Ivory Towers Ups Presence

Campus soap expands staff, audience

Executive director Bharat P. Das ’07 pronounced, “We are a well oiled soap opera machine,” opening the meeting of writers and directors for the Harvard soap opera Ivory Towers last Tuesday evening. According to the team of some 50 cast and crew members who work on the soap between classes, everything this semester will be bigger, better, and more professional looking.

With a revamped production team and nearly half new writers and directors on staff, and “40% new actors” making up the cast members for this semester’s episodes, their commitment is tough to argue.

During this semester, the Ivory Towers website has received 14, 269 hits, a surprisingly high level, considering the program has never been broadcast, and is available only by downloading from the internet. Although there are only three downloadable episodes of between twenty and thirty minutes long on the program’s website, two more episodes currently in the works should be available for download by the start of Christmas break.

At the weekly meeting of about twenty writers and directors huddled into the side room off of Leverett House dining hall, the group discussed their views on why what was once old news is becoming the fresh topic on campus.

“Frankly, everything’s just better,” said the only female in the group, doe eyed blonde Jillian E. Gagnon ’06, because “we’re no longer flying by the seat of our pants.” Gagnon adds, “Eda [Pepi ’06, actress/producer] is too modest to say it, but her production is most of the reason we are doing so well.” Writer Andrew M. McGee ’04 agrees, saying that although “plot wise, this season will be a continuation,” everything is “much more organized.”

Oliver A. Horovitz ’08, a lanky brunette behind a computer screen calls out, “it can only get better from here,” and cites a previous discussion he had with renowned writer Frank McCourt concerning the show as evidence that consciousness of the Ivory Towers show is rising. The purely student run soap opera “pokes fun at Harvard as an institution” and is complete with typical clichéd student characters like, as Pepi says, “the ambitious Upper East side” socialite, “the European girl,” whom Pepi herself plays the role of in the show, the bi-curious “Lacrosse guy” and the classic “freshman couple in love.” The show is based on “how we [students] see things here at Harvard,” says Pepi, who also admits that the writers tend to “blow up stereotypes” for the enjoyment of their viewers.

While Pepi finds the charm of the show to lie within the ability of the viewer to feel like he or she can relate to the characters featured on the program, or at least being able to say, “I know that person,” don’t expect mentions of Harvard to litter scripts.

Any allusions to Harvard are discreet, if not subtly addressed. Viewers will see a particularly raunchy campus magazine called “H-Blast,” lying around on a dorm table next to the famous college newspaper called “the Vermillion,” which keeps its writers hard at work each night. A certain elitist social club referred to appropriately by its members as “the Wasp” is mentioned in passing conversation between guests at a local dorm party.

Ivory Towers doesn’t altogether shrug off real life issues: some of the issues and themes of the episodes, include date rape, sexual orientation, and even a presidential election. Under the frothy exterior of snappy dialogue and humor, the show’s characters grapple with issues viewers can identify with.

Regardless of the reasons for its success, the show has recently picked up more steam than the Polar Express lately.

Pepi and her team are working on airing at least one episode of Ivory Towers on Cambridge Public television, and over 1,000 people attended the open screening of the season premiere at the science center on the evening of Nov. 19th.

“Hopefully we’re starting a new tradition at Harvard,” and Pepi says for her team, “we hope to make this show a staple of Harvard arts.”

After saying, “I haven’t slept in weeks to make this show happen,” Pepi let her true inner artist shine when, with a glint in her eye, she found, “if we know success it gives us motivation to keep doing it.”

For more information, visit www.ivorytowersoap.com.