I still remember every friend who came to watch Club Singapore put on their biennial musical “Sing City” on March 26 this year. I remember every single person who happily purchased tickets from me, even though I was only going to be sitting in a small dark room at the back of the theater calling light transitions through a headset. I remember — with a tinge of embarrassment — my endearingly overzealous friends screaming my name whenever they saw the stage lights change. It was hilarious. 

A Facebook post on the Mask and Wig Club’s upcoming fall show reminded me that ‘tis again the season of arts group performances and of countless Facebook invitations to concerts and events. In other words, ‘tis again the season to be mobbed by flyers on Locust Walk. 

Looking back, I regret not going to more performances last year. I “didn’t have time,” “had a schedule conflict” or perhaps just “did not care enough to go.” I wish I had. I wish I had gone to a friend’s Pan-Asian Dance Troupe performance and a club member’s Disney A Cappella show. I wish I had gone to see what exactly “musical sketch comedy” was or the sort of “experimental theater” iNtuitons produces.

For most of the year, we are busy working and attending to our own commitments and interests. We go to our own sports practices, organize our own general body meetings and put together our own speaker panels and events. We are wrapped up in our own pursuits. We organize too many things and, perhaps, attend too few. We are always looking inwards, to our own ambitions and our own needs.

Instead of always spending time agonizing over how to boost the number of people attending our club’s next event, we should perhaps take some time to go to a friend’s concert or activity.

To attend a friend’s performance is to look outward beyond ourselves and to set aside time to appreciate the people around us. It means sitting in the anonymous darkness of the theater while our friends shine onstage. We see the talent and passion of the people around us. What a beautiful thing that is! 

Looking outward brings balance to our lives. It turns the “I” in our heads into “you” and “we.” We will perhaps start seeing this place less as a cold, individualistic rat race, and more as a warm, supportive community.

Our friends perform with grace; each turn, transition, accent all perfected and fine-tuned over months of repetition and practice. Their months of love and dedication to their art, on display for a mere hour or so, for us to appreciate. Every performer yearns for an audience; every friend appreciates support from those close to them. 

At Penn, many of us are far from home, and our parents and siblings — our usual cheerleaders — are not able to attend our performances. Our friends take their place — the ones showering us with flowers, cards, photographs and love after a performance. 

School performances are also just so fun. The main difference between a professional performance and a student one is the complete irreverence and lack of decorum. Any moment is okay for you to scream your friends’ name, or for the audience to descend into a cheering war. Any moment is OK to clap or scream “whoo!” During the Sing City musical in March, it was so much fun, hearing the audience screaming, “Just ask her out, Johnny!” and “Whoo, Johnny!” at every turn of the developing love story onstage. A student performance is a rowdy, noisy, beautiful celebration.

So go, when your friends message you about attending their show. Go, if your college house is offering discounted tickets. Go, if someone waves a flyer at you on Locust Walk. Go, get a group together and snag tickets at a lower price. It’s worth it.

To my dear friends, please hit me up with invitations and ambush me on Locust Walk with flyers. I look forward to seeing you onstage!


SARA MERICAN is a College sophomore from Singapore. Her email address is smerican@sas.upenn.edu. “Merican in America” usually appears every Monday.

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