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"Tower" Rebuilt

The eleventh season of "Ivory Tower" returns, revitalized.

Leonie A. Oostrom '15 acts in last season's only episode of "Ivory Tower." The show will make a come-back this semester.
Leonie A. Oostrom '15 acts in last season's only episode of "Ivory Tower." The show will make a come-back this semester.
By Amy Friedman, Crimson Staff Writer

The eleventh season of “Ivory Tower” begins this fall with a new story that one executive producer, Joao A. Vogel ’16, describes as part “Romeo and Juliet,” part “Godfather,” with a Harvard twist. The coming season will feature two “student groups”—the Italian Mafia and the Ninjas—vying for control of the UC. “Ivory Tower” has been kicking for more than a decade, and after a severely truncated single-episode season last year, the new leaders are looking to resurrect the show.

Though many students are involved in the college’s vibrant theater community, fewer give top priority to the less-developed, newer world of Harvard University Television. HUTV showcases comedy news like “On Harvard Time,” sketch comedy such as “Respectably French!” and soap operas/sitcoms like the soon-to-be-revived “Ivory Tower.”

Alexander J. Iascone ’16, the season’s new director and one of the student leaders of the show who is looking to “redeem” the series, started acting on the show as soon as he got to Harvard.

“I try out for everything,” he says, citing the reason he got cast in “Ivory Tower” as his chemistry with fellow auditioners. Though “Ivory Tower” participates in the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s Common Casting, they don’t use “sides”—short scenes for prospective actors to read—like most other shows do, Vogel explains.

Iascone thinks this process of using improvisational scenes to cast new actors helps make their television community strong.

“We look for people we can really relate to, either who could create a strong character or create a funny character…. I think that kind of carries over to everyday life,” Iascone says.

Like Iascone, many who become involved with “Ivory Tower” are freshman looking for a new community. Others, like Taylor A. Cressler ’14, one of the new leads, find the show because their friends are involved.

Some make the transition from HRDC to television in order to try something new. Vogel also emphasizes the pull of the “fantasy” of being on TV, adding that the recorded nature of web shows makes the entire process more accessible to the actors and their audience. “[It’s] the fact that you can share it on Facebook, you can send it to your friends; if you’re an international student you can send it back home,” Vogel says. “Whereas theater—it happens and all you have are your good memories. You don’t have something to hold on [to].”

Though both HUTV and HRDC involve many of the same students, Teis D. Jorgensen ’14, who acted in the short-lived 10th season, explained some of the gaps between the two worlds.

“The theater community is very well established; there [are] a lot of systems in place...a lot of performance spaces,” Jorgensen says. “TV at Harvard is still growing; there’s still a lot more it can do.”

Cressler explains that many students arrive on campus with the knowledge of what it takes to put on a theater show, but the same is not necessarily true for creating a TV show. He says that learning how to light a scene for television, or learning to market to a particular audience, are not skills that an average student actor would pick up in high school. To remedy the skills gap between theater and TV, Jorgensen suggests trying to create more independent projects and spaces for people interested in television to come together to showcase TV and short film.

“There [are] probably lots of actors who would love to act in VES films and probably a lot of VES people who need actors, and some sort of connection isn’t happening there,” Jorgensen says. Cressler had an even bigger vision for the future of Harvard TV, saying his ideal for HUTV would be an entire station for the shows produced by Harvard students. Currently TV shows at Harvard have separate platforms connected by the HUTV name, but primarily uploaded to YouTube.

In terms of the future of “Ivory Tower,” Iascone says he just wants their viewership back.

“If we can get a good amount of people who are outside of the Harvard community…to watch it and maybe comment, that will mean the word has spread and that it is a success,” Iascone says.

—Staff writer Amy Q. Friedman can be reached at

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