• February 28, 2015
  • 252

Pre-graduation comedy! When will new cabarets be established?

We have tested the waters! The 1st pre-graduation comedy “StuDnia 2015” (transl. note: the name refers to the colloquial Polish name of the pre-graduation ball that traditionally takes place 100 days (‘sto dni’) before the final exams) attracted full house of the House of Polish Culture in Vilnius. Even though it was constantly extended (due to contumacy of some of the participants) the audience enjoyed the show that lasted until night. The comedy was as various as nowadays youth, but weaker moments were always followed by funny and brilliant performances. The recitations were accompanied by great (for a students) acting. The parts that were clearly inspired by deep Russian humor (well known in Vilnius) mixed with the precious original creativity of the participants. Especially this originality was worth the effort of organizing this festival. The youth attending Polish schools in Vilnius proved that they can do a lot provided they are appropriately motivated (for instance by the pre-graduation ball – ‘studniówka’). We can truly be proud of the creativity, artistic talents and humor of the young Poles! Is there anyone who doubts it? Please, watch the videos!

Most importantly students managed to present whole variety of the pre-graduation tradition which greatly developed during the last 50 years in the Vilnius region. It has a unique character, different from what one can see on the Lithuanian, Russian or even Polish pre-graduation balls when traditional polonaise is only followed by the so called “last great ball prior to the matura exams (transl. note: final high-school examination in the Polish education system)”.

The official school academy in the Vilnius region transformed into unofficial school farewell prepared not only for the sake of appreciating teachers (whom one can “thank” or sincerely thank for all the mutual work), but also older friends. Pre-graduation balls have always been the opportunities to meet with graduates, parents and friends. The parodies of the teaching staff (if you were not mocked – you are a poor teacher!) and the jokes about the everyday school activities have developed so dramatically over the last decades that today they are presented in the form of rich multimedia displays including music and films. They are worth a lot more than one-time or two-time ordinary school performances. The participants of the 1st pre-graduation comedy “StuDnia 2015”, organized by Wilnoteka, proved that.

All participating schools were supposed to prepare 20 minutes preview of this year’s pre-graduation balls – the best moments, and the most universal skits and musical parts. Of course, the jury was unable to evaluate the teaching staff parodies due to not knowing all teachers of the 6 competing schools. There was also the problem of organizing the schedule of performances; initially, there was supposed to be a draw, but eventually the organizers decided to set up the order of performances based on the date of the admission of the pre-graduation balls programme videos. It was a reasonable choice because of the varying level of the participants – a little more “modest” performances would seem even worse when following an “awesome” ones.

Zbigniew Lewicki, renown cabaret expert, was the head of the jury which comprised of: popular Lithuanian artists – Vitalijus Cololo and Katarzyna Zvonkuvienė, comedy organizers – Kazimierz Karpicz (Polskia Macierz Szkolna) and Walenty Wojniłło (Wilnoteka), and Arkadiusz Jakszewicz – guest from Poland, a host of his own comedy show. Jakszewicz guaranteed evaluation from a new, outsider perspective (he was positively surprised by the pre-graduation traditions in the Vilnius region).

The show started with the performance of the representatives of the Eišiškės Secondary School. Even though the performance level was unequal the jury appreciated the effort of compressing the pre-graduation ball programme; that is not an easy task! Eišiškės turned out to be one of the revelations of the comedy show. Some of their lines and jokes were intelligent and their “Mickiewicz” delighted the jury and the audience. The youth from a small school from Šalčininkai district performed very well even in comparison to bigger schools with a greater potential.

Mickūnai High School was the second to perform. Their performance was consistent. The audience applauded their traditional pre-graduation ball which had a nice main idea, was well prepared, and was presented within the time limit – which is worth another applaud! Similarly to Eišiškės, Mickūnai High School too had a difficult task competing with bigger schools, but it does not mean that smaller schools cannot win with the bigger ones. This competition was mainly about creativity and jokes with a short and good punch line, and not about showing off. Both school deserve the credit for participating in the pre-graduation comedy. They won the titles of (respectively): The Funniest School of the Vilnius region, and The Funniest School of the Šalčininkai district!

The remaining performances were given by the schools from Vilnius. The audience had a chance to notice that “Pre-graduation ball humor festival” is a lot more powerful and deep then one might have predicted. Quite professional videos appeared on the screen, the accompanied music was well chosen. One could see fabulous dance and vocal performances. But what about humor? The level of humor varied, but all schools had their moments. Every performance contained strong elements which stimulated laugh across the hall of the House of Polish Culture. Sz. Konarski’s High School impressed the audience with a scope of their act. They had a great costumes, probably the best video presentation, and a specific type of humor which was appreciated by the jury (the high school leaver-sleeper deserved a separate applaud!). However, the jokes were only a background to the truly impressive performance!

It is important to mention that Sz. Konarski’s High School, J.I. Kraszewski’s Secondary School, and Eišiškės Secondary School were represented by the 11th grade students, unlike the school from Mickūnai and the remaining schools from Vilnius (12th grade students). The jury noted that this one year difference between competitors might have potentially influenced the level of their performances. The “Madagascar” by J.I.Kraszewski’s Secondary School will be long remembered not only for their scout “penguins”, video presentation, and lovely dancers (equally good in exotic and Slavic version), but primarily for their king of lemurs which one the hearts of both the audience and the jury!

Mickiewicz’s Secondary School proved that the name “comedy” was not fortuitous and that the professionalism of Polish students can be remarkable! They had an interesting idea, creative well made film intro, great parodies, dances, some dancers were equally skillful as the “Wilia” or “Sto uśmiechów” (transl. note: Lithuanian dance ensambles). Mickiewicz’s School was clearly inspired by the Comedy Club and “Russian humor” in general which all together was very impressive. The performance itself was the most impressive – especially the skit of Kamiński&Gotowski duet (with all the respect to the remaining “exam takers”, including the proud owner of the “cleavage”). Their performance set a high bar for the future competitors of the pre-graduation comedy.

John Paul II’s Secondary School was the last to perform. They had a difficult job after the laughter stimulated by the Mickiewicz’s group. Their oldschool decorations without multimedia support, the crowd of “pupils” and “teachers”, chaotic running on the stage did not bode well. However, this seemingly chaotic mess turned out to be creative, original, and full of youth humor and enthusiasm. The performance had equally good time as the audience, which did not know teachers whose parodies were said to be perfect. Maybe it was not a typical cabaret, but when it comes to authenticity and “pre-graduation ball humor” it was a real masterpiece. The jury also noted the great teamwork of the performers. And it even was not for their Conchita-frog 😉

I will not write about the performance of the “Differently” cabaret from Białystok because I did not have the opportunity to see their performance. On that time, the jury was stuck in their final discussions, and the choice was not easy. From the very beginning the opinions of the jury varied. Nevertheless, the jury was supposed to choose the “Funniest School of the Vilnius region”. The opinions of Vitalijusa Cololo and Arkadiusza Jakszewicza were especially important due to their first encounter with the “pre-graduation humor”. Eventually all jurors graded the performances according to 1-10 scale (i.e. maximum 6×10 grades). Even then the outcome of the jury’s evaluation was still under the discussion. The final decision: John Paul II’s Secondary School vs. Adam Mickiewicz’s Secondary school – 57:56!

The jury unanimously agreed that the best skit was performed by Kamiński&Gotowski duet (reminder: due to the performance itself, not the idea, which was not original). Boys deserved a separate award for which the jury was not prepared. The brainstorm started: “How about we kick in for some financial award from the jury? How about concerts tickets? How about tickets for our own performances? Mine is to serious!”. Finally, Arkadiusza Jakszewicza suggested that he would gladly invite the Vilnius youth to one of the Lidzbark Humor and Satire evenings (one of the biggest and oldest comedy shows in Poland) he co-organizes. The organizers – Wilnoteka – received the task to gather funds for the young artists’ trip to Lidzbark.

Another heated discussion of the jury concerned the groups’ supporters. Various criteria were taken into consideration: attributes, slogans, behavior; again every group had its advantages. The jury debated whether a drum is appropriate for a comedy show (more likely to be used on the stadium not the hall for 500 spectators). Eventually, the most enthusiastic and committed group was chosen.

The meeting of the jury of the first comedy show “StuDnia” was extremely important for the future of this initiative. One of the proposals concerned the change of the evaluation system from “vertical” to “point system” – instead of awarding second and third place awards the organizers might distinguish: the best school leavers performance, the best smaller schools performance (up to 20 or 24 members per pre-graduation class), the best skit, and the best actor/actress. One thing is sure, time limit should be much harsher: 20 or even 15 minutes max; as suggested by Cololo – you exceed 15 minutes time limit and you’re off the stage. The committee debated on whether every time limit breach should not be punished with -5 points, but the idea was dropped because it would not change the final classification. However, concising the performances would be beneficial to some of the performers…

That’s it when it comes to the summary of “StuDnia 2015”. Wilnoteka promises to do everything in its power to expand the comedy show into the annual tradition of the Biggest Studniówka of the Vilnius region. Once more we would like to thank the students, parents, and especially the teachers and the heads of schools for cooperation. It showed the world how great and funny is our youth! We would also want to thank our co-organizers and sponsors without whom there would not be any awards, motivation and the “red carpet”. Mylida deserves special thanks due to funding the graphic equipment and the cup of the Funniest School of the Vilnius region! Additionally, we would like to thank the Anna and Alvydasa Griškevičiusów (Vilniaus meduoliai) bakery for the delicious traditional heart-shaped cookies for the performers and the jury.

We ask all the participants of the comedy and everyone interested in becoming a cabaret performer not to waste their talents! Please, do not ignore your ideas. Make the first step and try. The editorial board of Wilnoteka pledges to provide help and support, including the technical aspects. This year’s winners promised to perform during the next year’s comedy show and we believe that in the future the local cabaret groups will replace the groups from Poland in the role of comedy guests. Who knows, maybe the “pre-graduation humor” will one day become one of the most important elements of the pre-graduation balls.

Translated by Damian Gabryś within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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