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Dueling Duo Publicizes Common Casting

Harvard students GRAHAM A. SACK ’03 (L) and AUSTIN S. GUEST ’05 (R) turned the area in front of the Science Center into a dueling ground yesterday. The staged joust aimed to recruit new talent to common casting.
Harvard students GRAHAM A. SACK ’03 (L) and AUSTIN S. GUEST ’05 (R) turned the area in front of the Science Center into a dueling ground yesterday. The staged joust aimed to recruit new talent to common casting.
By Michael A. Mohammed, Crimson Staff Writer

Two steely student combatants faced off yesterday in front of the Science Center in a mock battle designed as a publicity stunt for Common Casting, the open auditions held at the beginning of each semester by the Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC).

Austin S. Guest ’05 and Graham A. Sack ’03 said they staged the “duel” to try to attract fresh talent to auditions.

“We were discussing what we could do when we realized that nobody duels anymore,” Guest said.

The premise of the duel was established Friday night in a staged dispute over casting for Guest’s upcoming play, The Dybbuk.

Following a performance of the group “13” at the Rieman Center, Guest started a shouting match with Sack that led to a mock brawl. The two resolved to settle the dispute Monday with a duel.

Outgoing HRDC president Dan Cozzens was bemused by the stunt but was careful to explain that it was not an HRDC-sponsored event.

“As far as I can tell, it’s something a little fun, a little crazy and a little stupid to publicize Common Casting,” Cozzens said.

A “Fight” to the “Death”

The warm noontime sun shone on the crowds streaming from their 11 o’clock classes yesterday morning, as Guest and Sack galloped to the slushy dueling ground on hobbyhorse steeds.

As a crowd gathered, Sack aired his grievances—in verse.

“By a pact, we’ve here agreed to meet,” Sack began, concluding that God would ultimately “stand guard on the side of right.”

“Thou foul-pated star of monkey films,” Guest responded with gusto. “How dare you try besmirching my good name!”

The crowd was quickly swept up in the action.

“Besmirch! Besmirch!,” a spectator cried out, egging Sack on.

Each next threw down a ski glove to signal the start of the duel. They then, without explanation, discarded their hats, shirts, and pants.

Clothed only in boxer-briefs and sneakers, they hefted their weapons— make-shift bludgeons made from large bouncy-balls duct-taped to the ends of broomsticks—and took fighting stances.

“It was a postmodern joust,” said Sack.

Ducking and leaping through each other’s blows and spinning their giant lollipop-like weapons with obvious skill, they savagely attacked one another.

Meeting a blow from Guest, Sack’s weapon splintered in two and the top half flew into the crowd. Throwing down the splintered remainder, he took a karate stance.

“Finish him!” shouted a member of the crowd.

Casting away his weapon, Guest met his opponent bare-handed. They grappled in the slush until Ben Margo ’04, the new president of the HRDC, pulled them apart by the ears,

“You,” he told Sack, “go through Common Casting.”

“You,” he said, turning to Guest, “For the love of God, audition!”

Interviewed after putting their clothes back on, Guest and Sack said they were pleased with their performance.

When asked why they had felt it necessary to strip to their underwear, the pair laughed.

“It’s a social critique of the whole gage-throwing phenomenon...it’s a mockery of a scene in Richard the Second where a bunch of guys onstage throw down gages and soon there’s a whole pile,” Guest said.

Most spectators said they saw the stunt as a hilarious practical joke, laughing and cheering during the “show.”

However, David C. Kowarsky ’05 said he respected the duel as a work of performance art.

“I was in a seminar with both Austin and Graham about dramatic structure and plot analysis,” Kowarsky said. “We discussed how interesting the results can be when they play with where the boundaries of the art begin and end.”

Margo said he wasn’t certain the stunt would draw people to Common Casting.

“If Austin Guest and Graham Sack in their underwear convinces people to come, maybe there’s something wrong,” Margo said.

—Staff writer Michael A. Mohammed can be reached at mohammed@fas.harvard.edu.

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