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Tim Butler unmasked as the Phantom, as HBS Show rocks Burden

In writing this article, I figured I could focus on further singing the show’s praise, and flashing our lead actors names in light, but rather than recreate the playbill, or re-hash the story line (yes DVDs will be on sale in the coming weeks), I thought I’d take the opportunity to give you, the reader, a personal behind the scenes sneak peak into the transformational experience that is the HBS Show, written from the perspective of a former board member, a writer, a cast member and Sandeep Chivukula’s (our marketing director) whipping boy.

For me, my HBS Show journey started before even being admitted to school, perhaps an inspiration for the opening number of this year’s show, “Admission”. In my final essay, I answered the optional essay by posing the question, ‘how I thought I would contribute to the school?’ with one factor being that I would lead 1-2 of the major clubs on campus, with the likely candidates being the Rugby Club and/or the HBS Show. While I have managed to play a few Rugby games while at HBS, the Show quickly became my passion, and while as an RC, the opportunity to star as Professor Rick Ruuuuback was one of my defining moments at HBS, the close bond I built with a number of the cast and crew, cross-section and cross-class, was so invaluable that I felt obliged to be involved in the show this year in whichever way I could such that the new batch would have that same opportunity.

After a short stint on the board, I was given the opportunity to make a real difference, by being selected as the lead writer of this year’s show in October last year, and in doing so bring together a team of five writers (myself and four RCs, Shashank Mathur (ND), Ira Noble (NF), Brian Rosen (NC) and Chris Tutor (NE)), all with diverse backgrounds and writing talents, all of whom knew nothing of each other. The passing of Ira’s pet goldfish (Omen), and our show of solidarity in attending Omen’s funeral, was one of many examples of our bonding experience.

In parallel, the board had appointed Manish Dalmia (NF) as the Executive Producer, who worked tirelessly to recruit in other key leadership positions, and Kent Bennett (NF) as Director and Steve Kraus (NE) as Assistant Director. For my writing team, the wheels were turning, and we knew we had to come up with a script that not only had a witty, coherent and believable plot line, but also have the breadth and depth of characters that would attract enough talent to join the show. By December, that script was delivered in draft form, and the Phantom was born.

Now, if I’ve learnt one thing at this school, it’s that rarely does ones involvement in anything entirely switch itself off after the deliverable is completed, especially not something so close to one’s heart. In my case, my involvement in the script development and my prior reputation as a senior faculty member precluded me, and after some begging by Director Bennett, his cunning last ditch move to suggest I “look up the classcards” of the new cast and crew members, got me hooked once more. And thanks to the incredible, and I mean INCREDIBLE, dedication from all involved, this was no doubt an experience we’ll all cherish for years to come. In particular, credit must be given to our three leads, Claire Farley (NH), Michael Ellis (NC) and Matt Mindrum (OD), for outstanding performances and all round inspiration for the rest of the cast and crew, and the real Hot Partner, Cassandra Marino (ND partner), who was masterful with the choreography.

Looking back, I wonder whether I held true to my promise in my essay, or whether I failed in my stated goal to “lead the HBS Show club”? What I realized is that having the title isn’t important, nor the position in the playbill, it’s how you make your contribution count. To paraphrase a section mate’s comment from our recent Capstone discussion: “At HBS we come to realize that we’re all not as good as we thought we were, but yet we can all achieve so much more than we ever thought we could”. And to me this is the essence of the satisfaction we all felt in being involved in the show this year. We all had our faults, our weaknesses, our shortcomings, but together we achieved something that none of us would ever have considered possible, and did so in true HBS style, being humble and contrite…NOT!

April 30, 2007
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