and repair costs.

Funding for the McMaster Marching Band is given through the bylaw 5 fee, which is a non-MSU non-McMaster fee that was decided by a referendum. Cummings explained that the fees not only goes towards staff and uniform costs, but a large portion of the fee is for instruments.

“This year we are going to be running a surplus so that next year we can put more into our instrument purchases because those are quite the investment and they take a lot of funds . . . We’re going to really build that up now so we don’t have to say to anyone “Well we’re actually out of alto saxophones, would you mind playing tenor saxophones?” We don’t like to have that conversation,” said Cummings. 

“This year we are going to be running a surplus so that next year we can put more into our instrument purchases because those are quite the investment and they take a lot of funds . . . We’re going to really build that up now so we don’t have to say to anyone “Well we’re actually out of alto saxophones, would you mind playing tenor saxophones?” We don’t like to have that conversation,” said Cummings. 

Absolute Pitch is another performance-based club that has changed rehearsals this year. As a show choir, members of the club are often involved in both singing and dancing during an in-person school year. The club typically runs a holiday coffee house event in November with a final showcase around March. The final showcase is centred around a theme chosen for the year, and this year, the theme is “best of the decade.”

Following the announcement that the winter semester will be online, the club is still in the process of deciding how the final showcase will look like and whether or not rescheduling is possible. Absolute Pitch President Areeba Sharafuddin said that the club is also considering other alternatives and should restrictions ease up in future months, the club may choose to film a showcase together rather than do one live.

As for the coffee house, Sharafuddin shared that the club may opt for an alternative such as an acapella style video, with members recording individual singing videos and combining them together. 

A fee of $25 is usually required for members of the club. However, Sharafuddin expressed that it has not been decided whether a fee will be needed this year due to a reduction in equipment and rentals. 

While you may be confronted with all the coursework you neglected over reading week, the rest of this term promises more than just late nights at the library.

Spring is nearly upon us, and with the fairer weather comes show season at McMaster for many arts-based initiatives.

Students involved in performance arts events, from musicals to a capella spectacles, have spent hundreds of hours rehearsing since September. As the end of the school year nears, many of these projects are coming to fruition.

Take a break from essays, assignments, and quizzes, check out some of the upcoming events on Mac’s calendar.

McMaster Musical Theatre’s Pippin

This year, McMaster Musical Theatre is putting on Pippin, the beloved Broadway classic about a performance troupe telling the story of a youthful prince in search for his place in the world.

MMT’s rendition of the Tony award winning musical Pippin features an abundance of dark humour, dazzling choreography by Bob Fosse, circus tricks, as well as various surprises that only audiences will have the opportunity to experience.

The reviews are in! #MMTPippin is "a thing of beauty...spontaneous, theatre-of-the-moment experience... 4/5 stars!"https://t.co/0FTsryhtBT

— MMT (@McMasterMusical) March 1, 2017

Pippin quickly racked up rave reviews, with shows selling out before MMT even began its run.

Although each performance between March 2 and March 4 is technically sold out, you can be added to a wait list by emailing mmt.tickets@gmail.com, or try your luck at the door.

Absolute Pitch presents “It’s… A Musical!”

Since its inception in 2011, McMaster University’s show choir, Absolute Pitch, has put on a slew of memorable performances. The latest offering they have is called “It’s… A Musical!” and will be staged at downtown Hamilton’s Lincoln Alexander Centre on March 10 (7:30 p.m.) and 11 (1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.).

The night promises a ton of fun for everyone involved, with plenty of Broadway and Disney songs to be performed. Whether you’re hoping for a fun night out with friends or even a chill thing to do by yourself, you’ll find loads of chances to sing along and dance in your chair at Absolute Pitch’s annual show.

Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults if you buy early; prices at the door are $12 for students and $18 for adults.

Faculty Musicals

While McMaster Musical Theatre may have the edge when it comes to pure experience and technical expertise, many faculties make up for this gap with exuberant passion and talent.

The musicals that these students put on are always chock-full of faculty-specific jokes that will have those familiar laughing, while expanding the perspective of those outside of the respective faculty.

Mac Engineering Musical will be putting on Dr. Wonka from March 16-18. The Health Sciences program will be putting on HSM: The (Unofficial) Origin Story from March 16-18.

The faculty of Science will be putting on Outside In from March 10-11. Keep an eye out for the chance to support your fellow Marauders in their artistic pursuits.

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