Here’s a pretty typical exchange from the oeuvre of playwright Jonathan Rand C’02:
Bobby: I’d like to point out that my opponent is a girl and is therefore, by the transitive property of gender, totally gross.
Kaitlyn: And I’d like to point out that my opponent is a boy and in a few years will do a total one-eighty and try to impress me with cheap cologne while I reject him for someone with a driver’s license and stubble.
Actually, that may be a little edgy.
Most of the humor in The Future Is In Your Tiny Hands—in which two candidates for elementary school president engage in a TV-style debate—is more purely silly: the election is ultimately decided, as per tradition, by who can fit more marshmallows in their mouth, and a love of Tater Tots and belief in Santa Claus are major talking points. It’s all good, clean fun, and reliably appealing to Rand’s audience—middle and high school performers; the family and friends who come to see them on stage; and the dedicated, often harried drama teachers responsible for making it all happen, without running afoul of community sensitivities.
Senior editor Trey Popp tells Rand’s story in “Off-Off-Off Broadway.” It begins in his Penn dorm room when the former high-school “drama nerd,” while fooling around with coding and trying to figure out how to get a one-act comedy he’d written produced, semi-accidentally disrupted a frustrating status quo in which finding and securing production rights for unknown plays was mostly guesswork. By offering cast information and making texts available to read before purchase, Playscripts, the online company Rand and his brother developed, was a godsend for anyone mounting school and community theater productions.
It also was a boon for Rand, whose two dozen plays have been produced more than 12,000 times now. Statistics from Playscripts—which the brothers sold several years ago—show 54 productions of The Future Is In Your Tiny Hands (including in Dubai, UAE, and Duluth, GA) as of April 8, 2019.
Trey interviewed Rand and sat in on some visits he made to schools, and also talked with his high school drama teacher and other teachers who’ve produced his work with their students. They attest both to his plays’ surefire laughs and their importance as a vehicle to explore characters, work collaboratively, and develop presentation skills that can help young performers meet life’s challenges, and even tragedies.
I don’t know that amateur theater comes up directly in Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society by Nicholas A. Christakis G’92 Gr’95 GM’95, but the values of cooperation and trust that are essential components of putting on a show fit right into the physician and sociologist’s vision of humanity’s genetic inheritance. In “Good By Design,” Julia M. Klein lays out that vision and explores how Christakis arrived at it through interviews with former colleagues and teachers as well as with Christakis himself and his fellow academic “lost toys” at the discipline-crossing Human Nature Lab that he directs at Yale.
Despite all the horrors of recent and ancient history, which he acknowledges, Christakis is convinced that traits like love for partners, friendship, and group cooperation are hardwired in us. “If it were not healthy for us to live in a social state, evolution would not have sustained it,” he told Julia. “We would not live together if all we did was kill each other. Then we would have evolved to stay away. We would not live socially.”
In “Jean Chatzky’s Money Story,” the personal finance expert reveals that she’s been known to spend too much money on theater tickets. The urge to splurge is something she gets from her father, she explained to writer Caren Lissner C’93, while her mother, who handled the family finances, taught her about managing money so that the occasional outsize expense doesn’t break the bank. Both parents shaped her own psychology around spending—her “money story,” which everyone has, she says.
That women need to better understand theirs is one of the threads running through her new book, Women with Money. Drawing on Chatzky’s 25 years as a business journalist and media figure, the book examines women’s changing relationship with money (basically, they will be having more of it, and taking more responsibility for it, for lots of demographic and other reasons) and what that means in contexts from retirement planning and other investment decisions, to preparing children for financial independence, to eliminating the historical wage gap with men sooner than the current estimate of 2119.
—John Prendergast C’80