New Updates to the SING! Charter

New updates were made to the SING! charter, including allowing all coordinators to work on the SING! calendar, opening more inventory items to all grades, changing the days of the shows, and having Soph-Frosh SING! close a show.

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By Coco Fang

In December, the Stuyvesant Student Union (SU) announced the annual updates to the SING! charter. These changes include having a new Thursday show, having Soph-Frosh close a show, allowing all the coordinators to work together to develop a SING! calendar, and opening more inventory items to all grades.

The updates to the charter were proposed after SING! finished last spring in a meeting that included the SU President and Vice President, cabinet members, SING! coordinators, and Coordinator of Student Affairs (COSA) Matt Polazzo. “The SING! charter is a separate document which officially governs SING! by establishing guidelines for how we judge [and] pick judges, [...] coordinators, and producers. It allows the SU to be involved and give the coordinators their own rules,” senior and SU President Vishwaa Sofat said. “We update it at the end of each year based on the input of each year’s coordinators. The coordinators talk to their Slates to see what could’ve been done differently, and the SU President and Vice President also have certain changes they would like [to make].”

Junior SING! Coordinator Liam Kronman stated that most changes fall under two categories: preventive and reactive measures. Preventive measures include changes to preempt a problem from occurring, while reactive measures address past issues so that they do not happen again. One of the preventive measures “includes the 10-point deduction if a grade uses a song that was in a SING! performance within the last two years. The updated charter formalized this, while before it was just recommended,” Kronman said. An example of a reactive measure is that “any element that enhances the quality of the production is now usable in the shows of any of the three grades [with the exception of the Senior SING! band sign, as it won’t provide a scoring advantage]. Specifically last year, the Soph-Frosh lights and sound crew figured out how to use gobos [a type of special effect previously reserved for seniors]. They didn't know about the tradition that only seniors were able to use them. By the time [the Soph-Frosh Slate] ordered their own gobos, the seniors had found out. There was some conflict, and in response, we are updating the charter to address the disparity.”

All coordinators will now create the SING! calendar together.

The first major change to the SING! charter is the inclusion of all coordinators in the process of creating the SING! calendar. The SING! calendar includes an outline of where and when practices will be held, providing the administration with a logistical idea of what each grade is working on. In previous years, the Junior SING! coordinator from the previous year would plan the calendar before the next SING! season began, working with the COSA. However, Polazzo addresses this misconception, stating that any of the coordinators could have met with him to speak about the calendar; the junior coordinator was just always the first one to take the initiative. “Anyone who wanted to could have worked with me. [...] We always had to come up with a calendar, and traditionally, whoever was the junior coordinator would come up to me and say ‘I’ve got a calendar,’ and I would say ‘Okay that’s fine.’ It could have been anybody. It could have been any student from the student body, but the junior coordinator was typically the most aware,” Polazzo said.

Now, however, all the coordinators will work together to develop an appropriate calendar. In order to give coordinators enough time to manage this new responsibility, coordinator applications were released during late November rather than during the middle of December, as was the case in previous years.

Sofat is supportive of this change, believing that having all of the coordinators work on the calendar will provide a fair chance for any students interested in running for coordinator. “I’ve always felt that if you give someone the chance to create the calendar for the next year, it implies that they’ve already gotten a position and that they know more about that year’s logistics than someone else who might want to compete against them,” he said. “To preserve the legitimacy of this process, we decided this year that we would release the applications earlier and that all coordinators this year will be involved in creating a calendar with the COSA, giving them all a chance to work and learn. When one coordinator works on it, there is a certain level of bias that comes with giving your SING! an upper hand, which I’ve seen in the past.”

While there were initial worries, this change did not affect the cooperation between the coordinators. “It’s mostly been smooth sailing. We made it so that [in] the last week of the show, each SING! gets a chance to be in the theater at least once. We are also trying to split up the amount of time on each floor,” sophmore and Soph-Frosh SING! Coordinator Alec Shafran said.

A new, judged Thursday show will replace the Wednesday New Haven performance.

Another change involves the days on which SING! shows will be performed. Previously, SING! performances were on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Shows will now take place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. “In the past, we have had a Wednesday show, which served more like a formal dress rehearsal before the Friday and Saturday shows, which were judged,” Sofat said. “With this change, another goal here is to welcome back alums and other students’ families who have not been, in the past, able to see the show or have seen a show that [was] not as good quality as the other two nights [...]. If this year we are able to do three judged competitions, making each competition equally legitimate, we’ll be able to bring in more people.”

With this change in show dates, Soph-Frosh SING! will have the chance to close the Thursday performance, an opportunity previously reserved for only Junior and Senior SING!. “Historically, if you close a show, you have the upper hand because [...] you can see [...] the competition and add last-minute jokes to your script and such. We wanted to give Soph-Frosh the same chance that Junior and Senior SING! have had in the past. This year on Thursday, they will have an opportunity to close the show, giving them a more level playing field,” Sofat said.

However, Shafran is concerned about the change as Thursday will be a judged performance instead of a regular rehearsal day. “It will put strain on the songwriters and scriptwriters because, in that one day, the day between the New Haven show [the Wednesday show] and Friday show, we usually do script changes if, for example, some jokes didn’t land or some lyrics didn’t go across as well,” Shafran said.

Despite this, Shafran also believes that having Wednesday as an extra day of rehearsal will be beneficial. “On the other hand, with so many full rehearsals in a row, I think it will be good to practice to get a feel of how the Thursday show is going to work out,” he said.

With the addition of a Thursday performance, the SU will have to implement a couple of minor changes. “We will need more judges—you know, 30 instead of 20. It might be tricky with supervision [and] the schedules will change a little bit, but aside from that, I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a problem to implement logistically. If it really goes wrong and it doesn’t work, we can always go back to the old format next year,” Polazzo said.

A new auditing system will track SING! inventory and materials.

Additionally, the updated charter includes the implementation of an auditing system to track all inventory and materials used for SING!, an idea suggested by senior and former Junior SING! Coordinator Debi Saha. “Having been a part of SING! for the last few years, you quickly realize that [the] keyboards you bought last year have somehow disappeared, or no one knows where that drum set is from sophomore year. This happened with our sewing machines too; certain small parts were going missing, and we had to get [the] SU to buy parts for the sewing machines for all grades. It serves no one to continue to purchase sewing machine parts and instruments every year. It’s an extra hassle, extra time, and extra money out of your [SING!] and SU’s budget,” Saha said.

Kronman agrees, explaining that the new auditing system will require all the coordinators to keep track of the inventory. “Every coordinator and producer has to keep track of what has been used in the previous years and what is being used this year, so we don’t have to rebuy the things we’re going to have to use next year,” Kronman said. “We will have to check the keyboards that we have and the materials from the art, tech, and costume crews in order to assess what we can preserve and divvy these up between grades, saving money from our budget.”

While the new auditing system might give the coordinators more responsibilities to manage, Saha believes that it will be beneficial for the organization of future SING!s. “I think it makes [the coordinators] more responsible [...]. At the end of the day, we only serve to make SING! better for future generations, and I think this is one of the best ways to do it,” she said.

Other minor updates.

The SU, Polazzo, and the coordinators also formalized that:

- Applications for positions that don’t require an interview must now be blind.

- If choreography is found to be plagiarized from the Stuy Squad performances from that year, an appropriate number of points will be deducted based on the coordinators’ discretion.

- While in previous years 80 percent to 85 percent of costumes had to be original or embellished, the coordinators only recommend such requirements now.

- Members of SING! are now also able to use materials from the Stuyvesant Theatre Company (STC) with permission from STC’s Slate. This change excludes the use of sewing machines and keyboards.

The SU was able to adopt such changes mainly due to how fluidly last year’s SING! ran. “We had our incident where the stage collapsed [in 2018], and when you have those issues and complications, the priority is to fix them and resolve them before changing and adding something new. Now, with last year being far smoother than the year before, we are at a point in which we are willing to take this next big step [and introduce large-scale changes to SING!],” Sofat said.

The SU, along with the coordinators and COSA, still have certain logistics to work out. This includes whether Wednesday will be a dress rehearsal for all grades, how many run-throughs there will be the week before the shows, and whether Senior SING! will be able to use the auditorium on Wednesday, as they previously used the auditorium on Thursday after the Wednesday show. “Those decisions are critical, and being able to make this fair for all grades and opening it up is kind of the idea. We focus on accessibility, awareness, and inclusivity, and this is an effort to make SING! more inclusive and accessible for both people who participate and people who would like to watch the amazing shows that a STEM school puts on,” Sofat said. “We might not be known for our arts, but when you look at the stage, we’re mighty talented in every way.”

Despite the lack of changes to SING! in the past, the SU is determined to implement more changes to create a more inclusive environment. “The SU in the past has struggled with accessibility and inclusion at times, and it’s important for us to acknowledge that,” Sofat said. “However, I would like to believe that in the last two years, we have made steps toward it. Whether it is enforcing blind applications for all positions that are appointed or giving Soph-Frosh SING! a chance to close, the idea is to make processes as fair as possible and [be] cognizant of the fact that if we are not currently, we must eventually.”