This story is part of our Orientation 2012 special issue. Check out our complete guide to life at Columbia here.
For laughs, check out Chowdah, Fruit Paunch, and Control Top. Chowdah is Columbia’s “oldest, best, and only sketch comedy group,” according to president Lori Goldman, BC ’13. It performs twice per semester on-campus, with occasional gigs at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade. Fruit Paunch and all-female Control Top are more spontaneous improv teams. Another fun fact: one of Fruit Paunch’s founding members is comedienne Jenny Slate, CC ‘04, of SNL and “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” fame.
Wistful for doublethreats? Look no farther than the Columbia Musical Theatre Society or Crown and Scepter, two groups which not only walk and talk at the same time, but also sing and dance. CMTS’s past productions include “Urinetown” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Formed last fall, Crown and Scepter has put on “Sweeney Todd” and “Cabaret.”
Columbians can also look to the traditional end-of-the-semester musical for comic relief right before finals week with XMAS! and the Varsity Show.
More traditional options include King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe, Columbia University Players, and the Black Theatre Ensemble. KCST produces its annual outdoor spring show in which everyone who auditions gets cast. This fall, spectators and performers alike can look for “Romeo and Juliet” and “Shakeshorts-Shortshakes,” consisting of “shaken up” scenes from Shakespeare. The Black Theatre Ensemble is an undergraduate organization dedicated to producing work written by and largely featuring people of color.
Some theater groups on campus exist solely to showcase original student work. LateNight Theatre stages an anthology of short plays each semester that range from comic to serious, while New and Original Material Authored and Directed by Students, often referred to as NOMADS, produces student written works throughout the semester.
The Columbia Ballet Collaborative was formed by professional dancers enrolled as students, and has since staged biennial performances and been written up in publications such as The New York Times and Vanity Fair. For a change of pace, try CU Ballroom, a club which welcomes all participants and ventures out to various local ballroom competitions. Last but not least, Orchesis stages a large showcase every semester that boasts a sort of dancer’s variety show, integrating multiple styles.
Stereotypes about nerds be damned, Columbia is home to multiple hiphop dance groups that know the Iliad and how to get down. Raw Elementz and Onyx are the two biggest student-choreographed hip-hop crews that dabble in popping, breaking, and house styles. Raw Elementz hosts the annual Rawcus, a showcase for campus hip-hop groups.
Multiculturalism is alive and well through Columbia’s dance groups. The East is represented by groups like Dhoom, CU Bhangra, Raas, a different Indian style, and CU Lion Dance, a type of traditional Chinese dance. Others include Sabor, a Latino dance team, and a Brazilian Capoeira group.
Known for its literary legacy, the university counts Jack Kerouac and Zora Neale Hurston among its alumni. Published once per semester, the Columbia Review is known as the oldest college literary magazine in the nation and counts Ginsberg, CC ’48, and Lionel Trilling, CC ’26, as past contributors. It also publishes work by non-Columbians.
Advised by faculty member Amy Benson, Quarto is the Undergraduate Writing Program’s official literary magazine, published every spring.
If you want to eat, sleep, and breathe literature, consider applying to live in Writers House, a special interest community based in Harmony Hall that hosts biannual dinners with notable authors, including Mark Strand and Paul Auster.
Aspiring DJs have two outlets to hone their craft whilst at Columbia: WKCR, Columbia’s preprogrammed radio station, which broadcasts at 89.9 FM; and WBAR, Barnard’s freeform radio station which accepts DJs from both schools. WBAR hosts WBAR-B-QUE, a music festival held on Barnard’s campus.
The campus is rampant with a cappella groups, some laying claim to a specialized genre, such as Uptown Vocal, a jazz group. Others include the Kingsmen, Nonsequitur, Notes and Keys, Bacchantae, Clefhangers, and the Metrotones.
However, the warring factions all join together once a year for Acappellalooza.
Postcrypt Coffeehouse is a art/music venue founded in 1964. Coffeehouses are held weekly in the basement of St. Paul’s Chapel, and brings in both on- and off-campus musicians. Past performers include Suzanne Vega, Ani DiFranco, and Jeff Buckley.
Musicians can find outlets through groups such as CU Classical, a classical music group that holds recitals throughout the semester.