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Revue adjusts content after complaints

Laura McCrystal | Tuesday, February 15, 2011

After the Student Activities Office (SAO) received complaints about the content of Thursday and Friday’s Keenan Revue performances, the audience at Saturday night’s third and final show saw an edited version of the Revue.

Keenan residents began making adjustments to the Revue beginning at 5:30 p.m. Saturday for the 7 p.m. show, junior Chase Riddle, the Revue’s producer, said. These changes included the elimination of seven skits and edits to several others, Riddle said. Five of the original 29 acts were not changed.

“We feel that Friday night’s show was the Keenan Revue for 2011 and Saturday night’s show was just our attempt and SAO’s quick fix for some of the inconsistencies in Friday night’s show and some of the problems that were caused,” Riddle said.

The Keenan Revue is an annual comedy show written, directed, produced and performed by residents of Keenan Hall. The 36th annual Revue was held Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in Stepan Center. The event moved to Stepan Center this year, after Saint Mary’s College’s declined to renew a contract with Keenan for the use of its O’Laughlin Auditorium.

Peggy Hnatusko, director of Student Activities for Programming, said SAO received specific complaints Friday night about some of the show’s content.

“Following the Friday night production of the Keenan Revue, a number of complaints were received on behalf of individual students who felt the materials in the performance were personal attacks directed at students in the Notre Dame community,” she said.

Hnatusko said she viewed a video of Friday’s show on Saturday and received input from Assistant Director of Student Activities Brian Fremeau, Associate Vice President for Student Development Brian Coughlin, Vice President for Student Affairs Fr. Tom Doyle and Keenan Hall Rector Fr. Dan Nolan.

Riddle, Keenan Revue Director Grayson Duren and Keenan Hall President Raymond Gallagher met with Hnatusko, Nolan and Fremeau Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.

“The student leaders in Keenan Hall were asked to adjust the content of the show that was directed at individual members of the Notre Dame student community,” Hnatusko said. “We also asked them to consider the potential negative impact other content could have on traditionally under-represented students on campus.”

Gallagher, a junior, said SAO told them the Revue could not reference current students or their family members by name. Other material deemed unacceptable included sexual references or jokes seen as offensive to specific groups of students.

After the meeting ended at 5 p.m., Duren, also a junior, said he, Gallagher, Riddle and Nolan discussed their options: Cancel the show that night or make changes to it.

Riddle said they decided to perform an edited version of the Revue and met with skit writers and actors. They presented SAO’s new requirements and left the decision whether to edit or eliminate each skit to individual writers and actors. To best perform the revised version of the show, Riddle said they made some actor substitutions and actors held scripts on stage during certain skits.

“The meeting ended with an hour and a half until our show so it was very frustrating,” Gallagher said. “But the guys came together and did a very good job adapting to the circumstances we were put in. … Grayson and Chase did a great job.”

Saturday night’s show began with a public apology to the groups and individuals the Revue may have offended, Riddle said.

Duren said the last minute changes to the show were frustrating because Keenan residents spent so much time writing and rehearsing skits for the Revue. Since most Keenan residents and their friends traditionally attend Saturday’s performance, they did not have the opportunity to see the full show in its original version.

“Clearly, the Revue has been known to push the envelope, and it’s kind of a commentary on Notre Dame life just from a student perspective,” Duren said. “We’re just speaking as a bunch of guys from Keenan who like to comment on the subtleties of Notre Dame life.”

Looking back at Saturday’s events, Riddle said he is proud of how the Keenan residents involved with the Revue handled the situation.

“Though first dejected and bitter and angry — flustered to say the least — we all came together as a group,” he said. “We got as many laughs as we could. We tried to entertain as best we could on Saturday.”

Hnatusko said SAO’s increased involvement this year was not due to the Revue’s move from Saint Mary’s to Notre Dame’s campus.

“Our involvement changed this year due to the nature of the complaints that we received,” she said. “It is my sincere hope that the members of Keenan Hall responsible for future editions of the Revue, as well as all students who are involved in programs and productions on campus would consider the impact their production can have on individuals in our community and the community itself during the planning stages.”

Riddle, Duren, Gallagher and other Keenan students met with Fr. Tom Doyle, vice president for Student Affairs, Monday afternoon, after which Riddle said they had a better understanding of SAO’s handling of the situation.

“We walked out of the [Monday] meeting feeling very good about the way [Fr. Doyle] handled it and the way SAO handled it from the time he was contacted and the time we had to go on stage,” Riddle said. “We know that [as] Keenan Hall, we were very upset — as I assume the crowd was — about the changes for Saturday night’s show, but we also now understand that the changes had to be made.”

Hnatusko said all student groups are called to adhere to the University’s standards of conduct, but SAO looks forward to working with Keenan Hall residents on future Keenan Revues.

Riddle said leaders of the Keenan Revue will continue to communicate with Doyle and SAO to create guidelines for future Revues. Keenan Hall may also consider moving the Revue to a different off-campus venue, he said.

“We’ll keep talking about the possible groundwork for a line … as to the future of the Revue and we made it clear to Fr. Doyle that line will be pushed hard,” Riddle said. “The Revue as it has pushed the envelope in the past will continue to do so in the future.”

Duren said although Monday’s meeting left him with a better understanding of SAO’s perspective, he hopes future Keenan Revues will remain true to the event’s 35-year-old tradition.

“The Revue is one of the most popular events on campus, I think, for a reason: because it’s the voice of the students, for the students,” Duren said. “I think we’ll have to try to work with SAO to keep it as much as possible, but we do not want to sacrifice the tradition of the Revue in order to adhere to new standards.”