Canadian Consulting Engineer

Skule Night

Some time back in February a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go to see a performance put on by engineering students from the University of Toronto. I immediately thought, "A show put on by engineering students, hmmm .... sounds about as much f

August 1, 2004   By Jason Cairncross

Some time back in February a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go to see a performance put on by engineering students from the University of Toronto. I immediately thought, “A show put on by engineering students, hmmm …. sounds about as much fun as staring at a blank wall.” I’m a bit of a cynic and I am NOT an engineer despite coming from a family of engineers.

The day of the show came, and I decided that I wasn’t expecting much. After all these are engineering students, so what should I be looking forward to? An endless series of Star Trek jokes?

Imagine my surprise when five minutes into the performance I found myself laughing like a drunken hyena. Yup, these geeks are good. The show is a series of sketches done la Saturday Night Live with a healthy dose of singing and dancing thrown in. About 30 skits in all — full sets, music, fairly involved choreography for the dance routines, and actual singing by these engineering thespians.

The event dubbed “Skule Nite” was started in 1921 as a stunt show that included theatrics and music. The production later morphed into a type of talent show whose purpose it was to display the variety of skills possessed by the engineering students, such as art, sport, music and theatre. Eventually theatrics would play the dominant role in the production and it is now apparently one of the biggest theatre events on the U of T campus.

The theme for this year was television, and let me say that this was just as good and professional as anything you’re likely to see on TV. Well this season anyway. The writing (a group effort by the directors, the cast and others) for the most part was top notch, incorporating all the necessary pop culture references, from Lord of the Rings to Grease, George Dubya to Batman. There were, of course, the obligatory shots taken at other engineering schools (Queen’s and Waterloo) and at Arts students. Some jokes obviously fall into the “in” category. In one scene two students are discussing the fact that a particular mechanical device won’t move. They decide that they could hide the fact that it was broken by calling it a “Civ” project. The joke completely flew over my head. Later of course it was explained to me that ‘civ’ refers to civil engineering. While some of the humour fell flat (SARS jokes elicited groans), for the most part it was right on the money.

Everyone involved with the show had to donate an incredible amount of time to the cause. Each of the actors had to audition and rehearsals began the second week in January. They each committed 20 hours a week, and even more than that leading up to the show, which ran March 10-13.

I was not the only one impressed. There was unmitigated laughter and appreciation resonating from the audience for the entire night. The show finished with a musical note performed by live band members and a roaring rendition of the engineering school’s song. Imagine my shock when half of the audience, both young and old, and engineering alumni I assume, stood up and starting singing along. At that moment I realized for the last two hours I had been in some strange dimension where engineers are the most entertaining people on the planet.

I swear if I had known the words to that song, I would have stood up and sung right along with them.


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